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Bioenergy > Regions > Africa > Kenya

Information about biofuels and bioenergy in Kenya.








  • The rise and fall of biofuels and why they failed key test 20 March 2012 by George Wachira, for Business Daily Africa: "An energy expert asked me the other day if I still believed in biofuels as feasible alternative transport fuels for Kenya. We had met at a biofuels conference in Dar-es-Salaam about four years ago where I presented a paper. Around the same time I was the vice-chairman of the National Biofuels Committee at the Ministry of Energy. My hesitant answer was that emphasis on biofuels has reduced, globally and here in Kenya, as priorities have definitely changed."
    • "So what caused a shift in biofuels emphasis? Globally, around 2008/09 the western world was experiencing serious economic downturn and economic survival may have become more urgent that the global warming subject. Downgraded commitment to global warming issues by the western nations was apparent at all subsequent global climate meetings (Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban)... About the same time, the sudden shift from food to biofuel crops was starting to negatively impact global food sufficiency. Food commodity prices shot up, prompting caution on biofuel production across the globe."
    • "Further, it was emerging across the world that other more effective green solutions (wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, afforestation) could deliver quicker and more effective carbon reduction solutions, and these have now been embraced on a massive scale. Thereafter, there has been less emphasis on biofuels to provide green energy."
    • "Kenya’s energy mix has plenty of green content and this is sufficient national contribution towards global warming mitigation efforts. The country has also opted to emphasise tree planting for both climate change reasons and also for reinforcing the country’s hydrology. With these measures and plans in place, we may not need to produce biofuels justified on global warming mitigation." [1]
  • EU biofuel targets will cost €126 billion without reducing emissions, 2 February 2012 by Friends of the Earth Europe: "Motorists across Europe are set to pay an additional €18 billion a year for petrol and diesel as a result of EU biofuel targets that have been shown not to reduce emissions, says new research published today."
    • "New figures, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe and ActionAid, show that the planned increase in biofuels use could cost European consumers an extra €94 to €126 billion between now and 2020. This despite evidence that biofuels will actually make climate change worse and increase global hunger...."
    • "Biofuels have been promoted as a ‘green’ alternative to climate-damaging fossil fuels, but studies for the European Commission confirm that that the EU’s projected use of biofuels could actually increase emissions – particularly where countries rely on biodiesel from palm oil, soy and rapeseed...."
    • "In its 2012 reporting, the EU will be under pressure to acknowledge the damaging impacts of its biofuels policies on land rights and food prices globally – with cases already recorded, in countries from Guatemala to Kenya."[2]
    • Download the report, EU wide extrapolation of UK cost of biofuels calculations (PDF file).


