Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alternatives To Charcoal

So we are all aware of the problems associated with unregulated, inefficient and ilegal charcoal production. It's easy to sit back at point a finger at the people undetaking these activities, but as our work in Tsavo West with former wildlife poachers has taught us, the real issue is a lot more complicated.

We have been conducting research in Shimoni forest for four years now, and working with the community based organisation Friends of Shimoni Forest for two years. Through this we have had first hand experience of the issues of charcoal production and had a number of meetings, both organised and impromptu with the charcoal burners themselves. In the majority of cases those involved do not particularly want to be involved in charcoal production any more than we do, the difference is that we have the luxury of choice.

The majority of people in this area live in poverty and are despertaely poor, faced with families to feed and school fees to pay for. They know that their charcoal production is ilegal and they know it is destructive; many of them have openly said that they do not want to be engaged in ilegal activities or destroying their forest, but when it comes down to putting food on the family table they feel they have no choice. If a choice was offered to them, they would happily give it up.

So that's our mission. The solution to this problem is clear; find an alternative to traditional charcoal production. However we also have to consider that the majority of local households use charcoal to cook with. So we not only need to find an alternative livelihood for the producers, but an alternative domestic fuel for the consumers. The obvious solution is to combine alterntive livelihoods with an alterntive, forest friendly, domestic fuel... fortunately, we're not the first to encounter this problem and there are success stories in Africa for us to learn from... so watch this space!