Rwf10 billion initiative to ease access to renewable energy in refugee camps

Kigeme refugee camp (pictured)consumes 10,092 cubic meters of fire wood. Sam Ngendahimana.

At least 60,000 refugees in Kigeme, Gihembe and Nyabiheke refugee camps will benefit from a Rwf10billion 3year project to provide affordable and sustainable sources of renewable energy, officials have announced.

The project will be implemented by UNHCR and Practical Action NGO in partnership with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee affairs.

The initiative comes after it was realized that every year, Kigeme refugee camp consumes 10,092 cubic meters of fire wood, Nyabiheke uses 5,522 cubic meters while Gihembe Refugee camp consumes 6,396 cubic meters, something that poses a threat to forests.

It will target homes, health clinics, business and schools that are dependent on energy to operate as well as helping entrepreneurship to develop.

There is need of clean cooking by using biogas, briquettes or efficient cooking stoves, renewable energy in heating and cooling, phone charging, powering equipment and businesses, lighting for homes, street and space lighting, wash facilities, solar water heating, among others according to officials.

Speaking during an expert roundtable at Kigali Convention center this week, Jeanne d’Arc Debonheur, Minister for Disasters and Refugees (MIDMAR) said the project is timely since it comes when government has been attracting private sector to tap into opportunities of environment protection in refugee camps and surrounding communities while promoting business opportunities for self-reliance among refugees.

“Fire wood consumption has been posing great pressure on many hectares of forests which triggers different disasters. The project is of one of the ways to find sustainable energy solutions to environmental issues. We believe that in getting sustainable energy solutions we will be able to equip the refugees and hosting communities with sustainable livelihoods,” she said.

The government of Rwanda has agreed to be part of a comprehensive refugee response framework which means a lot for us moving from humanitarian to development, and we believe this expert round table will also give the Government of Rwanda the tool of working together to scale up sustainable renewable energy, Minister Debonheur noted.

Denyse Umubyeyi, the Project Manager of Renewable Energy for Refugees said that the renewable energy investment will be carried out through innovative approaches in humanitarian settlements while also creating jobs among refugees.

“The project will help create jobs in the refugee camps, design ways of how refugees can get materials that use renewable energy at affordable prices, exploit the energy in doing business through mini grids in a sustainable way. We will also train refugees about renewable energy opportunities,” she said.

We will build a market system to ensure sustainability of sources of renewable energy and promote innovation among refugees to be able to create jobs using renewable energy, she said.

Jechoniah Kitala, the Head of Energy Programmes, Practical Action-East Africa said that the initiative will also empower children’s education considering that over 291 million of children worldwide go to school without access to electricity.

“55 per cent of additional electricity for households will be needed through mini grid and off-grid energy,” he added.

Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen, who heads Humanitarian Energy at Practical Action said availing renewable energy solutions will be done in partnership with the private sector as well as helping refugees help themselves in improving the sources of energy.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and UN agencies are implementing a Joint Strategy on Economic Inclusion of Refugees to enable them to become self-reliant and contribute to the economic development of their host communities.

The joint initiatives target to support the government to graduate 18,000 camp-based refugees from food and/or cash for food assistance programmes by mid-2018 while the strategy will also strive to create access to formal employment opportunities for up to 60,000 refugees and have a similar number using banking services by mid-2018.

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