Berancilla Bugenimana, 50, wakes up early in the morning, picks an iron bar, axe, and sander, and goes to look for stones to carve in her locality in Musanze District. At 6 am, she starts carving stones to make cooking stoves.
She is able to make three stoves a day in the largely volcanic region in the northwestern part of Rwanda.
Bugenimana is the president of KOHIA, a cooperative that exploits ‘Amakoro’, a stone formed by solidification of volcano lava. The cooperative, which started in 2008, has 45 members, 15 of them women.
The idea to make the stoves came about after one person made a mortar from stone, and later successfully designed the stove. The skill was then shared among other people.
The cooperative, based in Shingiro Sector, has about seven sanders, and a power generator to power the equipment.
She said that, sometimes, they get a huge stone from which they make about 10 stoves. A medium sized stove that uses charcoal is sold at Rwf5,000, while one that uses firewood costs Rwf3,000, Bugenimana said.
However, large cooking stove used to prepare food for a large number of people goes for Rwf15,000.
On the energy efficiency of the stove, she said one small piece of firewood is able to cook food, while the one that uses charcoal is mixed with small stones.
“We put in one piece of charcoal and it burns the small stones to get food ready,” she said adding that many people in Musanze District have adopted use of the stoves.
“Among our members are the historically marginalised Batwa community members, who used to survive by hunting or poaching. Now the stone stoves are their main source of their livelihoods,” she said.
The cooperative does not only supply the stoves in Musanze, they also sell them in nearby districts, and even as far as Kigali. So far, it has supplied 340 stoves in Remera Sector, Gasabo District of Kigali.
The cooperative, Bugenimana said, can make up to 600 stoves upon demand.
Stone made cooking stoves improved her livelihoods,” she said.
Bugenimana testifies that shaping stones to get stoves changed her life for the better.
“I had no house, now I have one. I also have nine sheep and a cow and my children have been able to go to school. One is in second year of university, while another has just completed secondary school,” she proudly said.
“I also bought a piece of land for Rwf1.7 million. All these achievements are thanks to the stoves from stones,” she observed.
Speaking to The New Times, Musanze District vice mayor for Finance and Economic Planning, Augustin Ndabereye, said aside from generating money, the stoves also provide an energy efficient solution because they save firewood and charcoal. He said the stones are found in residents’ fields, hence are easily accessible.
However, Bugenimana decried lack of electricity and she said has been relying on a generator which consumes diesel and sometimes breaks down.
“If we get reliable energy supply we could scale up our operations and generate more income,” she said.
Ndabereye said that the district plans to supply electricity to the area during the 2019/2020 financial year.