An unusual crime wave of firewood thieves has swept through many villages in rural Kenya.
Many of these incidences, reported in central Kenya and few parts of Western Kenya have come just days shy of the fuel price increase. Much of the firewood is usually stocked by owners during the dry season to be used at home when rains begin.
Local authorities have linked the crime to increasing demand for firewood in rural shopping centres, as fuel prices rise and buyers try to cut costs. Restaurant owners and other traders have been hit with increasing electricity costs as fossil fuel prices rise and as Kenya’s government increases taxes on a variety of goods and services, including energy.
As well, a 2018 ban on wood harvesting in Kenya’s disappearing forests has made firewood more scarce, creating growing temptation to steal unguarded supplies.
In Tharaka Nithi county, the environment court indicates that at least nine cases of firewood theft have been handled since January.
But most cases go unreported because farmers are not aware firewood theft should be reported as an environmental crime.
According to Kenya’s Ministry of Energy, 90 per cent of rural households use firewood for cooking and heating.
Kenya is already an African leader in renewable energy, with more than 60 per cent of its power coming from geothermal energy, hydropower and smaller amounts of wind and solar power, according to a 2018 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute.
But other potential sources of cheap cooking fuel also are available like briquettes.
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