Contributed by Millie Mwango

''Extract taken from Business Daily, Posted Thursday, February 11 2010 at 00:00
Article written by Ochieng' Ogodo''

Efforts to turn Kenya into Africa’s principal producer of biofuels made significant steps last week with the completion of a draft policy for cost-effective and safe production and commercialisation.

Aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, the proposed policy hopes to establish the principles that will enable Kenya to gain from rising demand for clean energy without social and economic shockwaves.

Fossil fuels — currently accounting for nearly a half of global energy consumption — is the major contributor to the deadly greenhouse gas emissions that have been linked to climate change.

Biofuel has been touted as the panacea to the world’s perennial energy crisis, a silver bullet that would quench the growing global demand for oil
with limited negative impact on the environment

The proposed policy was the subject of discussions in a conference in Nakuru, which was attended by officials from the Ministry of Energy, researchers and environmentalists.

The draft is to be submitted to the Ministry for approval and tabled in Parliament for adoption.

Phanuel Oballa, a researcher with the Kenya Forest Research Institute, says the major drawbacks of fossil fuels lie in the fact that it is not renewable, is prone to price fluctuations in the international market, and not only threatens national energy security but also impacts on the general standard of living by eating deeper into household budgets.

“Kenya is spending a lot of money on fossil fuel imports that could be significantly reduced with the development of sufficient renewable energy sources,” said Mr Oballa.

Many NGOs have introduced oil plants like jatropha to farmers, saying it could be a major export product with the possibility of spinning the wheel of industrialisation in Kenya faster.

Kenya is eyeing the middle income economy status in 20 years time guided by the blueprint Vision 2030, which is now the principal reference document for the government and its agencies.

Sue Canney, project manager of the Deutsche Investitions (DEG) Jatropha Support Research Programme reckons that Kenya is paying a heavy price for the high pricing of electricity and cooking gas that forces more than 80 percent of rural households to rely on wood fuel for their energy needs.

“It is estimated that a small family of four people needs to cut down more than 100 trees a year to meet its energy needs,” said Ms Canney.

Bernard Muok of the African Centre for Technology Studies — a research institution that is fronting for the use of bio-fuels says Kenya could significantly reduce the number of people visiting its rural dispensaries and health centres by eliminating indoor pollution that is mainly caused by use of wood fuels.

Besides, Mr Muok argues, bio-fuels have the potential of boosting economic growth in the countryside through jobs creation and skills development.

Production of biofuels also needs large amounts of feedstocks that create demand for agro-forestry products that have the capacity to spread its benefits.

Read the article in full here
Jatropha farmers walk on slippery ground Business Daily, 03 February 2010 by George Omondi and Jacob Ng'etich

Reasearcher map areas suitable for green energy crops Business Daily, 9 February 2010 by Walter Menya