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 Unchecked charcoal burning has led to unprecedented deforestation in Tseikuru Ward with authorities looking the other way.

 A Sh500 sack of charcoal made from indigenous forests at Kwa Kamari village in Tseikuru Ward, Kitui County. The unregulated charcoal burning is fueling climate change implications owing to massive shedding of land mass cover. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI

At Kwa Kamari village in Tseikuru district, Mwingi North Sub County, heaps of burnt charcoal are buried in kilns at strategic places near the roads in readiness for lorries to come and pick them.

A sack of charcoal costs Sh500. One charcoal kiln is estimated to give about 40 sacks of black burnt charcoal.

Local indigenous trees have been shaved to the ground level where even stumps are not spared. The charcoal burners go for roots in an area characterised with large number of poor people who “blame” poverty for destroying their own surroundings.

The endangered trees facing extinction are acacia species such as migaa. Others include miswiiswii, myange and masyathyu.

A Charcoal kiln in Masyungwa location. One kiln can produce 40 sacks of charcoal leaving behind many wasted tree stumps, branches and logs. Majority of charcoal buyers are non-locals. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI

Most of the buyers of charcoal are non-locals who pay the residents little amount of money and go to make a killing in other parts of the country.


“It takes a lot of years for those indigenous trees to grow and unfortunately, they are falling them down for makaa”, says Musyoka Kathuru, a resident.

Locals say police aid the charcoal trade. “I know police officers who are beneficiaries of makaa in our area and now they are making a lot of cash”, says another resident.

Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forestry Service personnel working in Mwingi North are also cited as some of beneficiaries of the charcoal cartels.

“The Forest Service. the Kitui County Government through the office of the Environment, Ukakomaniaa na tumwana tuo kuuuu na ngali sya serikali twisyite mbesa,,,, Plus machiefs sasa” (You will meet their staff with government cars coming to collect money from charcoal traders) says Mr Caleb Kimwele.

Kitui lies160km east of the capital Nairobi and was a major supplier to urban areas until 2018 when charcoal trade was banned.

The Forest Charcoal Rules (2009) was passed to regulate production and distribution of wood fuel. It demands commercial producers to register as members of the Charcoal Producer Association and get a harvesting permit and production licenses from Kenya Forestry Services.

The law requires those transporting charcoal to have movement permits and the traders to maintain records of the source of their charcoal.

An abandoned charcoal kiln near Katumbi Market in Tseikuru Ward. Local authorities have not effectively checked the wanton destruction of environment. Photo/MUSYOKA NGUI


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