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• Making a living from dust • Interview with UNEP’s Achim Steiner • The unexploited potential of acacias • Pomegranate, a multi-purpose tree Ksh 250 Ush 7,000 I s s u e N o.1 2 O c t o b e r - De c e mb er 2011

Plant the right tree And you will make money

Water from rocks

Dryland populations get their supply through rocky outcrops

Trees for all our energy needs Yes, even electricity

Protecting bamboo for the future

Restoring this grass could reduce pressure on natural forests

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The unexplored potential of acacias

Opening our eyes to promising ventures



Fast-growing A. kirkii offers commercial promise for charcoal and firewood

Your views


Plant the right tree

That’s what Mbeere tree grower tells his neighbours


Protecting bamboo for the future

Restoring this grass could ultimately reduce pressure on natural forests


Plant one tree a month

An interview with Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations


A multi-purpose tree


News and events

Schools awarded for planting trees


Relying on power from trees

The majority of Kenyans depend on fuel wood and charcoal for their energy needs


Keeping the wheels of rural life moving

Kenya needs a sustainable wood fuel supply to meet the cooking, lighting and industrial needs of the majority


Which way jatropha and croton oils?

Characteristics of the two bio fuels, compared to diesel, and their availability or eventual production possibilities


Turning waste into electricity

Agricultural and forestry residues as well as municipal solid wastes can be exploited for economic gain


Electric energy from trees

Ugandan study demonstrates viability of producing electricity from woody biomass


Making a living from dust

Urban dwellers find an alternative fuel in briquettes made from charcoal waste and sawdust


Let us reverse degraded ecosystems

Remarks by Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources during the Forum on Mobilizing Private Investment in Trees and Landscape Restoration in Africa


Kill the enemy!

Why it is crucial to eliminate weeds from forest plantations

The pomegranate, the ‘tree of life’, is food, medicine, ornamental and serves as a hedge


Trapping water in the soil

Small structures capture runoff water for household use in Tunisia


Water from rocks

Yes, dryland populations get their supply of the precious commodity through rocky outcrops



Better Globe Forestry launches tree-planting in Nyangoro Mukau: A Kenyan dryla with a brig ht future nds tree Yatta farm er makes farming big businesstree Interview with George May Ugandan farm er, anja

On the cover: The dreaded Prosopis juliflora (mathenge) in the drylands of Garissa and Hola. This is a naturally regenerated stand that has undergone some management treatment, under the technical guidance of KEFRI technicians. Plant And you the right tre will make e money As this issue of Miti shows, prosopis Water fro Dryland pop m rock is on its way to becoming a valuable supply thro ulations get the s ir ugh rocky outcrops resource. See the article about Trees for al l en ergy need our electricity generation on page 18. Yes, even s electricity (Photo: KEFRI)

t Making a living t Interview with from dust t The unexploite UNEP’s Achim Steiner t Pomegranate, d potential of acacias a multi-purp ose tree

Ksh 250 Ush


Issu e No.1 2

Octo ber-

Dece mbe

Protec bambooting for the

Restori future could red ng this grass uce on naturapressure l forests

r 2011


Opening our eyes to promising ventures


very year, July 11 is observed as The United Nations (UN) World Population Day. This has been the case since 1989 when the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) established the day as a way to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. It was an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on July 11, 1987. On October 31, the world population reached 7 billion. “Today, we welcome baby 7 billion. In doing so we must recognise our moral and pragmatic obligation to do the right thing for him, or for her,” UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon said at a press event at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the occasion. The UN chief noted that the world’s population reached 6 billion in 1998, only 13 years ago, and is expected to grow to 9 billion by the middle of this century, or even a few years earlier, by 2043. Population growth comes with a huge challenge as according to figures from the World Bank, 982 million people from developing nations survive on a paltry US$1 a day or even less, and Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent after Asia. This issue of Miti is dedicated to biomass energy. It addresses issues related to charcoal and wood fuel and gives amazing examples on how energy can be generated from biomass and waste. Indeed, according to Fridah Mugo, fuel wood and charcoal remain the main, and in some cases, the only, source of energy in developing countries, and issues related to biomass energy demand and supply must be considered within a wider context of other uses of biomass. Joseph Githiomi illustrates that Kenya needs a sustainable wood fuel supply to meet the cooking, lighting and industrial needs of the majority, while Nellie Oduor compares the characteristics, availability and eventual production of jatropha and croton oils, compared to diesel. James Onchieku, Faith Odongo and Charles Ondieki write on how agricultural and forestry residues and municipal solid wastes can be exploited for economic gain. Jan Vandenabeele reveals how a Kenyan company plans to produce electric power from the dreaded mathenge, the scourge of Kenyan drylands. Mary Njenga, Aya Yonemitsu, Nancy Karanja and Ramni Jamnadass tell us of urban dwellers who make a living from charcoal waste and sawdust briquettes. As always, we have a wide variety of contributors, all of them passionate, who open our eyes to commercially promising ventures, give us examples of successful tree farmers and successful wood related industries, guide us on what trees to plant and of course give us information on water management. Most of them are our regular contributors and they will not be offended if I do not name them in this editorial. I know that you, our readers, will enjoy their input. In this issue, we publish remarks made by Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister of Natural Resources, Republic of Rwanda, during the Forum on Mobilizing Private Investment in Trees and Landscape Restoration in Africa, in Nairobi on May 25, 2011. Mr Kamanzi underscored the need for the Rwanda Government “to re-establish the needed symbiotic balance between highly land resources based livelihoods and functional ecosystems so as to ensure sustainability.” We are also honoured that Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations accorded an interview to Wanjiru Ciira. Being a top level policy maker, his views are of the highest value. Finally, I wish to formulate a silent prayer for Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan social activist, environmentalist and first African woman to win the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. “Mama Miti” sadly passed away on September 25 at the age of 71. She leaves behind an immense legacy and we will borrow from her wisdom by giving her the final word in this editorial: “It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for Africa.” Enjoy the reading. Jean-Paul Deprins

Published by:

Chairman of the Editorial Board:

Technical Editor

TQML LTD P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya Tel: + 254 20 434 3435 Mobile: + 254 722 758 745 Email:

Rino Solberg

Jan Vandenabeele

Uganda office: MITI MAGAZINE ® P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda Mobile: + 256 752 896 205

Editorial Committee

Managing Editor – Uganda

Joshua Cheboiwo, Enock Kanyanya, James Kung’u, Fridah Mugo, Jackson Mulatya, Leakey Sonkoyo, Jean-Paul Deprins, Jan Vandenabeele and Wanjiru Ciira

Julie Solberg

Editor-in-chief Jean-Paul Deprins

Contributing Editor Mundia Muchiri

Designer Daniel Ngugi

Managing Editor – Kenya Wanjiru Ciira



Miti October-December 2011

MPESA: Pay Bill No 888300

Oh, for the old fencing posts!

‘Miti’ is outstanding

My wife and I started the first commercial fencing company in Kenya in 1978, Elephence Ltd. Our post supplier was East Africa Tanning Extract Company (EATEC) of Eldoret. They had vast estates of black wattle. They “tanalised” their posts after drying them and therein lay the secret of the longevity of the poles. EATEC used to sun-dry the poles, testing for moisture content regularly, until there was only a small core of moisture. They then pressure treated them. There are many fences, all over the country, still as strong as the day we built them, more than 30 years ago! Today people are in a rush and treated posts do not last as long as they used to. That’s why many “free-standing” fences today are

Miti is an extraordinary publication. Congratulations. It is encouraging to read of so many positive projects among such destruction of our habitat.

built with metal posts.

Linda Were Nairobi

Gilfrid Powys Nanyuki

The views expressed in Miti magazine are the writers’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Globe or TQML. WRITE TO US We welcome feedback on any article you have read in Miti magazine, or on any issue on tree planting, afforestation and related matters. Please include your name, address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for clarity or space. We also invite you to send us any interesting photos you might have. Please send your contributions to:

Keep up the good work I am so happy I subscribed to Miti magazine. The articles are very useful and with a lot of good information that would otherwise be difficult to gather on one’s own. Do keep up the good work.

Brian Stutchbury Nairobi

The Editor Miti magazine P.O. Box 823 – 00606 Nairobi, Kenya. Email: OR Miti magazine P.O. Box 22232 Kampala, Uganda. Miti Magazine-Africa’s Tree Business Magazine

Miti is available at the following outlets in Nairobi: • Text Book Centre, Sarit Centre • All Times Village Market, Westgate and Galleria • Virdi Pharmacy, Kasuku Centre, Kileleshwa • Karen Provision Stores • Chandarana Supermarket Yaya Centre, ABC Place and Lavington

Remembering Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011) conservationist extraordinaire “ ... By planting trees, my colleagues in this grassroots movement (Green Belt Movement) and I planted ideas. The ideas, like the trees, grew. By providing education, access to water, and equity, GBM empowers people – most of them poor and most of them women – to take action, directly improving the lives of individuals and families. “Our experience of thirty years has also shown that simple acts can lead to great change and respect for the environment, good governance, and cultures of peace ... Only by working together can we hope to solve some of the problems of this precious planet.” -Wangari Maathai, in Unbowed, One Woman’s Story.


Miti October-December 2011

News & Events

From left, Sebastian Owanga (Ministry of Education), Joseph Indire (Deputy Director in charge of policy and planning in the Ministry of Education), Dr Dennis Garrity (Director, ICRAF), Faith Mperisi (pupil, Matonyok Primary School) Daniel Surum (parent, Matonyok Primary School) and Sein Joyce Maseenke, (head teacher, Matonyok Primary School).

Schools awarded for planting trees By Jonathan Muriuki, Vivian Nereah and Joshua Minai


he World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) together with the Ministry of Education and the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation (VVOB Kenya) on September 16, 2011 organised a schools’ tree planting award ceremony at the Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust Centre (former BP-Shell Sports Club). Supported by the Evergreen Agriculture project at ICRAF, the ceremony was officiated by Joseph Indire, the Deputy Director in charge of policy and planning in the Ministry of Education on behalf of Prof Joseph Kiyiapi, the Permanent Secretary, and Dr Dennis Garrity, the Director General of ICRAF. The tree planting projects by the schools are part of Healthy Learning, a programme initiated by the Ministry of Education in 2008 in partnership with VVOB and ICRAF. The programme seeks to

Miti October-December 2011

Pupils from 10 Healthy Learning schools, and Dr Dennis Garrity, admire their certificates.

contribute to the Ministry of Education’s goal of having healthy children to facilitate better learning by linking school health, nutrition and meals to relevant learning experiences. (See article in Miti issue 11). Healthy Learning encourages schools to set up projects such as beekeeping, livestock keeping, vegetable gardens and fruit tree orchards to supplement school meals. These projects create opportunities for school children to become better learners and to acquire relevant skills and knowledge to grow up healthy in a sustainable environment. Mr Indire lauded the schools’ efforts in environmental conservation through tree planting and urged them to do more. Dr Garrity gave a moving story of a teacher who had helped transform an arid area where she was working.

Also speaking during the event, Rose Ruto, who works at the Ministry of Agriculture’s agroforestry section, urged schools to plant multipurpose trees, terming them as “high value”. She also appealed for inclusion of agroforestry in the school curriculum as agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy. Dr Garrity, together with the various government representatives, presented certificates of recognition and tree seeds to schools. Other ICRAF staff present included Jonathan Muriuki, Grace Mwaura, Vivian Nerea and Joshua Minai. Participants included teachers, parents and pupils from 10 schools in eight arid and semiarid districts implementing the Healthy Learning programme. They were accompanied by education field officers from their respective districts.

Two half-orange brick kilns for making charcoal, ready to be charged with fuel wood of Acacia xanthophloea. (Photo: KEFRI)

Power from trees Kenyans rely more on wood, than electricity or oil, for their energy needs By Fridah Mugo


he role that trees play in energy supply for the majority of Kenyans needs to be put into proper perspective. Strange or unbelievable as it may sound, more Kenyans rely on energy from trees than those who rely on electricity. In 1980, wood fuel was estimated to supply 71 per cent of Kenya’s total energy requirements, though this had decreased to 68 per cent by 2000 (Republic of Kenya, 2002). This translated into 34.3 million tonnes of wood, of which 15.1 was for fuel wood and 16.5 for charcoal. This was equivalent to harvesting respectively 240,000 and 298,000ha, or a total of 538,000ha. Consumption patterns for rural areas are different from those in urban areas. In 2000, fuel wood supplied 89 per cent of rural energy and 7 per cent of urban household energy; while charcoal supplied 34 per cent of rural household energy and 82 per cent of urban household energy. As indicated on Table 1, restaurants and kiosks consumed the most in both fuel wood and charcoal, underlining the importance of tree biomass in creating employment.

Table 1: Annual fuel wood and charcoal consumption by cottage industries Quantity of fuel wood (tonnes/year )


Quantity of charcoal (tonnes/year)

Brick making






Milk processing



Fishing and fish smoking












Tea industry






Source: Republic of Kenya, 2002


Fuel wood The 1980 fuel wood study indicated that biomass energy supplied 98 per cent of Kenya’s rural domestic sector’s energy requirements. The other 2 per cent was obtained from petroleum fuels and was mainly for lighting. The study estimated that out of this 98 per cent, most was from wood fuel (93 per cent) while 5 per cent was from crop residues. Crop residues are byproducts from primary agricultural production which are occasionally used as domestic fuel. They consist of non-woody residues (leaves, stalks, cobs etc) and woody residues (prunings, thinnings, woody weeds). Another study in Bungoma (1988) pointed towards an increasing trend in the use of such materials, which is an indication of increasing scarcity of fuel wood. Such scarcity can be physical and or economic. Suggestions on the root causes of the persistent and increasing fuel wood scarcity in Kenya include: Inefficient end-use utilisation technologies (meaning the type of stoves used), Limiting land tenure arrangements Small land sizes Land use factors where women have a limited participation in the decisions regarding tree management. Indeed, studies have found that where more women participate, the higher the availability of fuel wood. Energy supply and demand vary by region, district, village and household classes within a village. There is enormous diversity in the availability and cost of energy supplies, levels of consumption and mix of fuels employed, end uses (e.g. cooking, water heating, space heating, and lighting), technologies used, energy related preferences and modes of behaviour. Issues related to biomass energy demand and supply must be considered within a wider context of other uses of biomass. For example, if a woodlot has a higher economic and or ecological value than for biomass energy, it will not be used for the latter. In addition, if trees on a farm boundary have a higher functional value as boundary, they will not be cut for fuel wood. In 1980, the country had a supply shortfall of 30 per cent (O’Keefe et al, 1984). The national study of 2000 estimated a deficit of 57.2 per cent,

Miti October-December 2011

Table 2: Annual household and cottage wood fuel consumption (tonnes/year) by province (2000) Province

Total wood demand

Biomass energy deficit









North Eastern












Rift Valley
















% deficit

*FAO’s Critical Scarcity Level (at 35 per cent deficit)

reflecting a worsening situation. Table 2 gives a geographical distribution of the deficit. It reflects the combination of agro-ecological zones with high population density.

Wood waste This energy source includes timber off-cuts and wood rejects, wood shavings and saw dust from wood used in construction and other industrial purposes. The wood by-products are often used at the factory for steam generation and where not used on site, households may collect it free or purchase it at a small fee. Other sources of wood waste are logging sites where branches and tree tops remain after felling. The national percentage of households using wood waste is a low 2.5 per cent with higher use in urban areas (3.7 per cent) against rural areas (2.1 per cent). This is down from 5.1 per cent in 1980. Table 3 gives an overview of supply per province. Table 3: Wood waste supply by province (tonnes/year) in 2000 Province

Wood waste





North Eastern




Central Rift Valley

2,770 9,699







Origin of woody biomass Biomass comes from various forest formations (closed forests, woodlands, bush, wooded grasslands); farms with both natural vegetation and mixes of indigenous and exotic tree species; industrial and fuel wood plantations; and residues from agricultural crops and wood-based industries. Table 4 gives a summary.

