Biochar and smallholder farmers in Kenya

Last changed: 06 March 2023
A hand shows a charred cornstalk.

Biochar can provide carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere as well as improved use efficiency of farm-level organic resources in relation to energy, crops and soil.

Bio-char (charcoal applied to soil) attracts attention for its potential to sequester carbon and enhance soil fertility. This project has investigated the role bio-char can play in small-holder farming systems in Kenya. This was done by studying

  • organic resource availability and current use
  • energy efficiency and emissions when cooking and producing biochar
  • effects of different quality bio-char on crop productivity and soil biological, chemical and physical processes 
  • the greenhouse gas emission reductions form production and use of biochar
  • the socio-economic challenges of production and use of bio-char.

Results will be used to propose better ways to use farm organic resources for improved impacts on energy, farm output and soil health.

There are opportunities for MSc thesis projects within this research project. Contact Cecilia Sundberg for more information.


The BICEPS project started in 2020. FORMAS funds the Swedish part of the project. Erik Karltun at SLU is the project manager.

The project 'Bio-char and smallholder farmers in Kenya - improved use efficiency of farm-level organic resources in relation to energy, crops and soil' lead by Cecilia Sundberg at SLU was funded by VR 2013-2016.

Three projects about Biochar on smallholder farms in Kenya were funded by Formas and VR and performed during 2016-2020, lead by Cecilia Sundberg at KTH and Thomas Kätterer at SLU, respectively.

Results from project

Kätterer, T., Roobroeck, D., Kimutai, G., Karltun E., Nyberg, G., Sundberg C., Roing de Nowina K. 2022. Maize grain yield responses to realistic biochar application rates on smallholder farms in Kenya. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 42, 63. 

Mahmoud Y, Njenga M, Sundberg C, Roing de Nowina K, 2021. Soils, sinks, and smallholder farmers: Examining the benefits of biochar energy transitions in Kenya, Energy Research & Social Science, 75, 102033, 

Sundberg C, E Karltun, JK Gitau, T Kätterer, GM Kimutai, Y Mahmoud, M Njenga, G Nyberg, K Roing de Nowina, D Roobroeck, P Sieber. 2020. Biochar from cookstoves reduces greenhouse gas emissions from smallholder farms in Africa, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 25, 953–967

Gitau, K. J.; Sundberg, C.; Mendum, R.; Mutune, J.; Njenga, M. Use of Biochar-Producing Gasifier Cookstove Improves Energy Use Efficiency and Indoor Air Quality in Rural Households. Energies. 2019

Kätterer, T.; Roobroeck, D.; Andrén, O.; Kimutai, G.; Karltun, E.; Kirchmann, H.; Nyberg, G.; Vanlauwe, B.; Röing de Nowina, K. Biochar Addition Persistently Increased Soil Fertility and Yields in Maize-Soybean Rotations over 10 Years in Sub-Humid Regions of Kenya. F. Crop. Res. 2019, 235, 18–26

Made Sania Saraswati.  2018. Design Improvements for Top-Lit UpDraft Biochar-Producing Gasifier Stove in Rural Kenya from the Users’ Perspective. Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University. ISSN 1650-6553

Libbis Sujessy. 2018. Climate Change Impact Assessment of a Biochar System in Rural Kenya. SEED, KTH