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Bioenergy in Kenya: Making tea production sustainable

February 20, 2020

Tea production is a key industry in Kenya, where millions of people depend on it for a living. Can waste from sugarcane make processing the crop more environmentally friendly?

Tea cultivation in Kenya
Image: DW/Cornelia Borrmann

Kenya: Sugar cane as a green fuel

Project goal: The project assesses the sustainability of the production and use of bioenergy, using indicators developed by the Global Bioenergy Partnership

Project budget: The project is supported with €942,667 ($1,043,407)  from the German Environment Ministry (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI)

Project partners (Kenya): The project was coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and implemented by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Kenya's Forestry Research Institute, Strathmore University and the World Agroforestry Center

Project partners (Ethiopia): The project was coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and implemented by the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC),  Ethiopian Environment and Forest Research Institute (EEFRI) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC)

Project duration: 2015 - 2019

Project area: The project runs in Kenya and Ethiopia

The vibrant, green fields of Kenya's tea plantations provide jobs and income to millions of people in the country. Kenya is a key producer of the crop in Africa, and efforts are now being made to make the industry more environmentally friendly.

Firewood has often been used to power the production process. To reduce deforestation, the country is looking for sustainable alternatives. Over 600,000 small tea farmers work within the The Kenya Tea Development Agency. Some of these producers are exploring the use of bio-energy briquettes made from waste from sugarcane processing.

Sugarcane is grown in large quantities in Kenya, and the remnants are often left to rot, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. The briquettes are easy to transport and produce more energy per unit than wood. Transforming the raw waste material into bioenergy could not only reduce the industry's environmental impact but also bring economic benefits. 

A film by Cornelia Borrmann