Miti October-December 2011

Table 4 – Summary of biomass energy sources Source

Biomass energy (m3)


Indigenous vegetation - mainly closed forests, woodlands, bush lands and wooded grasslands



Farmlands consisting of exotic tree species such as grevillea, eucalyptus and remnant natural vegetation



Plantations, mainly eucalyptus



Residues from agriculture and wood based industries






Source: Republic of Kenya, 2002

It is striking that the bulk of biomass for energy production still comes from natural vegetation, with ASAL taking a prominent position. These are the areas where land is still plenty and where agricultural expansion is taking place, a major cause of woodland change and deforestation. However, causes of loss of forest vary from one area to another. A study in Makueni and Kitui districts (Mugo and Poulstrup, 2003) revealed that the trees used to produce charcoal are cleared under different arrangements. When new land is opened up, vegetation is cleared to give way to crop production. The trees felled are used to make charcoal. The same has been observed in Narok (Robert: Personal Communication, 2003). Generally, new land is opened up after older farmlands are exhausted and no longer give adequate yields. In the case of Narok, land was cleared for large-scale wheat farming. This happened as group ranches were subdivided and allocated to individuals, who then cleared the wood and bushes to grow wheat. In this case, it is actually land clearing for agriculture that produced wood for charcoal and fuel wood. A similar process is followed in the free-hold land tenure system when land is sub-divided among sons and each son clears his share for farming. In Taita Taveta and Kitui districts, where land is managed for livestock production in ranches, squatters are asked to clear trees, shrubs and bushes to give way for pasture. They are then allowed to make charcoal from the wood they cut down. Usually, the charcoal burners pay very little for the wood, approximately Ksh 20 - 30 (US cents 25 - 40) for a 35kg bag. Again as in the case of Narok, charcoal is a by-product of land management for livestock production. However, there are times when wood is sought specifically for charcoal. This is during famine when people cut down trees to make and sell charcoal to get money for food. This is common in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country. Trees are also cut specifically for charcoal where people, especially the landless, are employed in full-time charcoal production. In such cases, the people buy wood or are allowed to produce charcoal free on land owned by the government or county councils (Mugo and Poultrup, 2003). From this description, it is clear that fuel wood, charcoal production and agriculture contribute to woodland degradation and deforestation. However, the contribution of each varies from one area to another. Rural and urban population growth, unemployment and land tenure are key drivers of woodland degradation and deforestation, hence for effective and sustainable management of the forest resources, any intervention has to deal seriously with these key drivers. If the harvested natural woodlands are not cultivated for agriculture or used for grazing, they have been observed to regenerate very fast. This suggests that population control, change in land tenure to discourage uneconomical land sub-division, increased agricultural productivity, increased employment and other forms of livelihoods and appropriate


woodland management strategies can reduce woodland degradation and deforestation. In addition, planned commercial growing of trees for charcoal and fuel wood production can supply the much needed biomass energy, create employment and provide additional ecosystem services.

Putting charcoal in perspective The charcoal industry in Kenya represents an estimated annual market value of over US$ 427 million (Ksh 32 billion). It employs over 700,000 people along the whole value chain supporting a population of 2.8 million people (ESDA, 2005). A similar value would be estimated for fuel wood, which mainly provides energy for the rural household sector and industry, for example tea and pulp factories. However, quantitative information on the actual figures is lacking. A similar situation could be arrived at even if charcoal were to be produced from commercially grown wood. It is estimated that commercially grown trees can produce 18 tonnes of charcoal from one hectare. About 298,000ha of fast-maturing tree species would be required every year to meet the annual demand of about 2.4 million tonnes of charcoal. To produce the volume of wood needed for charcoal alone, 496,000 jobs would be created at the rate of two jobs for each hectare of wood. This is in addition to the environmental services to be gained from the forests or woodlots. Making of efficient stoves, charcoal processing kilns and biogas equipment also generate jobs both in the rural and urban areas. However, data on the magnitude of this is not available and has to be generated to guide investment in the same. And, unfortunately, the capacity to produce 520 million1 high-quality seedlings does not exist. Investment is needed here. Any tree can be used to produce wood fuel. However, acacias and other hardwoods are preferred to others because of the quality of fuel wood and charcoal they produce. Ideally, the species known to have dense wood are harvested before the less dense. In some regions of the country, for example Kinango in Kwale district, all the suitable tree and shrub species have been harvested, leaving behind only the undesirable species, while there are no trees at all left for harvesting in some areas. Some arid and semi-arid areas have depleted all their acacias.

Towards a sustainable solution Various studies have indicated that about 90 per cent of all the wood harvested in Kenya is used for fuel. The remaining 10 per cent is used for construction poles and timber. This makes the forest sector basically a biomass energy industry. The Forests Act provides for creation of State Forests, Local Authority (County) Forests, Private and Farm Forests, declaration of Provisional Forests and management of the same. The forest management plans for State and Provisional Forests are to be prepared by the Kenya Forest Service. Local authorities are responsible for preparation of management plans for each Local Authority Forest, and participation of communities has been provided through Community Forest Associations (CFAs). Other players include the Ministry of Energy, through the National Biomass Energy Policy, that, among other things, pushes for increased use of efficient charcoal stoves and promotion of private sector participation in biomass energy production. According to the Environmental. 1 Planted at a spacing of 2.5mx2.5m or 1,600 seedlings per ha, and an estimated loss of 10% because of various causes, an area of 298,000 ha would require 524.4 million seedlings.


Sustainable production of charcoal. This is a private plantation of Acacia xanthophloea in Nyanza. (Photo: KEFRI)

Management and Coordination Act (1999), an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be done for all projects with a significant effect on the environment. The Ministry of Local Government, under which the counties fall, plays a crucial role in providing policy leadership as far as utilisation of trust lands is concerned. Now that the main governance units in Kenya are the counties, they are critical in biomass energy development interventions. The enactment of the Energy Policy and Act, the Forests Act and the Charcoal Subsidiary Legislation has opened up the sector for growth. We conclude with two examples of private sector intervention. The first one is Kakuzi Ltd, which grows its own trees, especially eucalypts, for treated poles and charcoal. The company harvests the straight poles, treats and sells them, while trees not suitable for poles are processed into charcoal using kilns of about 28 – 30 per cent conversion efficiency.1 The second example is RAFDIP Community Forest Association, an umbrella CBO in Bondo District of Nyanza Province. The groups came together in 2002 for growing Acacia xanthophloea and A. polyacantha for charcoal. So far, over 240ha of woodlots have been planted, with the first harvest after six years and further felling through coppice management. This model of afforestation is spreading very fast and has potential for wider adoption. These are promising modes for income generation and ecological stability. The writer is a lecturer – Environment Planning and Management, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nairobi. Email:

2 For comparison: a traditional earth kiln has a conversion efficiency from wood to charcoal of 8-12%.

Miti October-December 2011

Turning the wheels of rural life Kenya needs a sustainable wood fuel supply to meet the cooking, lighting and industrial needs of the majority By Joseph Githiomi


Sale of charcoal and firewood along Garissa Rd, Mwingi district – an example of unsustainable wood fuel supply. However, this remains a lifeline for ASAL residents in times of drought. (Photo: BGF)

ood fuel is the major form of biomass energy in Kenya, contributing 70 per cent of the national energy demand, while over 93 per cent of rural households rely on it for cooking and heating. Wood fuel is also an important energy source for small-scale rural industries such as tobacco-curing, tea-drying, brick-making, fishsmoking and bakeries. Wood fuel’s use relates to public sector interests such as environment, public health, rural development, employment and even foreign exchange.

Wood energy consumption in Kenya Firewood is mainly used for cooking, water and house heating, lighting and other home needs. Households are the most important category in wood energy consumption with an estimated consumption of 6.5 tonnes per household per year (Mugo, 2001). The second highest group of consumers are cottage industries. Other consumers include small restaurants/hotels, kiosks and learning institutions. In view of the importance of cottage industries in wealth creation for rural populations, their energy requirements need specific attention to ensure sustainability. On average, most cottage industries spend between 20 – 30 per cent of their total operation costs on energy, which is mainly from wood (MoE, 2002). Tea industries are some of the most important fuel wood consumers in rural areas. There are over 50 small-scale tea factories run by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), spread in 18 districts. Over 70 per cent of these factories have boilers that can use both furnace

oil and firewood. Currently, in an effort to reduce costs in tea production, most of these factories use wood-fired steam boilers to generate heat. On average, the tea factories realise a saving of up to 60 per cent when they use wood, compared to using furnace oil. Other small-scale rural industries like tobacco-curing, firing of lime and brick-making also consume substantial amounts of fuel wood. Table 1 below indicates the national energy consumption where about 31 million tonnes of wood were used for firewood and as raw material for charcoal in 2002. This figure is expected to be higher today due to population increase. The consumption of charcoal and other cleaner fuels like kerosene, LPG and electricity are relatively higher in urban households compared to rural households.

Supply/demand balance Energy analysis and forecasting are essential activities in energy planning. They involve analysis and evaluation of data to assess the present and future energy situations. This is used in developing energy plans that provide a basis for formulating energy policies. Past wood energy studies in Kenya have shown that the country is not able to match demand and supply, leading to a deficit in wood energy (Barnes, 1984; KFMP, 1994; MoE, 2002). Table 2 outlines the major changes in biomass consumption, supply and deficit/balances for the years 2000 to 2020 as far as households and cottage industries are concerned. The sustainable supply is computed using average annual increment. If the total annual wood fuel consumption is higher than the total average

Table 1: Annual Consumption of various energy types (year 2000) Fuels category

Firewood (tonnes/yr)

Wood for charcoal (tonnes/yr)

Wood wastes (tonnes/yr)

Farm residues (tonnes/yr)

Kerosene (litres/yr)

Rural household

LPG (kg/yr)

Electricity (Kwh/yr) 93,376,810







Urban household








Cottage Industries
















Source: MOE, 2002 report

Miti October-December 2011



annual increment, then there is a deficit as observed. A major observation in Table 2 is that the biomass deficit will increase to 33.9 million tonnes in 2020 if no significant policy measures are taken. This is due to an increase of a population that relies largely on firewood and charcoal. The continuation of unsustainable wood fuel production will lead to losses in environmental services offered by forests, besides leading to severe soil erosion and land degradation. However, the deficit in national supply/demand balance can be reduced to surplus through wood fuel policy intervention strategies aimed at improving management and conversion efficiencies as discussed below.

Strategies for sustainable wood energy production 1) Allocation of gazetted plantation areas for fuel wood production The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) should develop plantations for wood fuel as a national priority along the same lines used for timber production. The firewood plantations should be established with appropriate fast-growing tree species that match specific environmental and ecological conditions for maximum productivity. Other available land for fuel wood plantations can be leased within the municipalities (periurban plantations), trust lands, rangelands and community land areas. 2) Woodlot development/increase of tree planting in farmlands This strategy considers integrating wood fuel into local farming systems since the agricultural sector has a key role to play in supplementing wood fuel through wood production. Fuel wood can be commercialised through development of woodlots in private farms where land is idle and/or unsustainable for agriculture. This effort is supported by government policy which intends to increase the forest cover to 10 per cent by 2030 (Republic of

Cooking in the countryside - a three-stone stove that uses firewood. But the chapati looks fine. (Photo: BGF)

Kenya, 2007) and the legal notice No 166 of November 2009 of the Agricultural Act which requires farmers to maintain 10 per cent of tree cover in agricultural holdings. This intervention strategy is supply oriented as it aims to increase wood fuel supply from farmlands. Out-grower tree schemes are other possible options that can be used to increase the tree area cover in farmlands where tea factories and other service industries can develop contractual partnerships between the land owners and the tea factories/service institutions. The scheme can be arranged such that the growers are provided with technical advice on forestry practices and planting material, which are essential to the success of out-grower schemes. Following a contractual agreement, a clear management plan is essential to ensure effective implementation aimed at achieving the target for long-term viability. This will ensure a guaranteed market for farmers and a stable source of wood fuel for tea factories and service institutions. 3) Efficient management of rangelands A strategy for efficient management of rangelands through enrichment planting

and controlled harvesting for charcoal, can improve charcoal supply greatly, especially since most charcoal in Kenya comes from the rangelands. Currently, rangeland resources are utilised unsustainably but this can be improved through application of the recently introduced charcoal rules. 4) Increase the adoption of efficient technology devices This strategy aims at increasing adoption of improved charcoal kilns with efficiency of over 25 per cent, to replace traditional charcoal earth kilns whose efficiency is as low as 10 per cent. The technologies to be used should be simple, inexpensive and easily adopted by charcoal producers. Such technologies include the use of the Casamance kiln as well as the improved earth kiln developed by KEFRI. This would lead to a significant reduction of wood needed for charcoal making. The conservation of wood energy should be given priority through promotion of improved, high efficiency stoves. The majority of rural households use three-stone jikos (stoves), which are very inefficient. The improved stoves to be promoted for adoption should consider users needs that include cooking comfort, convenience, health, safety and affordability.

Table 2: Projections of biomass consumption/supply Years












Consumption (tonnes/yr)






Sustainable supply (tonnes/yr) Deficit (tonnes/yr) Deficit (%) Deficit (tonnes/person)





















Source: MOE, 2002 report


Miti October-December 2011

5) Increase use of alternative sources of energy This strategy assumes that with the government policy of promoting cleaner energy use and rural electrification, households will slowly switch from wood fuels to alternative cleaner fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene and electricity. This would reduce pressure on wood fuel for domestic use, leading to a decrease in demand. The use of alternative energy is supported by the energy policy of 2004, which promotes the use of cleaner fuels like LPG through subsidies (MoE, 2004). As an example, the government removed value added tax (VAT) on LPG and kerosene in the last budget to encourage their use. The government has also enforced harmonisation of different types of LPG regulators, which previously reduced competition by restricting a customer to using one brand of LPG. While the use of alternative fuels sounds fairly realistic, it is likely to be faced with difficulties due to the ever rising prices of LPG, kerosene and electricity. Other constraints that hinder their wider use include supply distribution, high initial cost of installation and appliances, among others. For an effective wood fuels substitution, subsidies are recommended for initial procurement of the appliances.

developed with the prime objective of making each district self-sufficient. Decentralised areabased wood energy planning is the most suitable in Kenya as the wood energy situation and problems are site-specific and vary from region to region. Therefore, the implementation strategies in the decentralised wood energy plan should be site-specific, depending on the prevailing problems. The wood energy plans should be integrated with other decentralised planning activities at district development committees (DDCs). There is need for clear charcoal policy guidelines which would encourage investments on improved charcoal processing technologies. Charcoal production should be like any other cash crop farming and it should be taxed and reflected as a potential revenue earner for government. The 2009 charcoal regulations, which are meant

to establish sustainable charcoal production, transportation and marketing, need to be put into operation. 9) Improvement of wood energy database To improve the availability of wood energy within the country, wood energy databases should be established at regional and national levels. These can be achieved through establishing regular field surveys for wood energy, supply, demand and data analyses to monitor the changes over time. Regular surveys need to be undertaken in the future, preferably at five-year intervals, to enable updating the data for future wood energy plans and policy formulations. The writer is Principal Research Officer, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Karura Regional Research Centre Email:


7) Strengthen wood energy institutional framework Wood energy systems have multi-disciplinary characteristics, with many stakeholders strongly integrated between the socio-economic layers of rural areas, all requiring technical agencies from the forestry, agriculture and industry sectors. Therefore, wood energy development strategies should be pursued as a common task by all the relevant sectors. The coordination and linkages among the sectors concerned has been weak and needs to be strengthened. 8) Enabling wood energy policy and planning Wood fuel production strategies should be

Miti October-December 2011


6) Use of alternative biomass energy technologies Other forms of biomass energy include gasification, which is thermal treatment of solid fuel into gaseous form while retaining most of the energy in the original fuel. Biodiesel is also another type of biomass energy from tree seed oils like Croton megalocarpus and Jatropha curcas, among others. Biomass energy can also be generated from wood wastes like briquettes made from sawdust or charcoal dust, which can be an alternative to charcoal from wood. These biomass energy sources are gaining recognition in Kenya and their potential needs to be explored.

