Author: Eugene Sibomana, Communications/PI Associate, UNHCR
This article has been reposted from unhcr.org. View the original article here
KIGEME Refugee Camp| Rwanda: Small, in mud, roofed with iron sheets, others with some old plastic sheets, shelters dot a hill of the southern province in Rwanda. This is Kigeme refugee camp, home to 18,000 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been living here since 2012.
Life is difficult because of lack of basic necessities, particularly the lack of firewood which is the common cooking fuel at refugee camps in Rwanda. A 27 years old mother of six children, Emerance Gikundiro says that the use of firewood in the refugee camp has a strong impact on the environment, health, and also in relation to the local community.
“Excessive usage of firewood in this camp has damaged our beautiful environment. Some of us face respiratory problems, also it has caused disputes and sometimes fights with local people when fetching firewood…,” she said.
“In the Congolese culture, collecting firewood is typically a task for women and girls. These have been often harassed or attacked while collecting firewood in the neighboring areas,” Emerance added.
“Our worries of traveling long journeys for firewood are now over! Each day that passed, we thought over what we were going to use for cooking the next meal. At times we skipped a meal for lack of firewood. With the new Inyenyeri solution, we are living in paradise.” – Beatrice Akimana.
In September 2016, Inyenyeri, a social enterprise opened a shop inside Kigeme refugee camp. Customers purchase Inyenyeri’s Made-in-Rwanda fuel pellets on a monthly basis, which they use as fuel in the world’s cleanest cook stove that is supplied for free for Inyenyeri’s clients. Using Inyenyeri reduces the exposure of women and children to toxic emissions by 98% and reduces the amount of biomass needed to cook meals by 80%-90%. This technology provides durable and effective solutions to Congolese refugees hosted in Kigeme.
Emerance Gikundiro acknowledges a big change with Inyenyeri stoves, comparing to traditional cooking with firewood.
“We used to cook with firewood. As we are used to cook inside our shelters, it was smoky and we were worried about our children’s health. With these stoves we do not need to worry anymore, we’re safe and living in a clean home,” she says.
Since the project started, there are already more than three hundred households signed on as clients and 500 people sign up on a waiting list. In line with the livelihoods strategy, Inyenyeri also enables refugees to obtain decent jobs in the pellet value chain. Currently refugees are employed within retail and maintenance, but they are also expected to be involved in pellet production when Inyenyeri established a factory close to the camp to service more clients. Inside Kigeme camp, five refugees are currently working as Customer Service Representatives and receive monthly salaries electronically on their bank accounts.
Ngaruye Dieudonné, 25 years old is an employee of Inyenyeri. He says that with his job he is now able to meet his need needs and support his family.
“With this job, life is better now. I have joined a savings cooperation and eventually I wish to start a small business of my own,” he says.
UNHCR plans to provide a cash equivalent of firewood for Inyenyeri clients who wish to switch to pellets.
“The feedback from refugees on the fuel plus stove Inyenyeri solution has been nothing but positive,” says Jakob Oster, UNHCR Livelihood officer.
“We wish that more and more refugee homes experience the comfort of using clean and safer energy and we hope that this becomes a standard in all refugee camps in Rwanda,” he added.