As increases in the price of cooking, and gas continues to drive the commodity out of their reach, Kenyan households have turned to charcoal, ignoring the effects on climate change and biodiversity
How does it affect biodiversity? The conventional methods for producing charcoal have substantial carbon emissions and deplete wood supplies. With indigenous trees being primary targets, biodiversity loss threatens the survival of animals and other plants. But Kenyans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford gas due to rising prices, and many are turning to the forests for charcoal in their search for alternatives. While charcoal appears to be the easiest alternative, the environment has to suffer grave consequences.
Do they have that much supply of coal?
The Acacia and other indigenous trees, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa, provide high-quality charcoal that sells for a reasonable price on the market. A local coal trader noted that with two mature Acacia trees, he produces more than 15 sacks of coal in just two days. With coal prices rising from 400 to 700 Kenya shillings (about $3.39-$5.94), and increasing demand, traders are ignoring the illegality and potential punishment (Fines) of the coal trade as they seek to make ends meet.
What’s the illegal part? Locals are turning towards government forests, illegal logging, and kilning protected forests in a bid to get income, as consumers seek an alternative to highly-priced cooking gas. “I used to stock 50 cylinders of 12 kilos and 50 cylinders of 6 kilos, but it has gone down to the extent of stocking 2 cylinders of 12 kilos and 8 cylinders of 6 kilos”, a cooking gas trader lamented. On his frustration as many customers are ditching gas for charcoal, he said; “So, I am wondering whether to do away with the gas business and start selling charcoal”.
The charcoal trade means locals have to fell indigenous trees, which leads to deforestation. Now, there are two major environmental concerns. In addition to the impact of uncontrolled logging on climate change, indigenous trees are at risk of extinction. Unfortunately, economists have projected that there will be further increase in gas prices in the months ahead.