The Ministry of Environment has partnered with UN Food and Agriculture Organisations to develop and scale up different options of bioenergy production that could also help enhance access to modern and clean cooking energy across the country.
The partnership will analyze and identify potential bioenergy feedstock (biological raw materials with ability to generate fuel) and technologies that can be developed in Rwanda for both decentralized energy production and for cooking purposes respectively.
Bioenergy is clean (renewable) energy produced from living organisms such as plants.
Officials said that the move will help government reduce deforestation in line with seven year government programme to reduce the use of firewood and charcoal from 83.3 per cent to 42 per cent by 2024.
Government is keen to help citizens embrace the use of alternative sources of energy such as biogas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and others,
Prime Ngabonziza, Director General of Rwanda Water and Forestry Authority (RWFA) told Sunday Times that the implementation of the partnership will boost options of bioenergy that can be environmentally sustainable and then train people on the role and use, something that will take over two years.
There is need of analysis of potential exists for crop, livestock and agro-processing residues to supply alternative cooking and energy producing fuels, he said.
For instance, many crop residues can be used to produce briquettes and pellets while livestock residues can be used to produce biogas, which can be used for cooking as well as producing pathways to find alternative electricity such as gasification and combustion of sustainably sourced biomass to be combined with solar energy.
Experts say bioenergy strategy should encompass an assessment of all such uses since it could reduce reliance on unsustainably harvested wood in the country thereby reducing pressure on forestry resources.
In fact, between 1990 and 2010, Rwanda lost 37 percent of its forest cover due to high dependency on wood fuel for cooking.
“We will train more Rwandans on using clean cooking energy methods by using bioenergy. Before telling people to use any type of cooking energy, you have to first raise awareness on the importance, equip them with skills and set up models that they have to follow and learn from,’ he said.
Dr Gualbert Gbehounou, the Food and Agriculture Organisation Representative to Rwanda said that what is required is the identification of the appropriate feedstock and technology that can be environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially acceptable within Rwanda in order to reduce deforestation.
The initiative, he said, will manage the knowledge and technology gaps related to sustainable biomass sourcing, bioenergy production and distribution meaning that there is need for cooperation between various ministries and agencies working on agriculture, livestock, environment, forestry and energy.
The experts said that access to modern, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is fundamental to ensure food security and is directly related to the four pillars of food security.
Energy is required to produce food, which has a direct impact on food availability while proper cooking fuels and technologies is fundamental for proper utilization of food, which is also a key pillar of food security.
“We need assessment of the sustainable bioenergy potential and the related production and investment costs,” officials said.