Given that agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in Kenya, one may not immediately think of efficiency improvements in the forestry sector as a way to generate concrete REDD+ results. However, the increasing population and the current unsustainable wood utilisation levels are imposing significant strain on the ability of the forestry sector to provide important products and services. Given that the area under public forests is relatively fixed, there is a need to explore opportunities for increasing productivity by deploying improved technologies and reducing wastage.
Demand for both timber and fuelwood is increasing in Kenya. It is therefore important to address this trend as a key element in Kenya’s national REDD+ process. The UN-REDD Programme has supported the Government of Kenya in identifying if and under what conditions efficiency improvements in the forestry and forest product processing sectors provide attractive means to reduce and remove emissions.
The findings are reflected in a report titled 'Improving efficiency in forestry operations and forest product processing in Kenya: a viable REDD+ policy and measure'. The analysis looks specifically at five subsectors:
Forestry operations (commercial logging);
Timber conversion (sawmilling);
Use of charcoal and firewood by households; and
Wood usage in industrial processes (e.g. drying of tea).
Some compelling facts
There is significant potential for biomass savings and emissions reductions in charcoal production (more than 16 million tCO2e) and to a lesser extent in fuelwood use by households (2.3 million tCO2e) and industry (2 million tCO2e).
Many Kenyans consume charcoal and about 2.5 million are involved in transport and marketing with another 700,000 charcoal producers. In order to be successful, efficiency technologies need to be affordable and ready to implement. Improving the efficiency of “earth kilns,” which are used by many small-scale producers, is among the most cost-effective options. More costly ways include the use of Casamance kilns with metal chimneys or retort kilns. These efficiency gains have the potential to reduce wood use to 3 to 6 kg of wood to produce 1 kg of charcoal; currently, 10 kg of wood is required to produce one kilogram of charcoal.
Many households currently use inefficient stoves that lead to high and unsustainable consumption of fuelwood. In addition, it leads to health effects such as respiratory problems, particularly among women and children. Large-scale adoption of improved cook stoves can both reduce the need for fuelwood and improve health conditions. Similar improvements are also possible with industrial use of fuelwood in the tea and tobacco industries as well as restaurants and kiosks.
Focus areas for action
There is great potential for efficiency improvements in forest plantations and timber processing in Kenya. However, there is no evidence that increased efficiency on harvesting and processing of timber decreases pressure on natural forests. These measures are unlikely to contribute to climate change mitigation even though they generate social and economic benefits.
Efficiency improvements in charcoal production and fuelwood consumption remain the most promising option. They have the potential to reduce emissions by about 21 million tCO2e per year or around 27 percent of Kenya’s total greenhouse gas emissions (against 2010 numbers). This would therefore go a long way to meeting Kenya’s climate goals.
Kenya pledges to cut its carbon emissions to 30 percent below business-as-usual by 2030 in its Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Government indicated that in order to meet this ambitious target, a number of measures will be required including expanding solar, wind and geothermal power, as well as bringing national forest cover up to 10 percent while reducing reliance on wood fuel.
Investments required to achieve these results are surely significant: estimated at around USD 38 million per year. However, with the right mix of incentives the private sector could potentially be encouraged to help co-finance improvements in the way charcoal is produced and fuelwood consumed, thus helping to bridge the financing gap. More efficient charcoal production and fuelwood consumption could go a long way in not only contributing to Kenya’s climate change commitments, but also generate jobs and important health benefits.
For further information regarding the contents of this article: contact UN-REDD Programme
Download and read a copy of the report: 'Improving efficiency in forestry operations and forest product processing in Kenya: a viable REDD+ policy and measure'
About the writers
Alfred N. Gichu is Head of the Climate Change Response Program of the Kenya Forest Service and National REDD+ Coordinator & Focal Point of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
UN Environment’s Ivo Mulder is Finance and Private Sector Coordinator of the UN-REDD Programme
Based in Kenya, Thais Narciso is UN Environment’s Regional Technical Advisor for Africa
Yingying is Intern - land use finance term at UN Environment