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Majority rely on kerosene, animal and agriculture waste for cooking

By Macharia Kamau | Updated Tue, November 26th 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3
A woman ferries firewood for cooking to her home.
             A woman ferries firewood for cooking to her home.   PHOTO:COURTESY

By Macharia Kamau

Only a handful of Kenyans are using cleaner fuels for cooking and lighting.

A new report shows that just six per cent of Kenyans use cooking gas and other cleaner fuels, while majority use firewood, animal and agricultural waste.

The report further notes that over 68 per cent of Kenyans use kerosene for lighting, with 38 per cent of them using tin lamps. Only three counties –  Nairobi, Mombasa and Kiambu – have 50 per cent use of electricity, with usage in other counties being below the 50 per cent mark. This includes counties that are seen as regional trading hubs like Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri and Nakuru.

The joint report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and Society of International Development East Africa identifies the worst hit as residents of Mandera, West Pokot, Marsabit, Elgeyo/Marakwet, Wajir, Bomet, Vihiga and Nyamira. In the eight counties, over 90 per cent of the residents use firewood, agricultural waste or animal waste, which the report terms primitive fuels.

Continued use of firewood and other non-progressive fuels by households to light and cook is due to meagre income, which makes use of advanced fuels out of reach for many Kenyans.

The report titled Exploring Kenya’s Inequality – Pulling Apart or Pooling Together – notes that just six per cent of Kenyans use what is termed advanced fuels that include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), bio-fuels (like biogas) and electricity.

This is in comparison to 65 per cent that use primitive fuels (firewood, animal waste and agricultural waste) and 29 per cent that use transitional fuels (charcoal, coal and kerosene).

“A total of 65 per cent of households in the country use primitive fuels – mostly firewood (64 per cent) – as their main source of cooking fuel, followed by transitional fuels,” said the report.

Levels of income

“Only six per cent of the households use advanced fuels, mostly LPG (five per cent).”

The report noted that households adopted fuels based on income levels.

“The type of cooking fuel used by households is related to the socio-economic status of households. High-level energy sources are cleaner but cost more and are used by households with higher levels of income.

“Simpler sources of fuel, mainly firewood, are used by households with a lower socio-economic profile.”

According to the report, 68 per cent of Kenyans use kerosene to light their homes, either using tin lamps (38 per cent) or lanterns (30 per cent). Only 23 per cent use electricity, mostly due to limited reach of the national electricity grid, which is mainly in urban areas.

“Lack of access to clean sources of energy is a major impediment to development through health-related complications such as increased respiratory infections and air pollution,” said the report.

It notes that there are people who use firewood to light homes, despite its inadequacies.

According to the report, more than half the population in almost all counties do not have access to electricity, with availability limited to urban areas and trading centres.

Only three counties have electricity use above 50 per cent – Kiambu (54 per cent), Mombasa (59 per cent) and Nairobi (72 per cent). In Turkana and Tana River counties, only two per cent (or two in every 100 people) have access to electricity.

“A household in Nairobi is 36 times more likely to have electricity for lighting than a household in Turkana and Tana River counties.”


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