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Croton megalocarpus grows in the semi-arid to subhumid highlands, and is common around Nairobi. It can grow into a big tree, of great ornamental value. (Photo: BGF)

Which way jatropha and croton oils? Characteristics of the two biofuels, compared to diesel, and their availability or eventual production possibilities By Nellie Oduor


iofuels are fuels made from plant and plant derived resources. These fuels are used mainly for transportation. There are two types of biofuels – bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol, the principal fuel used as a substitute for petrol for road transport vehicles, is mainly derived from maize and sugar cane. Biodiesel, on the other hand, is mainly produced from oil crops such as jatropha, rapeseed and soybean. Biomass fuels are the most important source of primary energy in Kenya, with wood fuel consumption accounting for over 68 per cent of the total primary energy consumption (Ministry of Energy, 2004). Current supply sources of fuel wood are on-farm production, which accounts for 84 per cent, and trust lands and gazetted forests each with 8 per cent. The majority of Kenyans depend on wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. Over 90 per cent of rural households use firewood for cooking while 80 per cent of urban households depend on charcoal as a primary source of fuel for cooking. This charcoal is produced in the rural areas inefficiently and often, in an unsustainable manner. About 2.5 million people depend on the charcoal trade either directly or indirectly and charcoal contributes Ksh 32 billion to the national economy (ESDA, 2005). Many rural people depend on charcoal for income generation and in most cases, charcoal is the main source of this income.


Following the oil crisis of the 1970s and recognition of the limitations of world oil resources, plant species which can be processed to provide a diesel fuel substitute have received special attention. Most of the research was carried out in temperate regions with the aim of making available to farmers possibilities for diversifying in view of the increasing subsidy-driven surpluses in traditional commodities. Another argument for the cultivation of oil crops for energy is the increasing global warming/ greenhouse effect. It has been established that for every 10 tonnes of fossil fuel burned, 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. When biofuels are burnt, the atmosphere is not polluted by extra carbon dioxide, since this has already been assimilated during the growth of these crops. The CO2 balance, therefore, remains equable. To be a viable substitute for a fossil fuel, an alternative fuel should not only have superior environmental benefits over the fossil fuel it displaces, be economically competitive with it, and be producible in sufficient quantities to make a meaningful impact on energy demands, but it should also provide a net energy gain over the energy sources used to produce it (J.Hill, 2006). Promising oil crops currently being investigated in Kenya are the seeds of Jatropha curcas and Croton megalocarpus.

Jatropha curcas Research has shown that Jatropha curcas, whose oil-producing seeds are toxic to humans and most animals and birds, has merits as a viable alternative for production of biodiesel. Jatropha curcas is a multi-purpose, shrubby tree belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family. It is native to Mexico or Central America, but now thrives in many parts of the tropics and sub-tropics in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Jatropha has received tremendous attention around the world over the last few years due to its potential as a biofuel crop. While the plant is not indigenous to Kenya, it has been naturalised in many parts of the country. Farmers have been growing it for many decades for reasons other than as biofuel. One finds many trees older than 30 years grown as fences or in the wild. In 2000, a few farmers in Siaya, Vihiga and Bungoma West districts introduced jatropha as feeders to support their vanilla vines. The jatropha was planted, not for oilseed, but to serve as a host for the more lucrative vanilla crop, which can fetch up to Ksh 3,000 per kilogram. As a result, no effort was made to nurture the jatropha to produce seeds. It is only in the last few years that jatropha has become widely known as a potential biofuel feedstock in Kenya.

Miti October-December 2011

Croton megalocarpus This is an indigenous (East Africa) upper-storey forest tree from the family Euphorbiaceae that grows to 35m or more. Its range is the semi-arid and sub-humid highlands, at altitudes between 1200 and 2450m, with an annual rainfall of about 800 to 1600mm and average annual temperatures varying between 11 and 26oC. Trees of this species are found in forests and often on farms as boundary markers, windbreaks, shade trees and fuel wood producers. The tree is also found in moist upland forest, dense woodland (especially riverine or near springs) and scattered tree grassland. It is estimated that millions of trees are growing in the wild and on farms throughout the country. Croton is a multi-purpose tree that provides a wide range of direct and indirect uses and services. Its timber is commonly used for making agricultural implements, in construction, joinery and furniture, and for provision of posts and poles for fencing. Croton is also used for firewood and charcoal. The leaves, seeds, bark, roots and wood extracts from the tree are used as medicine for humans and livestock, including for the treatment of stomach ailments, malaria, wound clotting and pneumonia. As an indigenous species planted in homesteads, community centres and marketplaces, croton provides shade and shelter and acts as a windbreak. Mature trees have deep taproots, which access fertilisation to augment soil nutrients, while roots exudate enrich soil with minerals and leaf litter rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and organic carbon. Croton trees improve and stabilise soil through water retention and erosion retardation, thus minimising the loss of valuable topsoil and the siltation of rivers and lakes. Currently, there are various activities involving croton at global, regional and national levels. Croton seeds produce inedible oil that is suitable for biofuel. Various academic institutions are undertaking pharmacological studies to evaluate potential of croton for medicinal uses, its toxicity and formulations for croton seed meal for animals. Claims that croton species have high potential for production of essential oils are being investigated as well. Croton trees seed prolifically in October December in central and northern Kenya and in January - February in western Kenya. Frequency of flowering, number of spikes, number of female flowers per spike, number of seeds per fruit and seed weight are all factors that influence yield. Currently, there is scant information on yield per tree because of a historical lack of demand for the seeds. However, the potential yield of mature trees has been assessed at about 25kg

Miti October-December 2011

Fruits of Croton megalocarpus. The seeds germinate easily and if protected, regenerate naturally without problems. When pressed they can yield up to 30% of good quality oil. (Photo: BGF)

Fruits of Jatropha curcas being dried in the sun before seed extraction (de-hulling). (Photo: BGF)

per year, with some projections as high as 50kg. A systematic study is needed to determine yields under different growing conditions and within varied agro-ecological zones. There is limited empirical data on the economics of growing croton either for biofuel or timber. Croton oil seeds in the hard outer hull are currently sold to local buyers for Ksh 5 per kilogram. The buyers then mechanically de-hull the seeds and press and filter the oil for use locally as straight vegetable oil (SVO) and biodiesel. Typically, the current practice is that the seller makes arrangements for the buyer to pick up the seeds from the farm gate. This is why no transport costs are included in the price, as they are borne by the oil processers/buyers and not the farmers. Seeds out of the hull currently sell for between Ksh 12 - 20 per kilogram. The only consistent market for the seeds appears to be in Central Province where two processors press croton oil. The Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) is involved in research for production,

processing and marketing of croton for biofuels and reforestation. KEFRI’s National Seed Centre provides certified, high quality croton seeds to farmers throughout the country. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI) are testing the use of croton oils as biodiesel feedstock. The Naro Moru Help Self Help Group and Horizon Business Ventures at the base of Mt Kenya produces croton oil for biodiesel and straight vegetable oil (SVO) biofuel, using a small biodiesel reactor and several oil presses obtained with donor assistance. The organisation also presses edible oils from sunflower and rapeseed grown by surrounding farmers. The Enterprise Development Centre, a community-based organisation also operating in the Mt Kenya region, is involved in a pilot project producing biodiesel from croton seeds. The seeds are collected manually from farmlands within the region by youth who sell to the processing factory. The organisation claims to produce 400 litres per day.


Table 1: Comparison between croton and jatropha SVO with the Kenya Diesel Standards Property

Croton SVO

Jatropha SVO

Kenya Diesel Standard

Standard specification of diesel

Density (kg/m3)



820-870 (@ 20°C)


Flash Point (°C)



60°C min


Viscosity (mm2/S @ 40°C)





Carbon Residue (% mass)



0.15 max

0.15 or less

Iodine Number (g/100g)





Sulphur Content (ppm)



500 max

500 max

Acid Number (mg KOH/g)



0.5 max


Phosphorous (ppm)





Calorific Value (kJ/kg)





Oxidation Stability (hours)





Ash (% mass)



0.01 max


Water (% mass)



0.05 max


Cloud Point



12°C max


Cetane Number



48 min


Source: Jatropha Reality Check - A field assessment of the agronomic and economic viability of Jatropha and other oilseed crops in Kenya (2008)

Definitions and significance of some of the terms used in Table 1 The density of vegetable oil and biodiesel is generally about 10 – 15 per cent higher than that of mineral diesel. The results on Table 1 indicate that croton and jatropha SVO satisfy the EN standard in regard to density. Flash point is a measure of a fuel’s flammability. It is used primarily to determine the safety precautions necessary for transport and storage. Vegetable oil and biodiesel generally have flash points much higher than that of mineral diesel, and thus provide an advantage in terms of safety. The flash point limit under the SVO standard is 220°C, which is 100°C higher than the equivalent limit under the EN biodiesel standard. The jatropha SVO fell slightly below the SVO standard.

A small oil pressing machine in Kwale used for pressing oil from jatropha seeds, but also suitable for sunflower, croton, and castor. (Photo: KEFRI)

Kinematic viscosity is the speed at which a liquid covers a certain distance, which determines the fluidity of the substance. Viscosity of biofuel is important due to its affect on volume flow and injection spray characteristics. Vegetable oils and biodiesels become less viscous at higher temperatures. Viscosity may also affect fuel atomisation, which can lead to larger droplets being injected into the compression chamber and less efficient fuel consumption. Heat and transesterification are two ways of reducing the viscosity of vegetable oil. Another way of reducing viscosity to acceptable levels is to blend biodiesel with mineral diesel. Both croton and jatropha SVO satisfy the SVO standard, but are slightly above the upper limit for biodiesel under the US standard.

Carbon residue is defined as “the amount of carbonaceous matter left after evaporation and pyrolysis of a fuel sample under specific conditions.” A higher carbon residue may lead to unwanted deposits in the compression chamber, injector tips, valves and piston rings. Carbon residues may also lead to coking and soot formation in the exhaust. The croton SVO sample tested contained a carbon residue level above the SVO standard. This may be reduced to below the upper limit in the SVO standard through the use of fuel additives or by converting the SVO into biodiesel. Iodine number, or value, shows the amount of unsaturation of the SVO or biodiesel, based on the number of double bonds in the molecular structure. The higher the iodine number, the greater the number of unsaturated fatty acids present in the fuel. The more unsaturated the oil (the higher the iodine number), the more likely it is to polymerise in the heat of the engine. Both croton SVO and biodiesel contain iodine numbers above the upper limit permitted by the EU SVO standard and the EU biodiesel standard. High sulphur fuels create more sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, and thus contribute to adverse human health. In most of the world, the allowable sulphur level for biodiesel is consistent with the sulphur limits placed on mineral diesel. Unacceptably high sulphur levels can be reduced with the use of magnesium silicate in the purification process. The acid number is the measure of free fatty acids in the fuel, which is the result of both the type of feedstock and the conversion process being used. An incomplete transesterification process may result in a higher acid number. Post-reaction neutralisers can also be used to lower the acid number. High free fatty acid content may cause engine corrosion and thermal instability. Phosphorous content results from the type of feedstock and the production process. High levels of phosphorous can act as an abrasive agent and can impact exhaust catalytic systems adversely. Phosphorous can be removed by degumming the oil, which is a common process that uses water or acid to reduce the presence of phospholipids in the oil. The writer is a Senior Research Officer, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Karura Regional Research Centre. Email:


Miti October-December 2011

Turning waste into electricity

Wood waste (shavings and sawdust) at Pan Paper Mills at Webuye. This can be used for energy production. (Photo: KFS)

Agricultural and forestry residues as well as municipal solid wastes can be exploited for economic gain By James Onchieku, Faith Odongo and Charles Ondieki


iomass gasification technology is not widely promoted in Kenya. Although the country produces large quantities of agricultural residues such as coffee husks, rice hulls, sawdust, maize cobs, et cetera, as well as forestry residues and municipal solid wastes annually, most of these are currently not exploited for economic gain. Energy crops like bamboo and invasive species such as Prosopis juliflora could be grown purposely for electricity generation. Use of biomass residues for energy generation, however, is limited by the fact that no comprehensive assessment of available residues and their potential for electricity generation has been done to date. The first National Workshop on Biomass Gasification Technology in Kenya was held in Nairobi in May this year under the auspices of a project entitled, “An Integrated Biomass Gasification Technology for Production of Electric Power and Charcoal for Rural Households in Kenya”. This is a collaborative project between the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) and the Energy and Environment Partnership Programme for Southern and East Africa (EEPS&EA) which is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Finnish Government and the Austrian Development Agency. The Ministry of Energy, Energen Africa Ltd and Multi Media University College of Kenya are implementing partners. The project seeks to increase access to modern, clean, affordable and reliable energy services through increased usage of biomass gasification technologies. The main objective of the workshop, which attracted well over 40 participants from different sectors along the value chain of biomass gasification technology, was to build technical and infrastructural capacity of stakeholders.

Miti October-December 2011

When opening the workshop, Patrick Nyoike, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy urged stakeholders to take advantage of the current favourable policy and regulatory framework regarding biomass energy to initiate business ventures which would contribute to minimising energy poverty in the country, reduce economic poverty and improve the livelihoods of communities. The need to increase access to modern, clean, affordable and reliable energy services through an increased usage of biomass gasification technologies cannot be overemphasised. Biomass gasification, which is basically a thermo-chemical process, converts biomass materials into a gaseous component, producer gas or synthesis gas. Once processed as required, the biomass resources are suitable sources of feedstock for gasification.

Woody biomass can be used for traditional applications like electricity poles and paper; but also novel applications like chipping for feedstock and electricity production.

When directed to a generator set or turbine, the producer gas can generate electricity for lighting, heating water and warming households in rural communities located far from the national power grid. Dr Ben Chikamai, the Director KEFRI, hailed and underscored the need for consultative and collaborative Research for Development and Deployment to have grassroots impact and contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He observed that the current scenario where over 85 per cent of the population use traditional biomass for their energy needs and services was unacceptable if Kenya is to achieve the MDGs. The trend is moreover associated with serious indoor pollution, deforestation and enormous wastage of time, which could be put into productive economic activities. The National Project Coordinator, Dr James Onchieku sees the workshop as a culmination of greater things to come. “Potential investors will in future have a one-stop shop where they can access a comprehensive database on all current and potential feedstock for biomass gasification,” he said. A pilot demonstration, notably a modified Downdraft Imbert Gasifier, able to generate about 100 kWe, will be designed and installed within the KEFRI campus as early as 2012 where potential investors will have access to technical information necessary for up-scaling the technology. Investors, experts from institutions of higher learning, researchers as well as local and international organisations in attendance recommended having regular forums of this kind to stimulate investment in renewable energy technologies, especially biomass energy. James Onchieku works with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Faith Odongo with the Ministry of Energy, Charles Ondieki with the Multi Media University College of Kenya.


Establishment of energy forests of eucalypts in East Africa will need high-quality seedlings of fastgrowing species. The greenhouse in the picture belongs to the Tree Biotechnology Trust Kenya and produces clonal seedlings from improved eucalypt hybrids. (Photo: BGF)

Electric energy from trees Ugandan study demonstrates viability of producing electricity from woody biomass By Jan Vandenabeele

This article is extracted from a consultancy1 by Unique Forestry Consultants done for Sawlog Production Grant Scheme (SPGS) in Uganda. It describes, against a background of Uganda’s growing energy needs and increasing electricity shortages, the possibility of rural electricity production from woody biomass. Although the study was carried out in 2006, it is more relevant than ever today, with the enormous interest in renewable energy sources.


ased on world-wide experience, the report starts by comparing the cost of electricity production from hydropower, solar, geothermal energy, wind energy and biomass energy, where biomass energy compares favourably, and certainly is cheaper than energy from fossil fuels (diesel).

