Kenya is one of the emerging economies south of the Sahara and has set itself the objective of becoming an industrialised, middle-income country by 2030. An important element in this is access to sustainable energy for its inhabitants. However, there is still a long way to go. Currently, two-thirds of the population use firewood and charcoal as their primary energy source, and in rural areas, up to 90 per cent do so. In addition to private households, agricultural and industrial enterprises, as well as schools, consume energy generated from wood to operate machinery, for cooking or heating.
Even today, Kenya would have a deficit of two million tons if it only harvested as many trees as are planted as replenishment. Clearly, the demand for wood cannot be met sustainably. The Kenyan population is growing by 2.6 per cent each year. Assuming the same rate of growth, this means a doubling of the population by 2050, and a further increase in demand for wood. The country, which at one time was covered with lush forests, is suffering from serious deforestation and often illegal logging. Today, only six per cent of the land area is still covered in forests. If there is any afforestation, this mostly takes the form of monocultures – with serious consequences for the environment: soil erosion and a decline in soil fertility are widespread, rivers increasingly carry less water, and the groundwater level drops. At the same time, social conflicts over fertile land and water are increasing.
Kericho County is located in the west of Kenya and consists of five sub-counties with an administrative capital, Kericho Town. The County has fertile land and is at an average altitude of 2,000 metres. The majority of the more than one million inhabitants are small farmers.
Kericho is known for the cultivation of tea, one of Kenya’s chief exports. The tea factories in Kericho employ more than 200,000 people. However, tea processing is very energy-intensive. The burning of wood produces steam, which drives the equipment used for drying the tea leaves. The wood is grown in the factories’ own monocultures or bought on the market. Often, it comes from Kenya’s last indigenous forest: the Mau Forest.
Caritas Switzerland has worked in East Africa for several decades, and is represented in Kenya with its own country organisation. Caritas Switzerland’s engagement in Kenya focuses mainly on the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene, climate change and humanitarian aid. The geographic focus of work on the ground is in the regions of Marsabit and Kericho.