NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenyans are facing a shortage of timber and
charcoal as the government moves to save forests from depletion.
placed a three-month ban on logging and charcoal burning two
weeks ago at the height of a biting dry spell that had led to
major water crisis across the country.
The move was not
only to protect forests but also water catchment areas and save
the country from sliding into a desert.
The ban has been
followed by the launch of nationwide tree planting campaign as
the East African nation seeks to plant 235 million trees in the
next five years to raise forest cover to 15 percent.
Kenyans have lauded
the two developments but they have to contend with higher timber
and charcoal prices.
In the capital
Nairobi, the price of a bag of charcoal has increased sharply
from an average of 20 U.S. dollars a bag in the last one week to
between 22 dollars and 25 dollars.
Traders blame the
increase on the ban on logging and charcoal trade in some
counties, with the restrictions putting their businesses at
“There is no
charcoal. Supply has dropped drastically because of the ban on
logging,” Moses Ngunjiri, a charcoal trader in Komarock on the
east of Nairobi, said Thursday.
He noted that he
bought his last stock of 50 bags a week ago and had to look for
a different supplier.
“Before the ban, I
would buy the produce from Narok but last week I sourced from
Kajiado, and the trader told me the product had come from
Tanzania through the Namanga border point,” he said.
However, while he
remains optimistic, he is aware that he may be forced to close
business due to shortage. He is currently selling a bag of the
product at 23 dollars, up from 20 dollars.
The high prices have
hit harder households and businesses like food kiosks that rely
on charcoal and firewood for cooking.
“I have no choice
but to switch to cooking gas which is expensive because both
supply of charcoal and firewood is low. We are buying a bag of
charcoal more expensively than that of a 13kg cooking gas
cylinder, which goes at 19 dollars,” said Simon Mwale, a food
For households, low
and middle-income families that rely on charcoal for cooking
have turned to kerosene, whose prices have equally risen to 0.76
dollars per litre.
Charcoal is used by
thousands of people, with high demand of the fuel remaining the
biggest threat to forests in the East African nation as tree
cover stands at less than 10 percent. The ban has, therefore,
created a ripple effect as the shortage is felt far and wide.
For timber, the
favorite trees include cypress, blue gum, mahogany and gravellia.
They are sold in sizes ranging from 4 by 2 inches, 3 by 2
inches, 8 by 1 inches and 6 by 1 inches and round polls.
ranged from 0.34 dollars per foot to 0.70 dollars but a survey
showed they have risen to 0.50 dollars and 0.90 dollars.
But even as they
grapple with the shortage, Kenyans support the ban noting that
it is the only way to improve forest cover and stop the country
from becoming a desert.
traders have resorted to importing the timber from Tanzania.
Latest statistics from Forest Department in the Ministry of
Environment show that Kenya spends up to 40 million dollars
annually on timber imports, mainly from Tanzania and Democratic
Republic of Congo to meet rising demand that stands at more than
40 million cubic meters annually.
Keriako Tobiko on Wednesday said the country would set a tree
planting day to boost forest cover.
“We plan to have a day set aside for National Tree Planting
season sometime in April depending with the availability of
rain,” he said.