In the past nine years, the price of charcoal has more than doubled, buoyed by limited supply, increasing demand and a rise in the price of cooking gas.
This year alone, cooking gas price has risen steadily from Sh2,000 in March to Sh2,250 today, beyond the reach of many low-income households.
Charcoal has twin burdens of pollution and environmental degradation, which should worry policy makers chasing after a healthier citizenry and taming climate change.
While the rise of charcoal prices from Sh35 a tin to about Sh82 today could help to discourage its use, it is worrying that the high cost is a product of rising demand.
It is likely that low-income consumers are giving cooking gas a wide berth to cling to use of charcoal, assuming it is more affordable due to availability in smaller packaging.
This should push the government to think fast enough on how to come up with affordable portions of cooking gas since it has a dedicated oil company Nock that also distributes gas across the country.
The starting point is growing National Oil Corporation of Kenya’s distribution channels to ease access and working on subsidies to make it more affordable than the commercial players. It would be reckless to sit and watch as people die of pollution and charcoal burners decimate Kenya’s thin forest cover.