Kigali's 'modern' stove makers count losses

Efforts to reduce high wood fuel consumption in the city could soon face hard times after residents shunned energy efficient stoves, a situation that also threatens the city's environment and green growth initiatives.
Improved stove makers wait for customers. The innovation has attracted lukewarm reception from city residents. (File)
Improved stove makers wait for customers. The innovation has attracted lukewarm reception from city residents. (File)

Efforts to reduce high wood fuel consumption in the city could soon face hard times after residents shunned energy efficient stoves, a situation that also threatens the city’s environment and green growth initiatives. 

The improved cooking stoves were introduced among City of Kigali low-income dwellers about four years ago to ease pressure on forests and also to promote sustainable development. But residents say the ‘modern’ stoves are expensive, meaning that organisations making them are finding it hard to run their projects sustainably.

“Improved stove (commonly known as Cana rumwe ivuguruye stoves), save 45 per cent of charcoal compared to the ordinary stoves and last for about three years,” says Alain Nsanzabaganwa, the treasurer of AJDR Co-operative in Kimironko, one of the groups that make the stoves. 

He says the ‘new generation’ stoves conserve energy and promote sustainable woodlot management. They cost between Rwf4,000 and Rwf5,000 each. 

“People have not yet embraced the stoves because they have not realised that the stoves could help them save money,” Nsanzabaganwa notes. 

This has dealt a heavy blow to the initiative.

“For instance, since 2012 we have sold about 6,000 stoves; retailers are now hesitant to buy them saying few customers ask for them,” he points out.

He says their earnings have stagnated at between Rwf800,000 and Rwf1.1 million for the past few years as customers shun the stoves in favour of the traditional and high wood fuel consuming stoves.

According to the national biofuels energy strategy, over 20 per cent of Kigali households were targeted for the improved cook stoves. 

The Kigali state of the environment and outlook report for 2013 indicates that about 30 per cent of people in Kigali used wood fuel for cooking between 2010 and 2011, while charcoal usage was up by 65 per cent over the same period. 

The report adds however that demand for wood and charcoal fuel is growing. It also notes that people in rural areas, Kigali and its outskirts have abandoned the use of energy efficient stoves in favour of the traditional one.

Yohani Mupenzi, one of the makers of the energy efficient stoves in Kimironko, says people have not embraced the new improved stove because of poverty. 

“At the beginning of the initiative we were paid by the sector to distribute energy efficient stoves to people at friendly prices, but we no longer have this support,” Mupenzi says.

Etienne Kayira says though the ordinary stoves last a few months and cannot be repaired, they are pocket-friendly.

Laurence Mukahirwa of Jabana sector, Gasabo District says her family uses a ‘simple immobile’ energy efficient stove for boiling water or “when my children want to keep their bodies warm or roast potatoes”, noting that it consumes less wood fuel compared to the ordinary stoves.

“The ordinary stove requires a lot of wood fuel compared to the new ones. So using improved stoves has helped us save,” she says. 

Adrie Mukashema, Deputy Director General in charge of forestry in Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), says if low-income earners in the city embraced the improved stove, “and efficient techniques of making charcoal using few trees”, this will save 630,000 tones of wood or about 30 per cent reduction in deforestation. 

“In seven years, this would save 318 kilotonnes of wood (15 per cent of city wood land). However, to achieve this we require concerted efforts of all stakeholders,” Mukashema says.

The Kigali State of Environment and Outlook indicates that the City of Kigali needs to prioritise environmental conservation for it to achieve its green growth objective. 

Under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) Rwanda targets a 11.5 per cent annual growth rate; and has a long-term strategy to reduce wood fuel consumption from 94 to 50 per cent by 2020. 

The country is also promoting green growth under EDPRS II to ensure sustainable development and environmental conservation.

Issa Karera, an expert in improved cook stove at the Energy Development Corporation biomass unit, says they will continue sensitising people on the benefits of using improved stoves to ensure universal acceptability. 

The organisation works with firms such as Inyenyeri, Delagua, as well as different associations that produce various models of improved cook stoves. 

He says between 1,600 and 3,000 improved stoves are produced and distributed each year within Kigali and surrounding areas.

 

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