Charcoal

Charcoal, often maligned as a major environmental problem in Africa, can be and is produced on a sustainable basis to meet urban and rural energy needs.

In Kenya the IGAD RHEP project managers, working with CIDA and Kenya's Ministry of National Planning, have shown that Kenya's dynamic smallholder sector has made sustainable charcoal production an income generating activity in rural areas. Introduced for the tanning industry by Western corporations, wattle production is a major smallholder activity today. Highly efficient rural SMEs produce charcoal at some of the highest efficiencies in the world. They enter into long-term agreements with land holders, cut, dry and stack the wattle to achieve maximum efficiency, sell the charcoal

through outlets in major urban areas, and pay land holders a nice profit for the product.

Highly efficient, well-organised production has also historically existed in the Sudan and Somalia. However, sustainability was only ensured so long as woodlands were harvested on a long-term cycle. Now, with shorter harvesting, and civil upheavals, sustainability has vanished. Nonetheless, as Kenyan smallholders and SMEs show, sustainable charcoal production can be organised to meet significant energy demand, while improving rural incomes, providing employment in the rural sector, and relieving pressures on the national balance of payments. These factors, coupled with good demand side measures (e.g., improved stoves) can have a marked positive sustainability effect.


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