Feedstock production The biomass feedstock can come from various sources, like energy forests, thinnings (e.g. from pine plantations), agricultural residues and crops like sweet sorghum. The main species considered for energy forests are Eucalyptus grandis and Markhamia lutea, both fast growing and with good coppicing ability. An energy forest is simply a short-rotation system 1

“Decentralised rural electricity production from energy forests: Investigating the feasibility of business models for a demonstration project”. SPGS and Unique Forestry Consultants. Kampala, February 2006. Compiled by TimmTennigkeit, Kay Kallweit and Thomas Bucholz. The report is available from SPGS’s web site –


where the species are grown on a dense spacing. Its main inconvenience is eventual competition with food production if established in densely populated areas. The wood has to be chipped before use. Markhamia lutea is indigenous to both Uganda and Kenya, and grows well in areas with main annual precipitation of 900 - 1,200mm and altitudes up to 2000masl. The species is considered suitable for energy forests because it is resistant to termites; it grows rapidly in its first two to three years; it is established as a traditional resource in rural areas and it coppices vigorously. A trial at Nyabyeya Forestry College planted at 1x1m (10,000 plants/ha) had a Mean Annual Increment of 17m3/ha/yr after two years, while after coppicing this became 21 m3/ha/yr. The wood density is 0.52 – 0.55 g/cm3 and average moisture content is 15 per cent compared to the weight of completely dry matter. Eucalyptus grandis is grown widely in the world and yields in plantations of James Finlay Ltd2 in Uganda reach a Mean Annual Increment of up to 50m3/ha/yr, cumulating at an age of five years. This is comparable to Kenya. Spacings of 2x2m to 3.5x3.5m resulted in the highest volume per ha. Wood density varies between 0.4-0.5 g/cm3. Harvesting is possible at one to two years, with two to four subsequent coppice rotations before new seedlings have to be 2 Since ca. 2008 - Mcleod Russel (U) Ltd. – with numerous tea estates in Western Uganda.

planted. Needless to say, the planting sites must be prepared completely; including ploughing and applying herbicides so neither weeds nor grasses compete with the tree crop. In general, two types of conversion technology for small-scale (30kW-1MW) bioenergy systems based on wood can be identified - gasification and combustion.

Gasification Gasification is making gas out of solid fuel; in this case wood, “burning” it with a restricted supply of air. The main contents of the gas are CO (carbon monoxide) and hydrogen, with ash as a by-product. The energy obtained can be converted into heat, mechanical power or electricity. The conversion rate for electricity is in the range of 20 – 25 per cent for small-scale applications. This means about 20 – 25 per cent of the energy contained in the wood can become electricity, the rest being lost to heat. To use it for electricity, the gas first has to be cooled, sometimes compressed, and most importantly, cleaned. In other words, the gas has to be treated, and afterwards it is fed into a combustion engine. The most commonly used technology is “fixed bed down-draft” gasifiers. They produce gas with a low tar content which is suitable for engines. However they have strict requirements on feedstock, for instance regarding chip characteristics (diameter, length and moisture

Miti October-December 2011

content). Tar is the main constraint in producing this gas as it can condense on valves and fittings, obstructing proper functioning. Tar, alkaline metals and dust also cause corrosion and erosion of cylinder walls and pistons. Hence the producer gas has to be cleaned before it can be used in a gas engine or turbine. Due to this tar problem, the availability of commercial wood gasifier systems is still limited, but more systems are slowly entering the phase of mass production.

Combustion Combustion means burning the crop with enough oxygen to convert nearly all the material to carbon dioxide (CO2), with water and ash as waste products. The heat that is produced can be used directly, or it can run steam engines, steam turbines or Stirling engines to produce electricity. Compared to gasification, combustion has the advantage that feedstock requirements are less exacting (up to 60 per cent moisture content, heterogeneous consistency and particle size) and the applied technology is more robust and simple. Turbines are designed for large-scale operations, while steam engines are available in the power range of 50kW to 1 MW. These smaller plants have a net efficiency of 10 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 15 per cent of electricity conversion. Stirling engines work by the repeated heating and cooling of a sealed amount of working gas, and can operate using any type of heat source. Electric efficiencies of about 20 per cent have been achieved with CHP (Combined Heat and Power) technology, and are expected to reach 30 per cent. Stirling engines have low maintenance costs and fewer combustion problems due to the use of solid biomass fuel. Cogeneration (CHP) produces heat and electricity simultaneously from the same plant, using a single primary energy source. More than 150 CHP plants in the range of 0.6-700MWe are running in Europe while others are installed in the USA. Cogeneration is useful for large processors who need large amounts of heat (sugar processing, organic oil pressing, cement production) and significant amounts of electricity. But investment costs are high.

Business models

Many parameters are involved in calculating Eucalyptus spp can be planted the best solution for very densely (up a given case. It is to 10,000 stems/ important to note that ha) to be cut just bio-energy systems two years later can either be standfor production of wood to be burned alone units (also called under controlled island solutions) or be supply of oxygen connected to the grid. for electricity But connecting small to generation. (Photo: medium systems to the BGF) grid has its problems, like irregular voltages of the grid that can damage the equipment, or synchronisation, which is expensive. Therefore, the study focuses on stand-alone units. The most important criteria to consider are the type of energy (heat and/or electricity) and the required amount (base load and peak load). The study focuses on two different scenarios. 1) Electricity production only with a capacity of 250kW The technology chosen here is a down-draught fixed bed gasifier, combined with an adequate combustion engine, sourced from Ankur Technologies in India. 2) Cogeneration through combustion with a capacity of 1MW This scenario, suitable for an industrial complex needing heat in its processing, employs a firetube steam boiler and an adequate steam piston engine. Heat exchangers are used for capturing the process heat. The latter is used on-site while electricity can also be exported to nearby communities with single earth-return-wire technology to battery charging stations. The acreage of required feedstock for both above scenarios is important. Scenario 1 would require a biomass of 1,400T annually, translated into 100ha. That means a total plantation area of 200 - 300ha to play it safe. Scenario 2 would require 7,700T annually or 500ha (total plantation area 1000-1500ha) which is five times as much, due to the lower electric efficiency of the employed installation. The wood has to be chipped, and the gasifier plant will only accept

Table 1: Some financial information on the two proposed scenarios Item

Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Investment costs

330,000 Euro

1 million Euro

Overall cost/kWhe

0.05 Euro

0.058 Euro

Investment pay-back period

4 - 5 years

3 1/2 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 4 1/2 years

Internal Rate of Return



chips of maximum diameter 5cm, length 10cm and a moisture content less than 20 per cent. The cogeneration plant can be less strict on chips dimensions, with a moisture content of 15 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 20 per cent. Table 1 provides some financial information for the two proposed systems, but the study stresses that this is a generic assessment, for which several assumptions that do not apply to every case, were made. More reliable numbers can only be obtained through actual running technology in the Ugandan context. The overall cost per kWhe for a diesel generator is at least five times higher, at 0.2-0.23 Euro. Actual electricity cost (per kWhe) as taken from the grid is 0.1 Euro (commercial), 0.083 Euro (medium industry) and 0.034 Euro (large industry). However, even smaller systems (e.g. 30kW) for community-based electricity production are possible, where the local community provides the wood and in turn is provided with electricity.

Conclusion There is significant potential for electricity production through bioenergy production from woody biomass. It is viable financially. Grants and development loans (green energy!) make this even more attractive. The potential is highest in remote rural areas not connected to the grid, but with real need for electricity. There is however little experience regarding feedstock production from energy forests, while the main barrier to implementing these systems is lack of local experience. The technology has, however, worked in Europe, India and Brazil. The writer is the Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd Email:

kWhe: Kilo Watt per hour electricity IRR based on calculated electricity price of 0.114 Euro (75% grid, 25% diesel generator), no grants

Miti October-December 2011


The flatlands around Hola (Tana River district), invaded heavily by Prosopis juliflora. (Photo: KEFRI)

Electricity from a dreaded tree Kenyan company plans to produce electric power from mathenge, the scourge of Kenyan drylands By Jan Vandenabeele


ower Power Ltd, a Kenyan company belonging to the Comcraft Group steered by well-known industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria, is planning a pioneering private sector initiative in the production of renewable energy, using, among other materials, biomass. As such, the company is planning to set up two power stations to generate electricity from woody biomass. One power plant will be of an initial capacity of 11.5MW at Mariakani (Kwale district), the other one of 30MW in Baringo. Power plants producing electricity out of wood exist in several countries. What sets Tower Powerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s apart is the choice of tree species.


Absolutely logical, abundant to the extreme that it is considered an invasive species, politically not correct - we are talking about Prosopis juliflora, the scourge of Kenyan drylands, if certain sources are to be believed. In fact, as written in an article in Miti magazine issue 8, Prosopis juliflora has a lot of positive traits, like good quality wood, pods rich in proteins, and flowers producing very good quality nectar. It has spread out of control in certain arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL), pushing aside indigenous vegetation, but growing vigorously in harsh conditions, and fixing nitrogen in the process. Like the majority of species adapted to drylands, it coppices well

and recovers rapidly after cutting, which makes it difficult to eradicate, but on the other hand, makes it relatively high-yielding. Tower Power is working on the assumption that trees as young as 2 - 3 years can be harvested, and that the plant grows back to its original size in 16 - 18 months. Tower Power factors that unmanaged Prosopis stands in Baringo produce about 4-16T/ha of biomass per rotation. P. julifloraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wood has a calorific value of 3,600-4000 Kcal/kg, and a specific density of 395 kg/m3. All these characteristics make it a logical choice for energy production, an option that apparently already has been taken in India,

Miti October-December 2011

and a replication of the success story is planned in Kenya in Garsen and Turkana1. Tower Power is well advanced in its preparations, and hopes to kick off construction of its plants by January 2012, with first electricity generation by November 2013.

Sticks and poles of prosopis. Wood of the same size, and of crooked shape, can be chipped for bulk transport to electricity plants. It can become a lucrative undertaking for the communities whose land has been invaded by the species. Credit KEFRI

Mariakani The feed stock for the power plant might come from different sources; either from a local community (the Mwavumbo Group Ranch) or from Vital Bio-Energy Kenya Ltd, established in Kulalo Ranch close to Galana River. The latter company has a lease of 70,000 ha of Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) land, adjacent to Tsavo East National Park. It is dry bushland, reportedly partly overgrown with Prosopis, but this is being cleared to plant Pongamia pinnata, a drought resistant tree species originating from south east Asia, that produces oil bearing seeds used as biodiesel. The cleared Prosopis (estimated at 9T/ha) as well as the Pongamia seed cake, would be sold to Tower Power. The relatively long distance from the ranch to the plant’s location in Mariakani makes transport an expensive operation, and its cost would be whittled down by chipping the trees at the collection points. The functioning of the wood chippers is not yet fully specified. Feed stock producers would be paid at the base rate of Ksh 3.50 /kg 2, this is the equivalent of 3.50 x 395 kg/m3 = 1382Ksh/m3, at collection point, and transport to the plant will be at Tower Power’s expense. However, that rate depends on agreements with KPLC and on the final transport modalities. At the downstream side, things look good. Mariakani is home to a number of industrial plants, like Kenya Aluminium Rolling Mills and Mabati Rolling Mills, all potential customers for additional power. As such, the 11.5 MW would be divided into 1.5 MW for Tower Power’s own consumption and 10MW to be sold to industries.

Baringo Feed stock here is abundant, with a total estimate of 183,000ha divided over six sites (Ng’ambo, Loruk, Salabani, Chemeron dam, Marigat and Eldume). Biomass of the Prosopis varies between 4 and 16 T/ha, with root collar diameters between 10 and 20cm. The total available standing biomass is estimated at 982,900 tonnes.

1 An Indian company called “A2Z”reportedly is developing electricity generating stations out of Prosopis in Garsen and Turkana 2 As comparison, small-holders in the highlands selling eucalypt fuelwood to tea factories get 1500Ksh/stere, which is equivalent to 2,140Ksh/m3 at the factory gate (see Miti issue 11).

Miti October-December 2011

Wood from prosopis, bulked for making charcoal, in a trial directed by KEFRI. It can also be chipped and used for electricity production. (Photo KEFRI)

The bulk of this biomass is in Ng’ambo, with 54,000ha, and where a community based organisation (CBO) called Ng’ambo Development Corporation will be the supplier. The local community seems to be upbeat about the prospect of making money out of a tree they so far despised. Though from a natural resources management point of view the operation is not yet completely clear, from a business point of view it certainly makes sense, and from a development point of view it also looks good. The Prosopis initiative and prudent mix of forestry with energy could be a boon to vast arid and semi arid lands. Things are moving in Kenya. The writer is the Executive Director, Better Globe Forestry Ltd Email:


USAID/Kenya: 50 Years of Partnership November 1961 – November 2011

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy inspired the United States and the world by signing the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act into law. On November 4, 1961, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was born. From the very start, USAID has worked in Kenya--partnering with Kenyan leaders, non-governmental organizations, communities, and ordinary people from all walks of life.

Today the U.S. Government is the leading bilateral donor to Kenya. Most U.S. funding goes to USAID programs, which touch nearly every county. USAID helps close to a million small-scale farmers get training, capital, and market connections. USAID is the major contributor to Kenya’s HIV treatment programs. Those programs provide life-saving medicines to over 500,000 Kenyans.

USAID has just launched a new program to dramatically boost Kenyan children’s reading skills. USAID continues its legacy of building the micro-credit industry so that millions of previously “unbankable” Kenyans get the credit they deserve. USAID contributes to peace-building and reconciliation efforts nationwide, and provided technical assistance for the new Kenyan Constitution. USAID is the largest bilateral donor to civil society - ensuring that citizens’ voices are heard at local and national levels. For a snapshot of this dynamic partnership, enjoy the new documentary, In Step: 50 Years of USAID - Kenya Partnership on What is the USAID – Kenya partnership doing for you now?


USAID development programs reach millions of Kenyans. In 2010, more than 875,000 rural households got the tools and know-how they needed to climb out of poverty. Photo: USAID/Kenya - Derek Brown

USAID has improved the quality of education for over 450,000 children. Photo: USAID/Kenya - Carole Douglis


Miti October-December 2011

USAID Partner TIST: First in the world!

In 2011 TIST - The International Small Group & Tree Planting Program - became the first organization in the world to win two international certifications for carbon-storage validation

TIST is committed to forest restoration through tree planting and education. Photo: Lynn Johnson, Ripple Effect Images

TIST farmers plant 6,000 trees a day and have planted more than 10 million trees worldwide in the last decade. Photo: Lynn Johnson, Ripple Effect Images

TIST is innovation and success

In June 2011, TIST was awarded by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance for its leading-edge methods of measuring the carbon stored in the trees its members plant. In May it also received validation from the VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). TIST is the first group in the world to be verified by both of the most highly regarded international certification bodies. In Kenya, more than 50,000 TIST farmers have planted and are tending 7 million trees - and being paid an advance on the treesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; worth in the carbon market. TIST uses an innovative method of validating the location, size and condition of the trees with custommade software on hand-held computers.

TIST is transparency

Results are posted for all to see. For satellite images of forest growth in Kenya, click on: kenyagrowth.php.

TIST is environmental leadership

Through TIST training and collaboration, members become environmental leaders in their communities. TIST members learn to develop nurseries, plant trees to improve their land, recognize medicinal plants, and use water and wood efficiently.

TIST is public-private partnership

TIST is a Global Development Alliance linking USAID, Clean Air Action Corporation, which founded TIST, and the Institute for Environmental Innovation, a US-based NGO that provides the farmer training and other capacity-building. USAID is supporting TIST in Kenya with $7.5 million over five years. Clean Air Action has invested close to $11 million in developing methods, monitoring technology and pilot projects.

Worldwide, TIST farmers plant 6,000 trees a day and have planted more than 10 million trees in the last decade to offset deforestation. See what else the USAID - Kenya partnership is doing for Kenya. Visit Miti October-December 2011


Plate 1: Community based fuel briquettes-making from charcoal dust bound with soil at Kibera (left) and from sawdust bound with gum arabic at Naru Moru (right).

