What you need to know:
- According to the 2019 National Population and Housing Census report, 66.7 per cent of Kenyans rely exclusively on firewood and charcoal for energy, with 55.1 per cent using firewood and 11.6 per cent using charcoal.
- This is particularly true in rural areas, where 84 per cent of these households are located.
The goal of providing clean cooking energy for the majority of Kenyan women by 2028 may not be achieved as quickly as hoped. This is because there are no enough incentives in the clean energy sector to encourage the adoption of affordable, locally developed technology innovations.
While the government has promised to address this issue through the upcoming Kenya National Clean Cooking Strategy, it remains critical for communities without financial resources or access to popular clean energy options like LPG, solar and national grid electricity. According to the 2019 National Population and Housing Census report, 66.7 per cent of Kenyans rely exclusively on firewood and charcoal for energy, with 55.1 per cent using firewood and 11.6 per cent using charcoal. This is particularly true in rural areas, where 84 per cent of these households are located. Kenya’s clean cooking strategy aims to eliminate soot and prevent illness caused by kitchen smoke. Part of the plan to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy. As part of fulfilling its national strategy of scaling down greenhouse emissions by 32 per cent by 2030, strategies such as ‘Access to clean energy by 2030’ and ‘Clean cooking by 2028’ have been put in place. Kenya depends on donor funding for clean energy, but the government is implementing a strategy to change this within a year.
This will reduce harmful greenhouse gases, which are fatal at the household level and contribute to climate change. Providing clean energy access is a top priority for the United Nations. Scaling up clean energy programmes will relief many families depending mainly on firewood and charcoal. This will reduce Kenya’s annual disease burden attributable to household air pollution from the current 49 per cent (21,560 people) to 20 per cent. Indoor cooking can be harmful to mothers and children due to exposure to carbon and particulate matter. Only 23.9 per cent of Kenyans have access to clean energy alternatives, and 90 per cent of public institutions use solid biomass for cooking.
Kenya needs to accelerate its clean energy sector to reduce negative health and environmental impacts. “As a signatory to the UN, much weight is placed on the government to develop mechanisms in line with universal clean energy access for all under Sustainable Development Goals and commensurate with Paris Agreement on Climate Action,” says Dr Philip Osano, Director of Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre, which has been conducting air pollution research and engaging players on the need to put policies in place to curb indoor and outdoor pollution.
With public awareness that household air pollution is attributable to about 21,560 deaths yearly due to the use of solid fuels and kerosene in inefficient stoves, Patricia Mbogo, the international coordinator at the Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Clean Energy Access, says fast-tracking clean cooking energy and clean cooking methods for vulnerable rural and urban communities “cannot be treated as a luxury anymore but an urgent course of action to save humanity and biodiversity.”
She adds that Kenya holds the defining moment for the vulnerable women using charcoal, firewood and paraffin to cook for their families, whose answer can be derived from clean cooking initiatives.
“Women are largely the victims of unjust clean energy access due to their role as mothers and home keepers. They spend many hours looking for fossil fuel, after which they end up in the kitchen to prepare a meal for the family,” Ms Mbogo explains.
It is estimated that the rural Kenyan woman covers an average of five kilometres in search of firewood to cook a meal, and this distance continues to expand due to deforestation.
A KenGen report on solar and biomass uptake reveals the two types of energies merely contribute 5.61 per cent and 0.07 per cent respectively. Yet the two could offer an ideal opportunity for community-driven integrated clean energy sources.