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Kenya logging ban: Do senator’s claims about GDP and demand add up?

A Kenyan senator is urging a review of a logging ban in response to concern that uncontrolled destruction of forests could lead to drought.

This article is more than 4 years old

  • Arguing to end a ban on logging, senator Susan Kihika said forestry contributed 3.6% to GDP and wood fuel made up 60% of the country’s energy supply.

  • Different government agencies gave different statistics for forestry’s share of GDP. Until these are clarified, the claim is unproven.

  • Wood fuel makes up 63.2% of Kenya’s energy demand, according to the most recent economic survey. This is slightly higher than Kihika’s claim of 60%. 

Kenya’s 18-month-long ban on logging has closed businesses and caused a rise in both unemployment and construction costs, a senator has claimed. 

Susan Kihika of Nakuru county is urging a review of the ban, announced in February 2018 in response to concern that the uncontrolled destruction of forests could lead to drought.

To show that the ban was doing more harm than good, Kihika gave statistics on forestry’s importance to the economy. 

“We cannot ignore the fact that the forestry sector contributes 3.6% of the national gross domestic product and 60% of the national energy requirements are met from wood fuel,” Kihika told Kenya’s senate in July 2019.

It is a contested issue. Some senators disagreed with her, urging that the ban be extended for years.

But do her statistics check out?


The forestry sector contributes 3.6% of the national gross domestic product.



Kihika told Africa Check her numbers were from two sources: a 2018 government taskforce report and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2014 State of the World’s Forests report.

The taskforce report, prepared by the environment ministry, did find that Kenya’s forestry sector accounted for 3.6% of gross domestic product. 

It gave the 2014 FAO report as its source, but said the UN agency’s estimate “excludes forestry’s contribution to household wood energy, non-timber products and the vast value of ecosystem services”.

But the FAO report estimated that the formal forestry sector made up 1.2% of GDP in 2011, from wages, profits and timber. When the informal sector such as woodfuel and charcoal was counted, forestry’s contribution rose to 3% – still lower than the taskforce’s estimate of 3.6%.

The government’s estimate of a 3.6% share is also found in official reports from the Kenya Forest Service, including the national forest policy and latest strategic plan, for 2017 to 2022.

Official figure undervalues forestry?

Africa Check asked the forest service how they arrived at the 3.6% figure. Leakey Sonkoyo, the agency’s spokesperson, told us it was from a joint 2012 report by UN Environment, the forestry service, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the water and irrigation ministry. 

The report said the official figure, which put forestry’s GDP contribution at 1.1%, was a “gross underestimate”. This was by “at least 2.5%, which puts the estimate of its annual contribution to GDP to around 3.6%”.

Samuel Muriithi, the agency’s head of forest economics, told Africa Check the official estimate had left out important contributions, such as the value manufacturing added to forest products.

Different statistics unexplained

But the difference remains in other official statistics. The national data agency’s economic survey 2019 estimated that forestry and logging contributed 1.3% to GDP in 2018. It has maintained a steady average of 1.3% from 2014 to 2018, even as its value at real prices rose from KSh42.9 billion in 2014 to KSh49.9 billion in 2018. 

We have asked the two state agencies to explain the difference. Until we get this clarification we will rate the senator’s claim as unproven.


60% of the national energy requirements are from wood fuel.



Kihika told Africa Check the 60% figure came from a 2015 Kenya Forest Service report. We have, however, been unable to trace this report. 

But the Energy Regulatory Commission says biomass, including wood fuel, makes up 70% of Kenya’s energy supply. The FAO’s 2014 State of the World’s Forests puts this at 68%.

Kenya gets its energy from electricity, petroleum and oil products, and from biomass, which includes charcoal, wood fuel, ethanol, biodiesel and agricultural waste. Energy is measured in joules. A terajoule is a trillion joules.

The most recent economic survey shows demand in 2018.

Kenya’s national energy demand in 2018
Energy source Demand in terajoules % share of total
Electricity 31,328.4 12.7
Petroleum and petroleum products 21,825.9 8.9
Charcoal 11,434.6 4.6
Waste or scraps 25,879.2 10.5
Wood fuel 155,601.3 63.2
Total 246,069.4 100%

Source: Economic Survey 2019

Wood fuel’s share of 63% is in fact slightly higher than the senator’s figure of 60%. We therefore rate this claim as correct.

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