The government is working on new regulations to manage the Sh32 billion annual charcoal business.
The new regulations will be in line with the 2010 Constitution and also seek to turn the charcoal business that has basically been run by a cartel into a modern and sustainable enterprise. The proposed changes will involve the communities as envisaged by the Constitution.
“The new Constitution brought certain challenges to the existing regulations. The land tenure system was categorised into: private, public and community land. The regulations will have to reflect this to be enforceable,” said Nelson Manyeki, deputy conservation director.
While the national government is charged with formulating policy, county governments are responsible for conservation.
“We want to discourage the use of traditional earth kilns that lead to wastage and the adoption of modern production technology. There should also be branding as not all charcoal is the same to enable farmers to earn more,” said Green Africa Foundation executive director John Kioli.
The regulations are expected to make the business attractive to investors while promoting conservation and reforestation and the use of technology for production.
An estimated 500,000 households or 2 million people in the country depend on the charcoal business for their livelihoods. But the trade has remained the preserve of few well-connected people as the business is largely viewed as illegal. An estimated 34 per cent of the urban population and over 80 per cent in rural areas use charcoal.
Mr Manyeki said the Forest Management and Conservation Bill is in the draft stage and has been handed to the parliamentary committee on environmental issues. The new regulations that emerge will operationalise the law.
The Constitution has placed soil and forest conservation under county governments. Some counties like Kitui have already enacted a law to manage the charcoal business.
“Kitui has enacted a law that has made it mandatory for those dealing in charcoal to be members of an association. The objective is to promote sustainable production through the use of new technology. We are encouraging the use of the Casamance and half-orange kilns, which yields up to 30 per cent charcoal for every 100 kilos of wood compared to a traditional kiln that yields only 10 per cent. We intend to continue improving on technology to reduce the wastage,” said Patrick Kituku, the chairman of the Charcoal Procution Association of Kitui.
Some of the areas the committee will look into are the import and export of charcoal, weights at the point of sale, and the environmental impact assessment.
The regulations are being developed by various bodies including the National Environment Management Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Forest Services and the ministries of Energy, Environment and Agriculture. Others participants are civil societies and community groups involved in the charcoal business.