Making a living from dust

Urban dwellers find an alternative fuel in briquettes made from charcoal waste and sawdust By Mary Njenga, Aya Yonemitsu, Nancy Karanja and Ramni Jamnadass

This is the first in a series of three articles on the economic and environmental potential of fuel briquette production using charcoal dust and sawdust in urban communities in Kenya. This first article focuses on the implications of fuel briquette production and use on livelihoods, while the other two will present the preliminary assessments of energy efficiency and environmental impacts of charcoal dust and saw dust briquettes.

charcoal production threatens biodiversity, impairs ecosystem health and the provision of ecosystem services. The supply of biomass energy, mainly in the form of charcoal, falls far below demand and has risen from 46 per cent in 1980 to 57 per cent in 2000, and hence the need for development of alternative sources of sustainable biomass energy. Current charcoal-making technology is

wasteful. Only 10 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 30 per cent of the raw wood is converted to charcoal during production, and 10 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 15 per cent of the charcoal is also wasted as dust. The charcoal dust is either burned, causing air pollution or is dumped into open drains. This dust, which still has considerable energy value, can be recycled through fuel briquette production. This involves collecting the combustible organic materials and compressing them into a solid fuel product of


n sub-Saharan Africa, over 72 per cent of urban and 98 per cent of rural households use fuel wood for energy. In Kenya, 1.6 - 2.4 million tonnes of wood charcoal are used annually by 82 per cent of urban and 34 per cent of rural households, with Nairobi dwellers consuming 700 tonnes per day. To meet this demand, about 16 million cubic metres of wood is carbonised from farm, private, government and communal lands annually, resulting into widespread destruction of rangelands and forests. Substituting charcoal with electricity and/ or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking is not a viable option in the short and medium term because of the high cost and the cooking appliances required. Unsustainable


Plate 2. Source: Terra Nuova et al., (2007).

Miti October-December 2011

Low price









100% 8% Briquette



20% Less smoke







Longer burning time 1% 1%


68% 98%



Both Briquette



Figure 1. Percent household preferences of fuel briquettes compared to wood charcoal

any convenient shape that can be burned like wood or charcoal (Plate 1). Fuel briquetting technology is being adopted differently in different parts of the world. In Japan, sawdust is widely used to produce briquettes while coal has been used for over 100 years. In sub-Saharan Africa, waste paper, charcoal dust and sawdust are some of the commonly used raw materials for briquette production. In Kenya, the fuel briquetting sectors have been thriving, with a huge potential to contribute to enhancing livelihoods in an environmentally sustainable way. Most fuel briquette-making initiatives are located in urban and peri-urban areas, with Nairobi hosting over half of them. Charcoal dust is the main raw material, with waste paper or clay as the binder. Sawdust is the other tree by-product being used in fuel briquette production. Kenyan sawmills produce 230,000 tonnes of sawdust annually, which poses a disposal challenge. Most of the sawdust is burned in the mill (Plate 2).

Fuel briquettes vs. conventional wood charcoal Consumers prefer fuel briquettes over conventional wood charcoal because briquettes are over three times cheaper than ordinary charcoal and burn for almost twice as long. A study of 199 households carried out in October 2010 in Kibera slums showed that 100 per cent of households that used fuel

Miti October-December 2011

briquettes preferred them to charcoal due to their low price and 98 per cent stated that fuel briquettes burn for a longer time (Figure 1). This makes briquettes suitable for preparing foods that require a long time to cook such as dry grains, which currently many households are abandoning due to the high cost of fuel. Briquettes also produce less smoke; hence the cooking utensils do not end up covered with soot. This makes briquettes user friendly to a community that has other survival challenges like access to clean water and living space.

Groups involved in recovery of charcoal dust and sawdust for fuel briquettes In Kenya, 50 per cent of fuel briquetting enterprises are carried out by community based self-help groups (Terra Nuova et al., 2007). In Nairobi for example, self-help groups come together to generate income, create employment opportunities and clean their neighbourhoods, which are faced with waste management challenges as only 40 per cent of waste generated in the city is collected and disposed of.

Group and member profiles A study was carried out between March and October 2010 among six self-help groups in Nairobi province and two in the neighbouring Central Province on group dynamics of briquette

producers.These groups came from the low income and high density neighbourhoods experiencing high unemployment and insecurity. These are the neighbourhoods where charcoal consumption is high given that most households can hardly afford other types of cooking fuel such as LPG and kerosene.They therefore provide good market opportunities for high quality fuel briquettes. The briquette-making groups comprised 89 women and 110 men. Sixty eight per cent of the members were youth (89 men and 47 women). The high level of youth involvement in briquette enterprises is one form of creating green jobs, contributing towards sustainable cities and addressing the problem of unemployment in Kenyan urban areas. Currently, unemployment is estimated at 18 per cent, with 14 per cent among men and 24 per cent among women (MoPND, 2003). Forty two per cent of the group members had primary education, another 42 per cent had secondary education, 12 per cent college education while 2 per cent had university education, an indication of high literacy level in the enterprise. Eighty eight per cent of the community group members were directly involved in fuel briquette-making activities while the rest were students (3 per cent) or involved in other group activities such as garbage collection (6 per cent) and compost production (3 per cent). The majority (68 per cent) of those directly involved in fuel briquetting activities used 10 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 15 per


Annual expenditure in Ksh

Annual expenditure in Ksh

Figure 2. Utilisation of fuel briquettes by the different income groups (a) and expenses by the residents of Kibera slums (b)

cent of their working time on this activity, making fuel briquetting an activity that community members integrated with their other daily chores. Group members were involved in other income generating activities such as rural and urban agriculture, casual labour and formal employment in that order.

Income generated by groups from sale of fuel briquettes The study on fuel briquette producing groups indicated that sales of fuel briquettes ranged between US$ 7 (Ksh 700) and US$ 1,771 (Ksh 177,100) per month during the dry season and US$ 7 (Ksh 700) and US$ 2,240 (Ksh 224,000) during the wet seasons. Fuel briquettes were traded in pieces of about 300 grams each. Prices were different among the groups, with those established in the business selling their briquettes at higher prices. Tujikaze Women Group, though established in the business, had the lowest price but realised the highest income due to high volumes traded at the Kibera slums. The main customers included households, food kiosks, institutions such as schools and chicken hatcheries. In Kibera, out of 199 households living within a 250-metre radius of a briquette production site, 70 per cent of the households used fuel briquettes. The majority of these households were very poor, with an income bracket ranging from US$ 128 (Ksh 12,800) to US$ 960 (Ksh 96,000) per year (Figure 2). “I get enough income from selling the


fuel briquettes that I use to support my children with food, medical care and school fees. During the wet season here at Kibera, the demand for fuel briquettes is so high that customers hardly give two days for the briquettes to dry,” said Fester, one of the briquette producers at Kibera. In Kibera, it was mainly women who made fuel briquettes, indicating the role they play in sourcing cooking energy. This technology is also generating income for women who spend it on other needs such as food, health, school fees and rent. Substituting wood charcoal with fuel briquettes would result in more than 50 per cent saving of the money spent on purchasing of cooking energy by urban households living in the poor neighbourhoods of Nairobi (Figure 2). Dependence on wood charcoal was highest among the poorest households who have limited resources that could be used to procure other types of cooking energy like kerosene or LPG.

Conclusions and recommendations Fuel briquette production provides poor urban dwellers, especially women and youth, with employment opportunities, generates income for them and supplies them with cooking energy. Making fuel briquettes from tree by-products extends the tree value chain while contributing to resource conservation both in rural and urban areas. As charcoal dust is the main raw material used, there is need to link this technology

to sustainable charcoal production such as short rotational agro-forestry. Energy levels and green house gas emissions from burning fuel briquettes needs to be understood and information communicated to producers and users, researchers, policy makers and development practitioners. Policy issues on urban planning and waste management should include recovery of tree by-products for biomass energy. (This article presents findings of postgraduate studies by the University of Nairobi and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) on fuel briquetting technologies using sawdust and charcoal dust from selected agroforestry tree species. The writers acknowledge with gratitude, the contributions by Jacob Kithinji, Miyuki Iiyama and Jeremias Mowo. The financial support of this work by the two institutions, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) is highly appreciated.) Mary Njenga and Aya Yonemitsu are doctoral fellows at the Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology (LARMAT), University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan, respectively. They are both affiliated to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Nancy Karanja is a professor at the University of Nairobi and Ramni Jamnadass is a scientist at ICRAF and both are Mary Njenga’s PhD supervisors. For correspondence, email:

Miti October-December 2011

Opening remarks by Stanislas Kamanzi, Minister of Natural Resources, Republic of Rwanda, during the Forum on Mobilizing Private Investment in Trees and Landscape Restoration in Africa, in Nairobi on 25 May 2011 UGANDA




Lo wa

Kabaya Ngaru


Ile Bugarura


Lac Kivu Gishyita Rwamatamu



Bugarama The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Map No. 3717 Rev. 10 June 2008









Lac Nasho


Bugesera Rilima




Ka Lac Rweru


Lac Lac Mpanga Cyambwe

Lake Bisongou



Ngenda Lac Cyohoha Sud






Lac Ihema



Lake Mujunju

Lac Kivumba


Lac Mugesera




Lac Muhazi








Busoro Munini




Gisakura Gikongoro Bukavu Rwumba Cyangugu Kitabi Cyimbogo Karengera Nyakabuye Bugumya NYUNGWE NAT'L PARK Ruramba


o Shyorongi







Kaduha Rwesero




Ile Idjwi



Lac Hago

Kinihira Kinyami



Ile Wahu



Gabiro Ngarama







Lac Rwanyakizinga


Kirambo Cyamba Mulindi




Lac Katuna Burera

Busogo Ruhondo

Kora Mutura Kagali


Kabale Butaro



Rwemhasha Lubirizi mba



Ile Gombo

Lake Bunyonyi


gi t u

Lake Mutanda





National capital Prefecture capital Town, village Airport, airstrip International boundary Provincial boundary Road Track


Miti October-December 2011





t is an immense pleasure and honour for me to have been given this extraordinary opportunity to address you at the opening of this conference. Let me at the outset register my commendation to the organisations and individuals that inspired this very outstanding and timely initiative. Mindful that the conference will benefit from substantive and scientific contributions that will be delivered by presenters who are very much conversant with the subject under consideration; I will limit my remarks to a number of aspects relevant to the necessity for taking action in trees and landscape restoration in African countries including Rwanda; which I am privileged to represent today. I was delighted to sample a green scenery as our flight cruised over the vast range lands characteristic of East Africa which happily happen to look green during this season. Herds of cattle could be easily seen all along the way; of course outside the protected areas we transected, which also looked luscious. However, ladies and gentlemen, there are moments during the year where the same itinerary, as attractive it looked yesterday, appears extremely dry and the picture it sends up to the air is just repellent and worrisome. The two seasonal discrepancies suggest that the East African region; although very vulnerable to extreme occurrences of droughts; landscape degradation associated with those can be reversed if adequate ecosystem management approaches were adopted; to complement its natural regeneration potential. This goes of course with consenting important financing in regard to the magnitude of the problem and to the spatial extension of interventions. Governments have been playing a significant role in this regard, but innovative ways involving private investment can certainly; as will be discussed, assist in tackling this issue decisively and at wider scales. Narrowing down the issue to my country; those who have already visited Rwanda are familiar with the conspicuous and stunning high population density and the high levels of agricultural land use; including on very steep slopes. Continued pressure on land has resulted in the degradation of terrestrial ecosystems and in the loss of their intrinsic functions, in many places. It became imperative for the Government to redress this situation so to re-establish the needed symbiotic balance between highly land resources based livelihoods and functional ecosystems so to ensure sustainability. Measures involving land use and settlement planning, erosion control, wide scale afforestation and tree planting, improved management of natural forests and other protected areas were highlighted as quick win priorities in our national medium and long





20 10




50 km 30 mi

Department of Field Support Cartographic Section

Despite being a small, land-locked country with a high population density, Rwanda still manages to protect a sizeable portion of its territory as parks or national reserves.

term poverty reduction and development plans and strategies. As part of that sustained effort, Rwanda made an announcement during the United Nations Forum for Forestsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 9th Session; last February, in New York, regarding an important undertaking referred to as the Rwanda Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative. The initiative provides for achieving by year 2035, a country-wide reversal of the current degradation of soil; land, water and forest resources in a way that improves the quality and resilience and provides new opportunities for rural livelihoods, underpins agricultural production and food security; secures adequate and energy supplies; safeguards the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s biological diversity and supports low carbon economic development. The initiative is a partnership between the Government and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Forum for Forests Secretariat, and other members of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative. It entails short, medium and long term objectives which will be attained starting by implementing landscape scale pilots from which lessons will be learnt to inform the pursuance of restorative activities at wider scale. Meanwhile there are restorative activities that have been initiated in support of the National Crop Intensification Programme, which are based on water management and land husbandry techniques of which agro-forestry is a key component. In connection with the Rwanda Forestry Landscape Restoration Initiative, in collaboration with our partners and the

Global Environment Facility, we will convene an expert workshop in Rwanda, whose aim will be to appraise how most efficient the initiative can be rolled out in result-based programmes and how it can benefit from the active concurrence of various experienced practitioners and steady mobilization of appropriate resources. It is my sincere hope that you will all make your time to take part to this important endeavour. Once again in relation to the theme of the present conference; an initiative of this kind and magnitude offers obvious opportunities for private and benefit making investment in a win-win fashion as it will require substantial financing from the private sector to complement resources from Government and its partners. It may for instance trigger carbon-based financing in wide scale tree planting, as well as private equity investment in the production of planting materials, and many others which the presenters will cover. Allow me to conclude my remarks by once again expressing my sincere appreciation to the organisers of the conference, and to all of you for having turned up to reflect on such a very important theme. No doubt that this is a significant milestone to the emergence of a new paradigm in forests and landscape restoration, which will highly benefit the increasing global impetus to reverse the critical levels of degraded ecosystems in various parts of the world, especially in Africa. I wish you all the best and very fruitful deliberations.


