“When used for cooking and heating, LPG reduces carbon missions by 50%"

Charcoal is a key bio-energy resource in Kenya, providing domestic energy for 82% of urban and 34% of rural households. The charcoal industry also creates jobs for wood producers, charcoal producers, transporters, and vendors.

In Kenya, the charcoal industry employed approximately 950,000 people in 2019, who in turn supported between 2.5 million and 2.7 million dependents.

But for the majority of those who rely upon charcoal as fuel, alternatives are often more expensive or less accessible.

In East Africa, where urban populations are growing rapidly, investment in other forms of energy (such as electrification) is not matching current needs, with inadequate infrastructure, limited ability to transmit electricity over long distances, and generation capacity.

This has created an ‘energy gap’ that is currently filled by wood fuels, among which charcoal is a common option The dependence on charcoal comes at both an environmental and public health cost. Charcoal conversion is a contributor to forest cover loss threatening biodiversity and in turn, the environment that sustains rural populations, as well as posing a health risk due to rudimentary burning techniques and the use of inefficient charcoal stoves.

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Percentage of Kenya’s nine million households that rely on traditional energy sources
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Percentage of population in Senegal that uses LPG as their main energy source.
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Number of people in millions affected by house air pollution.
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Proportion of urban households that use charcoal.

Numbers at a glance

Dalberg Report 2013

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Percentage of urban population in Kenya that uses LPG as their main energy source.
Number of trees in billions fell per year for traditional energy sources.
Number of deaths per year caused by house air pollution.
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Percentage by which Kenya’s forest cover is down to.

The Compelling Reason to Act

The majority of the rural households living on less than a dollar a day, and the initial cost of cylinders and accessories at an average of 400 dollars is not affordable. It is not only expensive for the people at the bottom of the pyramid, but it is also unreachable competing with food and shelter at that basic level. The gap is a yawning chasm and households would rather choose food over efficient fuel.

Kenya’s LPG per-capita consumption lags behind countries in Africa at 3.65 Kg in rural and 9.87 in urban areas compared to Senegal which is at 75Kg according to MOE reports. Even with an annual growth of 14% of LPG consumption, a lot more needs to be done to catch up with the rest of the world in promoting LPG. These statistics could change with the introduction of 0.5 kg.

At the household level, the key issues to consider are women’s and children’s health. Indeed, World Health Organisation studies show that one hour of using firewood has the same health impacts as smoking a packet of cigarettes. 

How to increase appetite

There is a need to enlighten the public about the perception that LPG is an urban, expensive fuel. “This is false as refills are becoming increasingly cheaper. Cooking gas is now for low-income earners as it is dispensable in smaller quantities.”