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View the documentWatching over Charcoal Kilns in Uganda

Watching over Charcoal Kilns in Uganda

Environmental Impact Assessment in Practice

By John Tumuhimbise, Department of Energy, Uganda

A method known as Environmental Impact Assessment was used to detect the impacts of using portable metal charcoal kilns in Uganda. The overall aim is to reduce environmental damages by improving charcoal production. The assessment involved INFORSE members and the Ministry of Uganda.

Portable Metal Kilns are More Efficient, but...

In Uganda, environmentally harmful burning of charcoal in traditional earth kilns is expected to increase. Therefore, the Department of Energy in the Ministry of Lands, Water, and Environment in Uganda is embarking on a project in Luwero District to improve charcoal production by encouraging conversion to efficient portable metal kilns.

The project is massively supported in the area because of the many benefits expected from it. But, there are concerns that some related activities may have significant environmental effects. To address these concerns, an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done.

Assessing Impacts

The EIA of the portable metal kilns was completed as a practical field exercise during a regional training course on EIA in East Africa. It was organised by the Danish NGO “Forum for Energy and Development” (FED), which also hosts the INFORSE Network, and by the Ugandan INFORSE-member organisation, the Joint Energy and Environment Project (JEEP), in collaboration with the Danish NGO MS in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Major findings of the assessment study include:

Positive impacts

· The better recovery of charcoal will translate into increased levels of income for the charcoal producers and for the surrounding communities;

· The process of charcoal production will become less strenuous and less time-consuming;

· Amelioration of the physical environment will be achieved by easing pressure on the available resources in the district;

· A better-quality product will be produced for the market.

Negative Impacts

· Change in ecology of the area
· Health and safety of the charcoal producers and that of domestic animals
· Soil sterilisation
· Influx of more charcoal venders in to the area.


The study also identified a number of mitigation measures to counter some of the negative environmental impacts of the project. Some of these required enrichment tree planting to restore forest cover, and discouragement of clearcutting to reduce damage to young trees. The land will also be kept fallow for a period of not less than 5 years to allow for regeneration.

More Information:
John Tumuhimbise, Senior Energy
Officer, Department of Energy, P.O.Box. 7270 Kampala, Uganda.
Ph: 256-41250142, fax: 256-41230220, e-mail:

Charcoal Burning

Charcoal is a major fuel in Uganda’s urban and suburban households. The production of this source of energy relies largely on clearcutting of mature live trees, especially high-density species. At present, wood is converted into charcoal by exclusive use of the traditional earth kiln. The efficiency of the traditional earth kiln is estimated to be as low as 10-15%. Charcoal consumption is estimated to be increasing at a rate of 6% per annum.

The production of this fuel contributes significantly to denudation of forest cover and to general degradation of the physical environment.