Strip weeding of a jatropha plantation through application of glyphosate. Note the dried remnants of weeds in the strip. (Photo: BGF)

Kill the competition

Why it is crucial to eliminate weeds from forest plantations By Jan Vandenabeele


rowing trees is growing a crop, and when it comes to fastgrowing trees planted on a given plot of land, it becomes a cash crop, just like tea or coffee, or even maize. The growing of eucalypts is a good example of such. However, it is not widely accepted that growing trees is growing a crop. The old prejudice that a tree seedling just has to be put in a hole, and then it will take care of itself, is still much alive. At that stage, the young seedling can easily be overgrown by other vegetation, such as grass or climbers, which can suffocate it, if not checked. Therefore, it is common practice in forestry to do some limited weeding around the planting spot, often of a circular shape and about 1m wide. This is called spot weeding (and there is also strip weeding and complete weeding). As spacing of trees can vary from 1.5mx1.5m to 4mx4m, this spot weeding does not affect the space between various seedlings, where grass stays in place. When a tree seedling is planted, it needs good care to overcome the shock of planting, which results from the difference of protected conditions in the nursery (watering, no competition), towards field conditions with hopefully sufficient rains. At first the young seedling does not seem to grow fast but this is misleading. Underneath the surface, the roots, liberated from the closed soil volume in a polybag, start a frenetic activity and expand fast. They grow both in depth and laterally, and after some months and depending on the species, will extend considerable length sideways. In other words, they will start meeting the roots of other vegetation just outside the 1m spot around the seedling. This can be grass, with a dense root system just below the ground (say 10cm), or weeds (1520cm) or woody shrubs with roots that go deeper. All these root systems are firmly established, are trying to expand so that the plants can grow,


and are hence competing vigorously for nutrients and water. If the newcomer is not assisted in terms of checking the competition, to the point of removing the competition partially or completely, it will suffer. This will show through slow establishment and growth, or in the worst case, mortality. The best practice therefore, is complete removal of competing vegetation through disk ploughing. This is not a waste of money, as it will result in better growth of the tree seedling. Not only is competition removed, but the soil is oxygenated and better infiltration of rain water is ensured. Alternatively, agro-forestry practices can be applied, using the ploughed space between the seedlings for growing a food crop. Care must be taken however, not to plant a crop that will compete with the tree seedlings just like natural vegetation would. A leguminous crop, like beans, or green grams, and cowpeas for drier areas, is ideal, provided it is planted some distance (0.5m) away from the tree seedling. This intercropping can take place for a maximum of two years, as the tree canopy will start closing and the tree branches will stop light from reaching the soil, and root systems will have occupied the soil space underneath the ground. At two years, the root system is firmly established, and the seedling has become a young tree, that itself starts suppressing competing vegetation. The roles have changed. The plantation has to be assessed whether more weeding is required. By now, ploughing becomes difficult, depending on the spacing between the trees. If more weeding is required, it can be done through chemical means - spraying a herbicide. Such spraying has several advantages, provided a safe and adequate chemical is used. It has to be systemic, entering through the stomata of the leaves, and going up

Miti October-December 2011

The best practice: A completely weed-free plantation of Melia volkensii. This was achieved by ploughing in the context of an agro-forestry exploitation. The agricultural component commonly used in Kenyan ASAL is green grams (mung beans â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Vigna radiata). (Photo: BGF)

and down to the growing points to kill the weeds. Compared to hoeing, there is neither soil disruption nor destruction of the roots system of the tree, and the grass will dry and even provide some cover, protecting the soil against the sun. Spraying with a rucksack sprayer is fast, and, even taking the cost of the herbicide into account, spraying might well be cheaper than hoeing. In rocky areas where stones make ploughing impossible and manual hoeing quite difficult, spraying is in fact the only option to get rid of weeds. A broad-spectrum herbicide often used by foresters is glyphosate, the active ingredient of different brands that are widely available. In Kenya, it comes in two formulations, 360 and 480 (meaning 360 or 480gr/litre), and 360 mg/litre is sufficient and economical. The herbicide is only effective on growing plants, and has to be applied at the right time, before the grass is seeding or too old with leaves that are difficult to penetrate. The penetration rate can be helped by adding some inexpensive vegetable oil, helping to soften the cuticula of the leaves. As glyphosate is a systemic herbicide, able to kill plants through contact with the leaves, care must be taken to avoid any spray touching the tree leaves. The spray has to be directed to the soil, for which a sprayer with a flat nozzle is required, and if weeds and grass close to the stem of the seedlings are targeted, the latter have to be protected against any stray spray. A piece of iron sheet of plastic will do the job. A final piece of advice for potential buyers of the herbicide - it is cheapest when bought in bulk. Glyphosate is packed in anything from small 1-litre plastic containers to 200-litre drums, and the latter are sold at a significantly reduced price. Rates of 3 litres/ha are used for control of annual weeds between crops. A stronger concentration, applied with a brush on freshly cut surfaces, will take care of shrubs and trees. Glyphosate is considered least dangerous compared to other herbicides, and breaks down rapidly in the environment. The writer is the Executive Director Better Globe Forestry Ltd Email:

Miti October-December 2011


Fig 1: A 13-year-old Acacia kirkii in Kajiado North District near Kiserian. Note the undergrowth below the tree.

Fig 2: Acacia kirkii leaves and thorns

Fig 3: Acacia kirkii flowers

Fig 4: Acacia kirkii pods

Fig 5: Three-month-old Acacia kirkii seedlings

Fig 6: A thinned stand of Acacia kirkii wildlings â&#x20AC;&#x201C; estimated to be about 3 years old.

The unexploited potential of acacias Fast-growing A. kirkii offers commercial promise for charcoal and firewood By Fridah W. Mugo and Beth Muchiri


cacia trees, which are famous for producing high quality charcoal, are perceived to be slow-growers in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya. While many acacias fit this description, others have been observed to be fast-growing. Leading the list of fast-growers is Acacia kirkii. It has multiple uses that range from fixing nitrogen, acting as a windbreak, providing firewood, charcoal, and can be used for land reclamation. The planting materials are easily available and the tree is easy to plant and manage. Farmers commonly intercrop the tree during the initial two years of planting. Other fast-growing acacias are Acacia xanthophloea, Acacia gerrardii and Acacia polyacantha. Indigenous tree species are better adapted to our environment and are better at conserving the environment. They produce high-quality products, especially firewood and charcoal, compared with most exotics, hence the need to promote their domestication. Unfortunately, there is very little information


on their management and yields. This article is an attempt to promote deliberate planting of acacia trees for charcoal and firewood. For the last seven years, Kenyans have been planting various acacia trees in their farms as cash crops, particularly for producing charcoal. The species most commonly planted are A. xanthophloea and A. polyacantha. Two new additions to these are A. kirkii and A. gerrardii, both for charcoal production. The tree is also commonly used for fencing. Other uses include medicine, fodder, shade and dead fence thorny branches. The inner bark is chewed to quench thirst. Common names Acacia kirkii, or simply kirkii, is found mainly in Central, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces. It therefore has common names based on where it is found. Some of these names are - kimwea or mwea (Kamba), chepyaliliet (Kipsigis) and ol-lerai (Maasai).

Characteristics Acacia kirkii is a handsome flat-topped thorn tree growing to a height of 15m with ascending branches radiating from low down the trunk (Fig 1). The bark is brown-yellowgreen, smooth and peeling thinly in scrolls to show greenish-yellow under-bark. Thorns are in pairs, straight, up to 8cm long and greyish white in colour. The leaves are twice divided, with 6 - 14 pairs of pinnae and 7 - 20 pairs of leaflets (Fig 2). Flowers are reddish pink in buds, creamy white when fully open, in round heads (Fig 3) and slightly fragrant. The fruit develops into straight, brown pods, much constricted between the seeds, often with a raised boss above each seed and up to 9cm long (Fig 4). Distribution Acacia kirkii is widespread from West to East Africa and southwards to Namibia and Botswana. In Kenya, it is found mainly in Central and Rift Valley Provinces. It is common

Miti October-December 2011

Table 1: Characteristics of A. kirkii charcoal compared to other acacia species

Sample No. 1

Moisture content (%) 5.70

Volatile matter (%) 18.92

Ash content (%) 3.39

Density (g/cm3) 0.5956

Calorific value (Kcal/g) 6.609

Calorific value (Joules/g) 27,672





























1 calorie = 4.187 joules, Kcal = Kilocalories. One Kcal = 1000 cal (1: Acacia xanthophloea, 2: A. seyal, 3: A. gerrardii, 4: A. polyacantha, 5: A. kirkii)

in Narok, Kiambu, Nairobi, Machakos and Kajiado counties. It generally grows in riverine woodlands, grasslands and areas of seasonal drainage, often meaning black-cotton soils. The species occurs mainly at an elevation of 1,300 - 1,900m. This is mainly agro-climatic Zone III. The trees flower in June – July around Nairobi and Kajiado. Establishment Acacia kirkii can be established by direct sowing of seeds, planting wildlings and planting nursery raised seedlings. Direct sowing of seeds is an inexpensive method of establishment and can be used if the rainfall is sufficient and the seed is readily available. This species germinates easily and grows very fast. Where direct sowing is not possible, wildlings can be planted. These are seedlings that germinate naturally. They can be dug out from where they have germinated naturally and planted in the desired area. The best size of wildlings for planting is between 20 and 30 cm in height. Acacia kirkii has a taproot and shallow lateral roots therefore wildlings should be dug carefully to avoid damaging the roots, and the earlier this is done, the better. Wildlings can be planted any time during the rainy season, but this should be done at least two months before the end of rains. A. kirkii wildlings can also be managed by thinning at the sites where they have germinated on their own, as indicated in Figure 6. For raising seedlings in a nursery, seeds can be collected locally from available trees. Only mature pods should be harvested and sun-dried to release the seeds. For seed pre-treatment, the seeds should be immersed in hot water and allowed to cool. The seeds are then left soaked in the water for 24 hours before sowing is done. This is to break seed dormancy. Dormancy can also be broken by fire. Seeds are sold at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI) centres at Muguga, Maseno and Londiani. The current price at KEFRI is Ksh 1,500

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per kilogram, with a kilogram of clean A. kirkii seeds containing about 6,500 seeds. Seeds can be stored for long periods. Sowing should be done about three months before the start of the planting season. Germination occurs within three and ten days. Germination is usually good, estimated at over 90 per cent when using fresh seed. Nurserygrown seedlings should be transplanted when they are about 20 - 30cm tall. When they reach this size, they start to exhaust the nutrients in the container and therefore become unhealthy if kept for too long in the nursery. If the seedlings are being raised to be planted as ornamentals, they should be transferred to larger containers that have more soil. A. kirkii trees grow to become very large (Figure 1). As such, the best location to plant on the farm is as woodlots or plantations. The trees can also be planted in grazing areas as shade trees for livestock. Apparently, although they have a thick canopy, they allow undergrowth that can tolerate shade as can be seen. Spacing of A. kirkii depends on the purpose. It can be as close as 1m x 1m for firewood to as wide as 10 m x 10 m for silvi-pastoral management. The tree canopy can cover an area of over 60 m2. Studies are being undertaken for optimal spacing. Information available so far gives an estimate of 3x3 to 6x6 metres for charcoal. Silviculture The tree is fast-growing and self-pruning. Lower branches could be pruned if necessary, to allow for better access to the trunk. The tree may affect crops negatively due to its rather thick and spreading canopy, as well as shallow and spreading lateral roots. Acacia kirkii is an aggressive species and can easily become a weed and even a nuisance. However, for areas experiencing wood fuel scarcity or desertification, this characteristic can be exploited for fuel wood, charcoal and restoration of degraded land. When managed for charcoal production, A. kirkii can be subjected to a rotation period of 6 - 8

years. The older the tree, the better the quality of charcoal. If the trees are also widely spaced, the older the trees, the higher the quantity of wood, hence charcoal. For firewood, a shorter rotation period of 3 - 4 years could be sufficient. As indicated in table 1, A. kirkii compares quite well with other commonly used acacias for charcoal. A. kirkii trees respond well to coppicing and pollarding. In good fertile soils, observations have shown that many coppices can be retained and they will still grow to a reasonable size in as short a period as two years. However, for good growth, 4 - 6 coppices (pollards) can be retained in a well-spaced arrangement on the trunk. Observations of A. kirkii show that the species grows faster than A. xanthophloea. Under the same conditions, the yields for kirkii are likely to be higher. The main limitations in the management of A. kirkii is that on good sites, it regenerates easily and can be a nuisance in pastureland if not checked. Conclusions Acacia kirkii has a lot of potential that has not been exploited. Not much research has been done to quantify its yields and as such, it remains unexploited. The species can be planted in several ecological regions in the country. Farmers can benefit from this tree species by growing it as a cash crop, particularly for charcoal and fuel wood. References World Agroforestry Centre – Eastern and Central Africa Regional Programme. (2005). Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya. Editors Maundu, Patrick and Bo Tegnas. KEFRI, Wafula James (2011). Fridah Mugo is a lecturer – Environment Planning and Management, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Nairobi. Email: Beth Muchiri teaches at Kenyatta University Email:


Part of Mr Njeru’s nursery. A view of the clonal hedges where cuttings are harvested from selected clones obtained from the Tree Biotechnology Trust Programme. (Photo: Mike Njeru)

Plant the right tree ... and you will get the desired results. That’s what a Mbeere tree-grower tells his neighbours By Wanjiru Ciira


e never planned to grow trees. It just happened. In 1998, Mike Njeru bought a 100-acre farm in Riando, Mbeere District, some 13km from Embu town and he immediately named it Kithima Farm. “I just liked the land, but I did not know what to do with it,” he says. So the land lay idle. But the soils were deep, and the rainfall at an average yearly precipitation of around 800-1000mm, was conducive to tree crops. Then in 2000, the craze to grow trees started sweeping the country. However, Mr Njeru did not just follow the wind. He decided to investigate and see how he could go about it. He heard somebody talking about profitable tree growing and, next, he visited a friend who was growing clonal eucalypts in Kitengela and was impressed. “The trees were only a year old but had recorded impressive growth,” says Mr Njeru. These were Eucalyptus grandis x camaldulensis (GC) hybrids, developed in South Africa, produced


and sold by the Tree Biotechnology Programme Trust (TBPT) at Karura, near Nairobi. Next, Mr Njeru visited Benson Kanyi, the Programme Manager of TBPT to seek more information. It was after that visit in 2001 that Mr Njeru cleared part of his land and planted 5,000 GC seedlings, bought from TBPT. He also planted a similar number of camaldulensis. And every December since then, he has planted more seedlings, at 2.5 x 2.5 metres spacing, and by 2009, he had a total of 35,000 eucalypt trees on his farm, on some 32 acres of land. He inter-cropped his trees with beans for the first two years. Mr Njeru has not put all his investment in the eucalypt clones as stated above. He also grows E. camaldulensis, which farmers in Mbeere have grown since the Eucalyptus species were introduced into Kenya by the colonial government. Although the E. camaldulensis is not as fast-growing as the hybrids, it is a hardy tree and not prone to termite attacks. “At least

with E. camaldulensis, we do not have to fight with termites,” says Mr Njeru.1 The hybrids are ideal for transmission and construction poles because they have good form, straight bole and ability to self-prune. However, for charcoal, fuel wood, fencing poles and carbon credits, where the appearance does not matter, E. camaldulensis works fine. Mr Njeru has taken advantage of this. “For the last two years, I have been harvesting the E. camaldulensis for fencing poles,” he says. Nothing is lost. Future harvesting will be for electricity poles, with firewood and poles as by-products. In addition, Mr Njeru is thinking about installing a kiln to obtain seasoned eucalypt timber, which makes good business sense. 1 Note of the Technical Editor: In fact E. camaldulensis is also attacked by termites, but maybe less than CG hybrids

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Mr Njeru is an avid tree-grower. He has also planted 15,000 grevillea for terracing and division of the land. He also grows mangoes, bananas and passion fruit, apart from keeping bees and livestock. He is eyeing horticulture for the remaining part of the land. With great passion, he acts as an enabler for other treegrowers in the region, offering advisory services. The motto of his farm, which is implanted at his gate, is “Plant the right tree.” This is very crucial, as many farmers around the country discovered when plantations of unspecified eucalypt varieties dried up after a couple of years. Apart from the need to get a return on his investment, Mr Njeru is also driven by a need to help fellow tree-growers in the region. This was borne by events in 2007. At the time, the zeal to grow trees swept through Mbeere District like a fire fanned by winds. Farmers saw their friends and neighbours growing clonal eucalypts and jumped into the bandwagon, buying uncertified seedlings wherever they could find them. “As a result, many farmers suffered big disappointment when the trees just died,” says Mr Njeru. And that is when Mr Njeru stepped in. TBPT wanted to set up clonal nurseries in different parts of the country to enable farmers access certified clonal seedlings and receive the correct technical advice. Mr Njeru seized on the opportunity and sent his farm manager for training. After this, Mr Njeru established a clonal nursery – the second biggest in the nation – with a capacity for 200,000 to 300,000 seedlings per season. Today, he sells clonal eucalypt seedlings to farmers in the region, always emphasising the need to plant the correct tree, thus the motto “Plant the right tree.” And Mr Njeru is doing booming business. Last season, his nursery produced 160,000 seedlings. Of these, Kimunye Tea Factory bought 80,000. “The tea factories in the region have all turned to growing clonal eucalypts for curing tea,” says Mr Njeru. “They are buying all the seedlings. Tree Biotechnology and I cannot meet the demand.” Now that the big political campaign against eucalypts seems to have run out of steam, eucalypt planting is back in the area, though with respect for watersheds. Sample what the tea factories in the area are doing. Mununga has planted 90,000 seedlings while Thumaita has planted 70,000. If one includes individual farmers into the mix, more than 500,000 seedlings have been planted in the last couple of years in the area, all from Kithima Farm. Mr Njeru’s land has a natural well - thus the name Kithima (“well” in Kimbeere) - which has come in handy for the tree nursery, and he is

Miti October-December 2011

The tunnels where cuttings form roots, under conditions of high humidity, both in the soil and in the air. (Photo: Mike Njeru)

A six-year-old plantation of GC hybrids, with good growth in the relatively dry local conditions. A perfect example of species-site matching. (Photo: Mike Njeru)

planning to sink a borehole. He has 12 permanent workers for the nursery and the farm and at times hires over 30 casuals, depending on the season. As any serious tree-grower does, Mr Njeru first fenced his land, all 100 acres of it. Then, before planting the trees, he ploughed the land. “You must prepare the land properly for treegrowing,” he says. “You must plough your land and fence it.” In fact, he does not sell seedlings to people who have not prepared their land properly. Mr Njeru advises tree-growers to care for the trees just like they would for maize, wheat, or any other crop. Like South African commercial growers, he uses hydrogel in the planting pit when planting

the eucalypts. A hydrogel is a soil conditioner, an innocent chemical substance made out of polymers that can absorb more than a hundred times their weight in water. This water is then slowly released to the tree roots, and can be replenished several times by a good rain shower. Mr Njeru takes his tree-growing as serious business and took a loan from K-REP Bank to finance the establishment of his clonal nursery. And that is just what we at Miti magazine like to hear. That tree-growing is serious business. And we know it is profitable as well. The writer is the Managing Editor, Miti magazine Email:


Protecting bamboo for the future Restoring this grass could ultimately reduce pressure on natural forests

A natural stand of Yushania alpina, the indigenous East African bamboo, in the Aberdares. Such stands used to occupy huge areas in the colonial days, but where mostly cut to make place for plantations of exotic tree species. Was this a mistake? (Photo: KEFRI)

By Gordon Sigu


he indigenous bamboo species found in Kenya is Yushania alpine, formerly Arundinaria alpina K. Schum. This is a large woody rhizomatous  grass, which thrives very well between 2,400 and 3,350  metres above sea level. The ecological range of the species is mainly the Aberdares and Mau ranges, Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon and Timboroa (Kaptagat) plateau. The limited  ecological zone is a concern because haphazard exploitation  of bamboo can easily result in depletion of this  important plant community. These zones used to support extensive bamboo crops until the 1950s when most of these plantations were replaced with fast growing exotic softwood trees. Currently, the bamboo is an important and crucial forest type for water catchments and soil conservation in Kenya. The bamboo culm is used in the building and handicraft  industries, especially in the tea farming areas. As such, there is need to have good primary ecological  information on the best exploitation and management strategies of the plant. Background information on the exact area, extent and  current status of bamboo is limited, making its protection and management ultimately difficult. 

The situation and status Between 1932 and 1943, investigations were carried out in the Aberdares and the surrounding


bamboo stands to find out satisfactory methods for felling bamboo culms and subsequent regeneration after felling.  Fortunately, the investigations were carried out before  much damage on the alpine bamboo ecosystem was inflicted. Currently, the stand densities are varied in structure  and have suffered much disturbance, leaving them open, scattered and in patchy conditions (Kigomo, 1988).  Excessive exploitation in the past, coupled with mass  flowering and death, followed by destruction from wildlife  and serious failure of regeneration, have seriously reduced  the resource base. Therefore, urgent conservation action is needed not only for restoration of the habitat of bamboo in the  highlands of Kenya, but also for identification of in situ conservation reserves. A possible restoration measure is to  carry out extensive planting of the species, with the  active participation of the local population, who would eventually have a stake in the development and utilisation of the bamboo resources.  The area under bamboo forest is estimated to be 155,821 ha. This could even be less due to excision of the forests for the Nyayo Tea Zones and continuous extraction  for government use. Currently, there is a ban on bamboo harvesting in the whole country, owing to the considerable decline of the resource, and as a result, the demand has been enormous. The first bamboo research project in Kenya was initiated  in July 1987 with funds from

IDRC1. The objective of the project was to select suitable regional and Asian bamboo  species for several ecological areas of Kenya and to develop techniques for their mass propagation, establishment in  the field and management protocols under local conditions. 

Current management of Yushania alpina in Kenya The life of a bamboo culm of Y. alpina is seven to 10 years. The number of culms per unit area over this period remains constant (Kigomo, 1988). It has been generally observed that once a bamboo clump flowers and produces seed, its life ends. However, Wimbush (1947) suggested that the end of the life cycle of Y. alpina might not always result in the complete death of the plant and a last-minute vegetative vigour may occur.  Flowering, seeding and dying back in alpine bamboo occurs sporadically in Kenya. Flowering of Y. alpina occurs  in patches of a half to five or more hectares (Kigomo,  1988). Sometimes this extends to cover tens of hectares of bamboo forest at a time, but no case of any more extensive  sporadic flowering has been recorded. There is evidence that the life cycle of the alpine bamboo is more than 40  years in the Aberdare range in Kenya (Wimbush, 1945). It is however not clear whether it is much longer The International Development Research Centre, a Canadian Crown Corporation


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or shorter in other places where the species occurs.  On average, Y.alpina produces 3,700 – 4,000 new culms per hectare every  three years. Full sized  culms would take five to seven years. An undisturbed crop of this species carries about 10,000  to 17,000 stems per hectare and can produce about 100  tonnes of air-dry weight of culms. Culm production is influenced  by the amount of rainfall occurring during the  previous one or two years and drought may result in sparse production (Kigomo, 1988). 

Utilisation of Yushania alpina The main uses of Y. alpina are fencing of homesteads and farms. Split and whole culms are widely used in the construction of residential houses, huts and farm granaries. Split culms are used in the production of mats and various utility baskets. Recently, there has been increased use of bamboo in making toothpicks. The greatest handicap to the  diversified utilisation of the local bamboo resource in Kenya, as opposed to cases commonly observed in tropical Asia, is the lack of motivated traditional skills. This can  however be solved by training through exchange programmes and incorporating the skills in groups handling similar activities. 

Management of bamboo for soil and water conservation The emphasis on bamboo resource conservation is vital, as both soils and water are the basic resources on which agriculture  depends, taking into consideration that Kenya’s economy is agriculturally based.  The high population has pressurised the exploitation of our land, water and forest resources, causing inappropriate cultivation of steep slopes, riverbanks and encroachment of forests and water catchment areas.  Vast areas of Kenyan highland mountain catchment were cleared in the 1940s and 1950s and replaced with exotic softwoods. Pereira (1962) investigated the role of bamboo and exotic softwood crops in the conservation of watersheds. Overall, Pereira’s results  indicated the consumption of water and interception  of rainfall of bamboo and softwood crops are about the  same. However, the overall efficiency of the two vegetations on the conservation and provision of quality water on a long-term  basis should be a more important criterion. It is important  that the soil mantle of catchment areas and water quality should be maintained. This is not the case particularly during forestry operations in industrial plantations.  Bamboo is very useful in stabilising topsoil and thus preventing soil erosion. Y. alpina is suitable for

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A bamboo gazebo, under construction. One of the many uses of bamboo. (Photo: KEFRI)

fragile ecosystems such as canal banks, steep terrain and riverine areas. The increasing need for the use of bamboo in the reforestation programme of catchment and soil erosion prone areas has called for better understanding of bamboo management, particularly in soil and water conservation. Bamboo has fast and intensive rhizome  development and can be used for soil stabilisation.  Preliminary studies have shown that this local species can  be cultivated within its natural range and slightly below its  natural altitudinal distribution, although its rate of growth is depressed in the latter sites. No serious cultivation  of bamboo has been undertaken in Kenya in the past. There is need to cultivate bamboo so as to diversify the supply base of our natural resources. The ongoing destruction of forest areas, especially in the subtropical belts in many countries, accompanied by an acute shortage of  timber, has led to an increasing awareness of the multifunctional  services that bamboo can provide.  An up-to-date inventory of bamboo in Kenya should be carried out. The status of the entire bamboo ecosystem should be highlighted in this inventory. After this, a national bamboo management strategy can be framed on a larger scale. 

Management and conservation strategies There is urgent need to review the studies carried on earlier, that is, stand carrying capacity, flowering, influence of  recovery on cutting cycle, influence of cutting intensity on  recovery and possibly the role of bamboo on soil and water  conservation. This information is necessary for forming  a basis for the conservation and management of bamboo in Kenya. This will create room to produce a multidisciplinary management strategy for all the bamboo forests in Kenya.  Considerable further study should be geared towards:

The development of appropriate propagation, nursery and transplanting techniques. Both in vivo and in vitro methods should be included.  The development of sound management systems for  the sustainable management of natural stands and plantation cultivation of Y. alpina.  Training on bamboo product processing skills. The socioeconomic and environmental aspects of bamboo forestry in Kenya.  The introduction of exotic bamboo species, preferably those that are more versatile in their uses, with adoption  especially in the lower drier zones. As in the production of natural tree forestry, this should help  reduce pressure on this plant community. 

Conclusion There is need to protect and manage the remaining bamboo resources properly for the future. A time has come to  take this matter seriously and devise ways to manage bamboo areas so that they are brought back to productivity. If managed for sustained yield, the bamboo forest can be a reliable source of goods and services. If exploitation can be controlled and combined with natural and artificial regeneration, productive bamboo forest can be restored and ultimately reduce pressure on natural forests.  References Kigomo, B.N. 1988. Distribution, cultivation and research status of bamboo in East Africa. KEFRI, Ecol. Monograph I.  Pereira, H.C. 1962. The water balance of bamboo thicket and of newly planted pines. E. Afr. Agr. For. J. 27, 95-103.  Wimbush, S.H. 1945. The African alpine bamboo. Emp. For. J., Vol. 24(l), 23-39. Wimbush, S.H. 1947. The African alpine bamboo. E. Afr. For. J. 13, 56-60.  The writer is Principal Research Scientist, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI);


Let us all plant one tree a month ... if Kenya is to achieve 10 per cent forest cover by 2030 An interview with Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations By Wanjiru Ciira


enya has set a target of achieving 10 per cent forest cover by 2030. This will require planting more than 7.6 billion trees – translating into 380 million trees per year. With a national population of 38 million, it means that every Kenyan adult and child – including the infirm, those in prison and others restricted in other ways – will be required to plant 12 trees per year, translating into one tree per person per month! How many Kenyans are doing this? But that is not all. The greater challenge is that there are not enough seedlings in the country as yet. A survey done this year by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) indicates that there are slightly over 70 million seedlings in both public and private nurseries in the country. This constitutes less than 25 per cent of the seedlings required annually to achieve the 2030 target. The above are a few of the issues that came to the fore when Miti conducted an interview with Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Mr Steiner, a German and Brazilian national, was born in Brazil in 1961. Before joining UNEP, Mr Steiner served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006, and prior to that as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams. His professional career has included assignments with governmental, nongovernmental and international organisations in different parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. He worked both at grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international policy-making to address the interface between environmental sustainability, social equity and economic development. Mr Steiner’s educational background includes a BA from the University of Oxford as well as an MA from the University of London with specialisation in development economics, regional planning, and international development and environment policy. He also studied at the


Achim Steiner, Director General of the United Nations Environment Programme. (Photo: BGF)

German Development Institute in Berlin as well as the Harvard Business School. Trees are a financial asset to a country. “In fact, the Ministry of Finance should be the greatest supporter of forests,” so said Mr Steiner during the interview. And he has good reason for saying this. Kenya’s forests provide critical environmental services to the main economic

sectors. For example, hydro-power plants generate about 70 per cent of Kenya’s total electricity output. Forests provide water to rivers that generate the hydro-electric power. Forests also support the tourism sector as they provide water to rivers that form the lifeline of most conservation areas. And in the agricultural sector, forests regulate micro-climatic conditions,

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essential to optimal production of crops such as tea. Across the country, tea-growing areas are located near mountain forests. Indeed, for optimum tea growth, three climatic conditions must be met. These are – constant moisture, soil temperatures of between 16 and 25o C and air temperatures of between 10 and 30o C. These climatic conditions are found in areas adjacent to forests. Closed canopy forests harbour disproportionate amounts of the country’s biological diversity. Over 50 per cent of the plant species, 40 per cent of the large mammals and 30 per cent of the bird species are found in forests. All in all, in Kenya, forests are estimated to provide basic subsistence for more than a quarter of the population, supplying products to rural households worth more than Ksh 9.4 billion (US$ 100 million) a year. So, it is not surprising that Mr Steiner says the Ministry of Finance should be the greatest supporter and defender of investing in Kenya’s forests. Yet, ironically, over the last 10 years, degazettement of forest reserves and continuous widespread encroachments have led to the destruction of some 116,000 hectares of closed canopy forests. “Continued destruction of the forests is leading to a water crisis,” said Mr Steiner. “Perennial rivers are becoming seasonal; storm flow and downstream flooding are increasing.” He added that in some places, the aquifer has dropped significantly while wells and springs are drying up. Kenya has to sustain a growing economy, linked to an expanding population that is projected to reach some 80 to 120 million people by the end of this century. This is more than double than what we have now. The traditional approach to development comes at a cost, with the ecological infrastructure of the country being eroded. Notably, the country’s hydrological system has been degraded and water towers have become a symbol of this debate. The destruction of the Mau Forest is linked to the drought. However, the economic benefits of the Mau are not debatable. Studies point out that the Mau produces Ksh 110 billion per year in direct benefits to the country, not counting secondary and tertiary contributions. The benefits of the Aberdares (which are about half the size of the Mau) are estimated at Ksh 59 billion. Thankfully, Mr Steiner added, people are now making the link between the destruction of forests and the dwindling water supplies and power cuts to urban areas. And people are taking the initiative to do something about this. He gave the example of the fencing of the

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Achim Steiner talks to Miti’s Wanjiru Ciira. (Photo: BGF)

Aberdare Conservation Area as such an initiative. “The fencing of the Aberdares demonstrates that Kenyans are willing and capable of protecting the environment,” he said. Speaking at the launch of an independent study on the impact of the Aberdare Fence – on September 5, the same day this interview took place - Mr Steiner said, “The Aberdares conservation efforts underline the extraordinary and wide-ranging returns possible when a more creative, decisive and sustainable approach to managing nature is undertaken – they offer a model for exemplary public-private partnerships.” According to the study, titled “The Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area”, the installation of the 400-km electrified fence has improved the livelihoods of millions of people in central Kenya. Fencing has also led to improved forest cover, safer living conditions for local communities and greater security for wildlife. The study emphasises that there should be an integrated management plan for the Aberdares and by inference that future government policy should incorporate holistic approaches to the way high value mountain forest ecosystems are managed. “Indeed, Kenya’s new policies on renewable energy to conservation of its water towers including the Mau complex, Mt Elgon, Mt Kenya the Cherangany, and the Aberdares, is demonstrating practically and politically that a

transition to a Green Economy is as relevant to a country in Africa as it is to countries across the world,” said Mr Steiner. Mr Steiner sees many concrete examples of climate change in Kenya, impacting the Kenyan economy. Climate cycles have become shorter with more drought years. As the economy is still very much agriculture based, each drought year shaves off 2 – 4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Scientists suspect that diseases are travelling, like malaria-spreading mosquitoes invading higher altitudes up till now safe from the disease. Floods are occurring more often, and rainfall patterns are changing. While tree planting may require significant initial investments, it gives a great return to the economy. Forests are an investment, and support for afforestation can take several forms, like supply of cheaper seedlings and extension services, while fiscal policy instruments (tax rebates and incentives) can be applied. During the interview with Miti, Mr Steiner expressed his acknowledgement of the positive impact that Kenyan small-holders are having on the environment through agroforestry. “Small -holders plant food crops, cash crops and trees, all on the same land,” Mr Steiner said. He added that small-holders can contribute significantly to the achievement of the desired 10 per cent tree cover in the country. The writer is the Managing Editor, Miti magazine Email:


A multi-purpose tree The pomegranate, the ‘tree of life’, is food, medicine, ornamental and serves as a hedge By Francis Gachathi

Continuing with our series “Trees of the Bible”, and having written on Commiphora myrrha (Miti 8), Boswellia sacra (Miti 10), Olea africana (Miti 11), here comes Punica granatum.


he pomegranate, Punica granatum L, previously placed in its separate own family Punicaceae, is currently classified under the family Lythraceae. It is native of the region of Persia up to the Himalayas and has been cultivated and naturalised since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region as a fruit tree. It was one of the pleasant fruits in Egypt (Numbers 20:5). In various legends, the pomegranate was the “tree of life” in the Garden of Eden. It was venerated in most religions and traditions in the Middle East. So popular was the fruit it ended up in much Bible history and lore. Pomegranate fruits are mentioned many times in the Bible. God gave orders to Moses to put embroidered pomegranates on the hem of the high priest’s ephod (Exodus 28: 33-34). They are one of the fruits that the scouts brought to Moses to show that the Promised Land was fertile (Numbers 13:23). Images of pomegranates formed part of the decoration of the capitals upon the two pillars of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (1Kings 7: 20). Pomegranate is a multi-stemmed, somehow spiny, shrub or small tree with pale brownish bark that grows up to 6m high. The buds and young shoots are orange-red or pink, leaves lanceolate1, almost sessile2, smooth and glossy. Flowers are bright orange-red with ruffled petals. The pomegranate fruit is globose3, about 5 10cm across, with tough, leathery rind, that turns shiny reddish-yellow when mature. The fruit is filled with large quantities of seeds, each encased in a juicy pulp, ranging in colour from white to deep red or purple. The fruit has a prominent and persistent calyx that resembles a little crown. King Solomon compared the cheeks of his beloved to halves of a pomegranate fruit (Song of Solomon 4: 3) while the calyx is said to have been the inspiration for the design of his crown and hence other crowns in Europe. A spiced wine was made of the juice of the pomegranate fruit and it was frequently mentioned in the Song of Solomon as a source of female fertility (Song of Solomon 8:2). The fruit was said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds to the 613 commandments that are specified in the Torah.


