African economies are turning to renewable energies for their economical growth to match with environment protection, a strategy which will help many countries meet some of challenges of the incoming decade. For instance in Kenya, one of East African countries in which the economy is based on natural resources, many such examples are booming. This is the case of Kasigau Tree Farm in the South of the country with their ecological charcoal.
Kenya is endowed with a wonderful and diversified nature, often clearly better exploited than in other African countries. The country even hosts the world headquarters for the UN Environment Program; UNEP, mainly for that reason. However, it doesn’t mean that its environment is perfectly preserved, and for instance deforestation threatens a major part of its green areas.
According to the United Nations, Kenya looses about 50 000 hectares of forest per year, which is 5.6 million trees each day… With a forest coverage below 2%, it is one of the least forested sub-Saharan African countries, partly, due to the fact that firewood is the major energy source for the population: 88% of the rural population is still depending on firewood, and 82% of the urban population depends on wood charcoal. The trade of charcoal from forest cut-down has become an informal and illegal market.
At their level, many initiatives are attempting to mitigate that imbalance. This is the case of Kasigau Tree Farm, a forest farm established by Ian Nyiro Pesa and his spouse Béatrice Despioch, and located in South Kenya between the two major Tsavo national parks. That area, identified by Conservation International as a site for high altitude biodiversity particularly forestry, and particularly threatened by human activities, is home for five mammal species endangered of extinction (among which the African elephant, the cheetah, the lion and the zebra). Intervening in that region is thus a major issue of environmental protection.
The aim of the project is to exploit this family forest by producing ecological charcoal briquettes, harmless for humans and the environment. The production process is innovative and original, for it consists in using dried pruned branches, carbonized and mixed with a natural binder. At large scale, this process would allow to produce a combustible which meets population current needs, and considerably reducing on CO2 emissions at the same time.
Kasigau Tree Farm is a unique example in East Africa, of a socially accountable company, which is ecologically sustainable, and economically viable in the medium and long term, to efficiently fight poverty, deforestation and climate change.
The project has different positive outcomes:
In its entrepreneurial process, the Kasigau Tree Farm start-up is supported by two incubators (Bond’innov in France and Kenya Climate Innovation Center in Kenya) and by IRD Kenya*. The Start-up has a monthly production capacity of 300Kgs. It is targeting production capacity growth of up to one ton per month in 2016, then of 20 tons per month by 2020, on a workable area of 50 hectares.
*IRD: « Institut de Recherche pour le Développement » is a French public institution under the ministry in charge of Research and Cooperation, and it is present in Kenya.