  • Kenya's Tana Delta saved – for now, September 2011 by "A Nairobi newspaper reports that, after consideration of the scientific evidence, Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has decided to advise the Kenyan Government to halt the planting of the biofuel crop jatropha within the Coast region of Kenya."
    • "Proposed jatropha plantations would do irreparable damage to coastal Important Bird Areas (IBAs), including the Tana Delta and Dakatcha Woodlands."
    • "Even before NEMA's decision, a company planning to grow oil seed crops on 28,000 hectares of the Tana Delta pulled out after consultations with NatureKenya and other BirdLife Partners, citing concerns over environmental impacts and long-term climate change effects."
    • "The Tana Delta has long provided local communities with food and livelihoods. Its value to the nation includes ecosystem services such as water storage, shoreline protection and marine life spawning grounds. It also has huge tourism potential. But as demand for land to grow commodity crops has increased globally, the Tana Delta has become the focus of interest for international speculators and investors."[3]
  • Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war, 2 July 2011 by The Guardian: "[E]viction of the [Gamba Manyatta] villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds."
    • "The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel."
    • "The delta, one of Kenya's last wildernesses and one of the most important bird habitats in Africa, is the flood plain of the Tana river, which flows 1,014km from Mount Kenya to the Indian Ocean."
    • "The delta's people are trying to fight their own government over the huge blocks of land being turned over to companies including the Canadian company, Bedford Biofuels, which was this year granted a licence by the Kenyan environmental regulator for a 10,000-hectare jatropha 'pilot' project. A UK-based firm, G4 Industries Ltd, has been awarded a licence for 28,000 hectares."[4]
  • Oldest rainforest in the world to become a palm oil plantation, 13 June 2011 by On Line Opinion: "In Cameroon, 60,000 hectares of rainforest are to be cleared for a palm oil plantation."
    • "Kenya, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and other African countries have already given large areas of their rainforests up to palm oil plantations. The Blackstone Group now wishes to cultivate palm oil in Cameroon as well."
    • "In Southwest Cameroon, one of the oldest and most bio-diverse rainforests on the planet is facing destruction. The area planted for logging directly borders the Korup National Park and the Rumpi Hills forest reserve."
    • "This forest is a hotspot for a great variety of species, 25 per cent of all African primate species can be found here, among them chimpanzees and the very rare Drills. As well, 45,000 people will lose their land and with it their livelihood, due to the creation of the palm oil plantation."[5]
  • Kenya biofuel project opposed, 23 March 2011 by AFP: "The Kenyan franchise of Italy's Nuove Iniziative Industriali is planning to farm 50,000 hectares of jatropha near Malindi, a seaside tourist resort in southern Kenya."
    • "'Taking into account the emissions produced throughout the production and consumption process... jatropha would emit between 2.5 and six times more greenhouse gases,' said ActionAid, Nature Kenya and the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds."
    • "The groups said the project is driven by commercial interests in Europe where the European Union has set a target to produce 10 percent of transport energy from biofuels by 2020."
    • "The United Nations Environment Programme said in 2009 that jatropha can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if grown on degraded land, but can also be carbon intensive if its farming entails land use changes."[6]
  • Jatropha biofuel 'produces six times greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels', 22 March 2011 by The Telegraph: "Plantation of a shrub once hailed as the great new hope for biofuels will result in up to six times the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels, according to a new report."
    • "Jatropha has been planted across Asia in countries under pressure from the West to reduce emissions from the destruction of rainforests, car exhausts and energy production from coal-burning power plants."
    • "But the study for the anti-poverty agency ActionAid and the RSPB of a proposed 50,000 hectare jatropha plantation development in the Dakatcha woodlands of Kenya, near Malindi, found that emissions in producing the biofuel would be 2.5 to six times higher than the fossil fuel equivalents. The woodland hosts globally endangered bird life."
    • "The research examined the whole 'life-cycle' of the jatropha production, primarily the clearance of woodland and scrubland, planting, harvesting, refining and transportation of the bio-diesel destined for heating and electricity production in Europe."
    • "New EU targets under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires 10 per cent of transport to be powered by renewable by 2020, almost entirely from biofuels."[7]
    • Download the ActionAid report, Life Cycle Assessment of Refined Vegetable Oil and Biodiesel from Jatropha Grown in Dakatcha Woodlands of Kenya
  • Laws needed to guide biofuels development, 9 February 2011 by Business Daily Africa: "We have recently seen debates on a proposed large-scale foreign investment for 'jatropha' biodiesel crop in the Tana Delta area. The debate is an indication that we need national policies to guide biofuel development and also large-scale leasing of community lands by foreign enterprises."
    • "Over the last few years, many countries have been reassessing their strategies on biofuels especially where biofuels developments are in direct competition with national food self sufficiency and where they interfere with existing primary forests."
    • "The draft policy and strategy for biodiesel in Kenya centers mainly around rural communities primarily in semi-arid areas, where locally grown diesel crops (jatropha, croton, castor etc) would provide affordable and cleaner alternative rural energy for lighting and heating using locally customised equipment."
    • "With renewed focus on food crops in marginal areas, it is highly unlikely that the government will wish to emphasise promotion of biodiesel crops like jatropha in the same areas."[8]