Pomegranate flowers (Photo: KEFRI)

Maturing fruits of pomegranate (Photo: KEFRI)

Pomegranate shrub in garden (Photo: KEFRI) 1

Lanceolate: Narrow and tampering towards both ends. Sessile: Leaf silting on the twig without a stalk. 3 Globose: Approximtely spherical.

In East Africa, the pomegranate is grown both as a fruit as well as an ornamental tree. It is very attractive in appearance and is found in residential estates in most towns, but does best in warmer areas. Propagation by cuttings is quite easy. Pomegranate may have been introduced quite early in East Africa by Asians and remains a popular plant in their compounds. In Nairobi you find it in compounds in old Asian estates like Ngara, Parklands, Eastleigh and Westlands. The plant is also common in Machakos, Kitui and Thika. It is called mkomamanga in Swahili. Propagating by culting is quite easy. In addition to its edible fruit with thirstquenching juice, the pomegranate has been used as a traditional remedy. Preparations of the flower, fruit juice, fruit rind, bark and root have been used to treat a wide variety of conditions including diarrhoea and dysentery and to expel tapeworms. The fruit juice has been found to have powerful antioxidant properties. All parts of the tree have tannin for curing and dyeing leather. The yellow wood is very hard and durable, and is used for walking-sticks and woodcraft. Punica granatum nana, the dwarf variety of Punica granatum, is popular as ornamental in gardens or in containers, and makes a most attractive hedge.


The writer is a plant taxonomist at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute

Miti October-December 2011

Trapping water in the soil Small structures capture runoff water for household use and crop-growing in Tunisia By Herman Verlodt


Construction of majels

n the south of Tunisia, in zones with an annual rainfall of about 100 150 mm, jessours are used to capture runoff water and store it in the soil. The aim is to construct zones where about 300 - 350mm water is captured to allow for effective growing of fruit trees and thus generate economically significant yields and improve the income of households. The jessours are very sensitive during the first and second year after planting, and to ensure the survival of the trees and cattle, complementary water conservation structures are constructed to supply more water. These structures are called fesguias and majels.

Traditionally, in some regions of Tunisia and especially in the region of Zammour and Béni Kheddache, every household has at least one majel at their disposal. The volume of these reservoirs varies depending on the catchment area. However, on average, a catchment area covers an area of 200m², allowing collection of 20m3of water with one rain shower of 100mm. During very dry years, people may buy water and store it in the majel. The cost of construction of a majel depends on the volume, but is about €10 – 15 per cubic metre.1

Fesguias and majels

Construction of fasguias

Fesguias and majels are water reservoirs made in masonry in a soil excavation. Their storage capacity is variable but generally from 20 to 100m3. There are two versions – the first, mostly small, is for domestic drinking water while the second variety, mostly bigger, is for agricultural use. Reservoirs for domestic drinking water generally capture water from roofs or sometimes from a catchment made of masonry. These reservoirs also provide water for cattle and sometimes to an individual tree near the home or to a small garden. Reservoirs for agriculture collect water from a natural catchment. In this case, the reservoir is protected by at least one, sometimes two, decantation basins (silt traps), for disposal of erosion material carried by the water. This prevents clogging of the reservoir by sedimentation. The water stored in reservoirs for agriculture use is usually utilised for complementary irrigation of trees planted in jessours (generally during the first, and eventually, the second year). These reservoirs play a major role in successful implementation of jessour plantations, especially by allowing maximum survival after planting of trees in jessour terraces. As such, these reservoirs are mostly situated close to jessours.

Fesguias have a rhomboid form (see figure). Their storage capacity is in general around 90 - 100m3, but sometimes more, depending on the catchment area and physical situation. Their construction cost is around €20 per cubic metre.

Fig 1: View of transversal section of a fesguia (above) and a majel (below). Note that both have a constructed (masonry) catchment area.

1. Silt trap 2. Water storage reservoir 3. Opening for manual exhaust of water 4. Catchment surface 5. Catchment boundaries 6. Surrounding soil level

General view of a majel. The hole at the bottom of the photo is a silt trap; while at the top is the covering of the underground reservoir and the opening for manual extraction.

Miti October-December 2011

The writer is a former professor of the University of Tunis, Tunisia and a researcher specialising in horticulture and irrigation techniques Email: or 1

One Euro is currently worth Ksh130, so this is Ksh1,300 to 1,950 per cubic metre. For a majel of 20m3, the cost then is Ksh 26,000 - 39,000.


Getting water from rocks Yes, dryland populations get their supply of the precious commodity through rocky outcrops By Erik Nissen-Petersen and Jan Vandenabeele

This is another article in our series on small and cost-effective ways to obtain water in drylands. We have already written on: The availability of water in drylands (Miti issue 5); Water from dry riverbeds (Miti issue 6); Shallow wells (Miti issue 7); Sub-surface dams (Miti issue 8); Weirs (Miti issue 9); Sand dams (Miti issue 10); Road catchments (Miti issue 11).


t may sound unbelievable, but it is true - many people do get their domestic water supply from rocks. Big granite boulders, whalebacks1, kopjes, inselbergs, rock shelves - the whole variety of rocky outcrops in drylands - is known for collecting rain water, and in many cases is used for this purpose. A rock is a hard surface, and it is never flat. Even a small shower can produce impressive amounts of water. Dryland populations have developed techniques of using rock catchments for effective water harvesting. The bigger Kitui district alone has an impressive concentration of over 400 rock catchments, complete with storage tanks and dams. The design used for making rock catchments is simple. Rainwater running off a rock surface is stopped from seeping into the soil surrounding the rock by long lines of garlands made of rocks mortared onto the rock surface. The garlands will be constructed in such a way that the water flows are directed by gravity towards a storage reservoir (see photo on this page). The rock itself must have a clean surface and cracks and crevasses must have been plastered to avoid loss of water. Sometimes parts of the rock are cleaned of soil and vegetation to increase the harvestable or catchment area. Storage reservoirs 1 Long narrow rocks of granite rising from surrounding flat land, as can be seen in Tsavo, when driving down from Voi to Mombasa.


A long garland of stones mortared onto a rock surface to intercept rainwater running off a rock and guide it towards a storage tank. (Photo: BGF)

exist in many designs, either in masonry or in the form of earth dams to take care of large water volumes.

Capacity of rocks to supply water As written before in this series of articles, 1mm of rainfall over 1m2 of surface equals 1 litre of water. Take hence a medium-sized rock, with a surface of about 1ha or 10,000m2, from which water can be collected. This is not a big area, barely 100m by a 100m, and many rocks are bigger than this. In a typical arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) situation, we factor a yearly precipitation of 500mm, of which 350mm falls in October, November and December, and the remaining 150mm in April and May. A first rainstorm after the long dry season in October of, say, 35mm, will produce 35 x 10,000 = 350,000 litres or 350m3 of water. This is huge. The whole October â&#x20AC;&#x201C; December rainy season (350mm) would hence give ten times as much, or 3,500,000 litres, equivalent to 3,500m3 of water. It is true that not all the water will be collected. A sizeable portion of the rainwater, upon touching the warm rock surface in daytime, will evaporate, while more will be lost in the storage process. An open water reservoir, depending on its construction, subject to wind and sun, can lose up to 50 per cent of its water. Therefore, it is advisable to

construct roofed storage structures, where losses to evaporation are limited to a maximum of 10 per cent. However, roofed structures can cost twice as much as the unroofed ones, and their maintenance cost is high. Nevertheless, it is easy to calculate and satisfy the water needs of a whole community. Supposing a single household consumes 100 litres of water per day, and the community consists of 60 households. That makes for 6,000 litres or 6m3 per day, and 180m3 per month. The long dry season of six months (May - October) can be bridged by a storage capacity of 1,080m3. Triple this volume to take livestock into account, and add water losses through evaporation, and we have a good idea of how big an area of rock is needed. In fact, rock catchments are the most economical and reliable source of water in ASAL and desert regions with saline groundwater, low rainfall and no river system. Some rock catchments in Kitui and Mwingi are almost 60 years old and are still supplying water without maintenance or any recurrent costs. Two famous examples are the Kaseva Rock Catchment at Mutomo and Ngomeni Rock Catchment at Mwingi. Both were constructed in the 1950s, under the framework of the African Lands Development (ALDEV) programme.

Miti October-December 2011

(Photos: Erik Nissen-Petersen)

On the positive side Rural communities prefer rock catchments over other water supply types because: Even small rain showers produce large quantities of run-off that collects into reservoirs. Construction and maintenance is simple and inexpensive. Rock catchments do not occupy productive agricultural land and rocks usually are nobody’s property.

On the negative side Losses through evaporation are high, and roofing of storage structures requires good design and workmanship. Water quality may be below World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, but the communities concerned can work on this. The sun’s UV rays do sterilise water to a certain degree. Water put in transparent plastic bottles and subject to the full sun for at least five hours will be completely free of germs and bacteria. This method is obviously cheaper and more environment-friendly than using firewood or charcoal to boil water for drinking.2 Mosquitoes breed in the water of open reservoirs, spreading malaria. This can be prevented by roofing or by raising tilapia fish in the reservoirs or by pouring a few litres of clean vegetable oil onto the water. Tanks and masonry dams provide domestic water, but not the quantities required for livestock or irrigation. The large quantities of Should water contain dust or dirt particles, these can be made to settle by applying a few drops of seed oil of the horseradish or drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) that grows well in dryland. It acts like a natural flocculant.


Miti October-December 2011

water required for the latter can only be stored in earth dams situated at the foot or near the rock.

Community participation Experience has shown that where only a narrow technical focus is adopted, many projects have failed. It has been noted that follow-up and maintenance grow feeble once external funds for a project have dried up. Usually, rock catchments are built and used by communities. To ensure success of a project, it is crucial to involve the community at every stage, from inception to long-term maintenance. It is labour-intensive to construct catchments large enough to supply water to many households throughout the dry season. Most rock catchments are constructed during droughts when demand for water is highest and work in the fields lowest, which is the best combination for communal labour-intensive activities. Food-for-work programmes are also suited to construction of rock catchments. At its simplest, maintenance consists only of cleaning the catchment area and its storage reservoir before the rains start, and sometimes to replace the water taps.

Cost/benefits The cost and benefit analysis of rural water supplies comprises three components, namely: Construction cost of the project Annual (recurrent) cost of maintenance and repairs, and Comparison of construction and recurrent costs of rock catchments with conventional methods of water supply like boreholes, large earth dams or water sold by vendors. The economic viability of a rock catchment depends on the cost of alternative water sources. The local inhabitants can usually evaluate whether a rock

catchment is their best option. However, a community also needs to decide on the type of storage facility, which is the most expensive part of the undertaking. Communities have a choice of the following storage facilities: Earth dams: These are the cheapest type of storage facilities to construct, using manual labour or draught animals. However, earth dams experience loss of water through seepage and evaporation. In addition, maintenance costs for earth dams are high due to erosion of the spillway by overflowing surplus water; dam walls that get damaged by grazing livestock; and siltation because of non-cleaning or absence of silt traps. Rubble-stone masonry dams: These make use of present rock configurations like gorges and natural rock pools, are easy to construct and cheap to maintain. Such dams have no seepage losses but are still subject to losses through evaporation. Water tanks: These provide the most expensive storage facility. They have no seepage or evaporation losses, but their main disadvantage is their limited storage capacity. So, as one can see, rocks in drylands can be worth gold, or to say in Swahili “Mawe ni pesa” (rocks are money/wealth). Erik Nissen-Petersen is a consultant on water in ASAL Email: and asal@ Jan Vandenabeele is the Executive Director of Better Globe Forestry Email:



Better Globe Forestry launches Nyangoro project Better Globe Forestry (BGF) officially launched the planting of trees at Nyangoro on September 29, 2011. Below is a selection of photos of the launch.

Bulldozer starting the clearing and land preparation works at Nyangoro. (Photo: BGF)

The nursery site in Nyangoro. Showing the store and shed. (Photo: BGF) BGF workers and representatives of the Nyangoro Ranch Committee assembled around the Kenyan flag. Representing the Committee: Abdullah Ijama (chairman, in blue shirt), Bwanakheri (vice-chairman), Adan Guo (member) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; both in white shirt - and Area Chief Abdi (member, in uniform). (Photo: BGF)

BGFâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Jan Vandenabeele welcomes Josphat Koli Nanok, Assistant Minister for Forestry and Wildlife. Also on the picture - Danson Mungatana (left) area MP David Mbugua (right), Director of Kenya Forest Service, and Prof Richard Musangi (chairman of the Board of KFS). (Photo: KFS)


Assistant Minister Josphat Koli Nanok planting a mukau seedling, assisted by Joseph Maina, Zonal Forester of KFS. (Photo: KFS)

Miti October-December 2011

Better Globe Forestry Ltd

Making Africa greener

Making Africa greener Better Globe Forestry (BGF) is part of The Better Globe Group from Norway, which focuses on the need to fight poverty through promoting massive tree planting and sustainable agricultural programmes. BGF’s vision is to create secure commercial projects with vital humanitarian and environmental activities and as a result become the biggest tree planting company in the world within 20 years.

Land in Kiambere before planting. Note the omnipresent soil erosion

The mission of BGF is to make Africa a greener, healthier place in which to live and eradicate poverty by focusing on the development of profitable, commercial tree plantations that will deliver environmental as well as humanitarian benefits. Miti magazine is a publication of Better Globe. It is the policy of BGF to, among other things:  Create attractive financial opportunities for present and future investors, Continuously identify and address the needs of employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders, the community at large and any other stakeholders,  Focus on the need to help fight poverty, through promoting massive tree planting  Create and sustain motivation throughout the organisation for meeting its business objectives,  Continuously maintain and review an effective and efficient Quality System which as a minimum satisfies the requirements of the appropriate Quality System standard(s),  Continuously improve the performance of all aspects of the organisation.

Workers clearing a thicket in Nyangoro in preparation for tree planting

Our nursery at Kiambere

A two-year-old plantation of Melia volkensii in Kiambere

Workers in BGF’s plantation in Kiambere, after receiving a food donation

A Melia volkensii plus -tree part of our genetic improved programme

Preparing for planting in Kiambere

The committee of Witu Nyongoro ranch with Rino Solberg and Jean-Paul Deprins

MITI 12  
MITI 12  

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