Background information on the Kenya’s crisis on biomass energy
Kenya faces a number of economic, social and environmental challenges. During a period of 40 years, the country fell from one of the most promising developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, both in terms of growth and social development, to a stagnated economy struggling to find a new roadmap of sustained growth. Between 1972 and 2003, for example, despite real GDP growing at an annual average rate of about 3.3 per cent, per capita real GDP only grew at about 0.2 per cent per annum, reflecting growing population
The high growth rate in 2004 is partly attributable to the adoption of a new data system, the SNA ...view middle of the document...
Productivity of the majority of the people in Kenya’s eight provinces and in the rural areas is constrained by a lack of access to commercial energy. Households, entrepreneurs, and industry are constrained when it comes to economically viable ventures and investments. This in turn reduces their access energy, initiating a vicious cycle.
The social challenges Kenya faces include a HIV/AIDS pandemic, gender imbalance, high levels of insecurity, high levels of unemployment and underemployment, unequal access to education, low quality of education, and high levels of poverty. Among these, poverty, which signifies deprivation of necessities of life and opportunities for human development, is the most challenging, and directly or indirectly worsens the other problems. Poverty estimates (Mwabu et al., 2002) show that rural poverty is higher than urban poverty.
Welfare monitoring studies indicate that a large part of the household budget of the rural poor (83 per cent) and urban poor (64 per cent) goes to food consumption. This means that the poor have little to spend on other essential services such as energy. Lack of access to modern and clean forms of energy affects sustainable development in various ways. Indoor air pollution from biomass use has been causally linked with serious and widespread health problems, especially for women and children. This reduces labour productivity and exacerbates poverty. Besides, household income now has to be spent on treatment costs, leaving less disposable income to meet other needs.
The poor face another problem of high cost of fuelwood and charcoal. The long hours women need to search for wood reduces time available for other productive activities. Of Kenya’s 20,000 educational institutions, about 90 per cent use wood fuel to prepare meals. The time taken by school children to search for fuelwood could otherwise be spent on learning (RETAP, 2001). Increasing shortage of wood fuel and the high cost of charcoal may lead to the poor to use dried dung, resulting in a decrease of organic fertilizers available for agriculture and worsening indoor air pollution. In urban areas, the lowest income households also depend on firewood.
Kenya’s main productive sectors (agriculture, fisheries, mining, and timber) depend on raw materials provided by the natural environment. These sectors accounted for 23.7, 0.5, 0.5 and 1.1 per cent of GDP in 2004 respectively (Economic Survey, 2005; see also Table 1). Therefore, natural and environmental resources make a very important contribution to the country’s economy. Despite this importance, the environment and natural resources are facing various challenges due to weak management and various other problems.
ENERGY POLICY OBJECTIVES
1. The broad objective of the energy policy is to ensure adequate, quality, cost effective and affordable supply of energy to meet development needs, while protecting and conserving the environment. The specific objectives are to: