Technological factors influencing the quality and quantity of charcoal produced in western Mau forest , Kericho county , Kenya
Amugune, Ivy Maledi
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Charcoal is a key bio-energy resource in Kenya, providing domestic energy for 82% of urban and 34% of rural households. The charcoal industry also creates jobs for wood producers, charcoal producers, transporters and vendors. The industry employs almost 1 million people on a part and full-time basis across the value chain. Despite regulation there is continued unsustainable charcoal production in western Mau forest block. Are the regulations not working or simply not implemented by the mandated authority? Different studies over the years have shown how unsustainable charcoal production affects the forest, in other parts of the Mau region like in Narok and Nakuru. The western part of Mau forest, which is in Kericho region is noticeably depleted. The study therefore aimed at assessing technological factors that influence the quality and quantity of charcoal within the western Mau forest. Specifically, the study sought to evaluate the effects of tree harvesting methods, method of carbonization, tree species on quantity and quality of charcoal produced. A descriptive research design was adopted and targeted the local actors who were involved in charcoal business in areas adjacent to the western Mau Forest in Kericho County. The areas under study were Kedowa/Kimugul, Chepseon, Ainamoi and Kaorora, Kapsuser, Kapkatet, Nyagacho, Kericho Kapsoit, Londiani and Litein. This study employed snowball sampling technique to reach the target respondents. Primary data were collected using different set of structured questionnaires. Descriptive statistics such as frequencies, percentages, mean scores, standard deviation, cross tabulations and charts were derived from the responses to summarize data from various variables. Inferential statistics were applied using the correlations and chi- square tests. The results showed that simple tools like machete and axe were commonly used to harvest trees illegally in the western Mau forest. The majority (87 %) of the charcoal producers used earth mound kiln because the kiln was simple to build, and the materials used were easily available and affordable. The majority of producers perceive that indigenous species produces best charcoal, but in reality, the majority went for exotic species exclusively, while others mixed indigenous and exotic species. The most preferred indigenous species were Olea africana, Euclea divinorum, Acacia lahai and Acacia seyal, while the preferred exotic species were Cupressus lusitanica, Eucalyptus saligna and Eucalyptus ficifolia. The plant species selected was found to significantly (p<0.05) influence the quality and quantity of charcoal produced. The harvesting techniques used influenced the quality quantity of the charcoal produced. Two factors were significant the size of the billets and the dryness of the wood influenced the quality and quantity. The carbonization technique used significantly (p<0.05) influenced the quality and quantity of charcoal. The traditional earth mound used by most producers produced low quantity and poor quality charcoal compared to the metal and cut drum techniques. It was recommended that the government and relevant organizations should facilitate forest plantations for charcoal production and fuel wood purposes. This will deter charcoal producers from going into the government forest to produce charcoal. The charcoal producers should exploit the current best practices and technology in charcoal production.
Africa Nazarene University