  • Reality check for 'miracle' biofuel crop, 27 October 2010 by Miyuki Iiyama and James Onchieku: "It sounds too good to be true: a biofuel crop that grows on semi-arid lands and degraded soils, replaces fossil fuels in developing countries and brings huge injections of cash to poor smallholders."
    • "In an attempt to test the claims, Endelevu Energy, the World Agroforestry Centre and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute embarked on the Reality Check study supported by the German government, which we published last December."
    • "The main finding of the Reality Check is that jatropha is not economically viable when grown by smallholders in Kenya, either in a monoculture or intercrop plantation model. This is due to low yields and high production costs, and a lack of guidelines for applying agronomic and silvicultural best practices."[9]
  • Kenyan Environmentalists oppose biofuel project, 21 June 2010 by Rosalia Omungo: "The Dakatcha area which is a breeding ground for Clarke's weaver, a bird's species that is only found in two places on earth, Kenya and Arabuko-Sokoke forest in South Africa has been earmarked for destruction to pave way for commercial farming of Jatropha plant as an alternative source of energy."
    • "Executive Director of Nature Kenya, Paul Matiku said "Nature Kenya oppossed the growing of the plant by an Italian investor under the name Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited, because this plant is poisonous it has been banned in South Africa, and Australia and declared poisonous to humans and likely to produce more greenhouse gases."
    • "He added that the local people of Dakatcha, the local conservationists, national and global conservation community is obliged to reject the growing of the plant for it does not help people, destroys biodiversity, removes invaluable ecological services and is not economically viable."[11]
  • Participatory Market Mapping in the PISCES project in Kenya, 7 May 2010 by HEDON Household Energy Network: "The PISCES project is looking at ways of giving poor people easier access to cheap and renewable energy options, specifically focussing on the potential of biofuels."
    • "Markets matter to the rural poor. It is increasingly clear that in tackling rural poverty, market-related issues - including access to information, institutions, linkages and trade rules - are vital considerations. Failure to address these issues means that the benefits of other developments threaten to by-pass the rural poor."
    • This article includes links to a podcast on the mapping project as well as supporting documents.[12]
  • GVEP International publishes a study on briquettes in Kenya, 4 May 2010 by Clair Marrey of HEDON Household Energy Network: "The study was conducted with the aim to investigate the success factors of briquette producers, as well as their current and potential impact on energy access in rural and peri-urban areas. "
    • "The impact of micro-scale briquette production on access to energy were discussed with regards to scale of usage and environmental impact in both peri-urban and rural areas. The study also investigates current and potential access to both modern and sustainable energy, with discussion on the options for feedstock and how these options affect environmental issues such as deforestation."[13]
  • Redd in Africa: 'how we can earn money from air by harvesting carbon', 5 October 2009 by "Kenyan ranch shows how UN scheme could protect forests that absorb CO2 and earn billions of dollars for their owners."
    • "The carbon saved would be traded on the growing voluntary carbon market and after 2012 when the next round of the Kyoto treaty becomes affective, Rukinga could qualify as an official Kenyan government Redd scheme, attracting public money from Britain and other rich countries seeking to offset emissions they have legally committed to cut."
  • Kenya court halts $370m sugar, biofuels project, 13 July 2008 by Reuters: "A Kenyan court has temporarily halted a $370 million sugar and biofuels project in a coastal wetland that conservation groups warned would threaten wildlife and local livelihoods."
    • "The government and the country's biggest sugar miller, Mumias, wants to plant cane on 20,000 hectares in the Tana River Delta to create jobs and plug an annual 200,000-tonne sugar deficit."
    • "But the Malindi High Court ruled on Friday that environmentalists and groups representing local livestock keepers could apply for a judicial review, according to a copy of the order seen by Reuters on Sunday."
    • "Kenya's National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) cleared the project last month. But it has run into fierce opposition from activists who say it threatens 350 species including birds, lions, elephants, rare sharks and reptiles."
    • "Mumias, which owns 51 percent of the Tana Delta project, hopes to produce about 23 million litres ethanol -- which is distilled from molasses, a cane by-product -- there each year."
    • "It says it will also generate 34 megawatts of electricity and create some 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, partly through the construction of an 8,000-tonne a day sugar mill. The government, which has a 30 percent stake, says the project will benefit locals and that it has its full support."[14]
  • Biofuel blight threatens spectacular Kenyan wetland, 18 February 2008, by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) (UK): "A flourishing wetland on Kenya’s northern coast is under serious threat from plans to grow vast amounts of sugarcane, partly for biofuel production....Developers want to transform nearly 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of the spectacular Tana River Delta into sugarcane plantations with other parts of the Delta earmarked for rice." The delta is habitat for 345 species of birds, as well as crocodiles, hippos and lions.
    • "Nature Kenya, with the backing of the RSPB and BirdLife International, has urged Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority, to reject the sugarcane plan."
    • The article quoted Paul Matiku, Executive Director of Nature Kenya, as saying, "This development would be a national disaster, wreaking havoc with the area’s ecosystem and spelling the end for wildlife across much of the Delta."
    • UPDATE: Kenyan Government grants the destruction of Tana’s birds, biodiversity and livelihoods, 23 June 2008 press release by Birdlife International: "The government of Kenya, through the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), has approved a proposal to turn 20,000 hectares of the pristine Tana Delta into irrigated sugarcane plantations. Conservationists and villagers...believe the decision is illegal and are determined to block the development."[15]


See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.

  • Bioenergy and Poverty in Kenya: Attitudes, Actors and Activities Prepared for Pisces by Practical Action Consulting in Eastern Africa, May 2010. "This report presents the findings of socio-economic baseline surveys carried out by the Eastern Africa office of Practical Action Consulting in Kenya... This was part of a broader baseline data creation exercise carried out across the respective PISCES countries around the same period to help provide a better understanding of some of the current issues relating to bioenergy use, access and delivery at the community level."


Governmental organizations

Nongovernmental organizations

  • Green Africa Foundation - "founded in 2000 to support ecological and environmental conservation with a particular focus in arid and semi arid lands...The Foundation focuses on capacity development of poor communities through a partnership approach that integrates environmental conservation and community livelihoods."
    • This NGO has been licensed by the Kenyan Government to provide technical support for a jatropha biodiesel project.[16]


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