Safer Rwanda changing the way rural residents cook

SaferRwanda is changing the way rural residents in Rwanda’s Southern province cook. The organisation assembles a modern cookstove (Save80) that has been proven to cut wood fuel costs by 80%. The non-profit organisation started in the year 2000, with an aim to protect the environment through planting trees, use of household solar systems and efficient cookstoves with reduced emissions.

Efficiency goes rural 

SaferRwanda is changing the way rural residents in Rwanda’s Southern province cook. The organisation assembles a modern cookstove (Save80) that has been proven to cut wood fuel costs by 80%.

The non-profit organisation started in the year 2000, with an aim to protect the environment through planting trees, use of household solar systems and efficient cookstoves with reduced emissions.

“Of course our vision has grown progressively over time, but we have stayed true to environmental conservation”, the Safer Rwanda distribution coordinator, Callixte Murangwa said.

The company has partnered with SNV, the Netherlands development organisation, in its Renewable Energy for Nutrition project which links renewable energy technology providers and rural populations. The project has organised eight solar and ICS exhibitions in Muhanga, Nyaruguru and Karongi.

“Through our partnership, Safer Rwanda has sold about 20 stoves per exhibition,” the RET4Nutrition program manager, Hudhaifa Gasasira said.

Safer Rwanda has implemented the project since 2013 and has so far distributed 15,300 stoves assembled at their plant in Bumbogo sector in Gasabo District next to the industrial park in Kigali. The stove is made of steel metal sheets imported from Germany in partnership with Atmosfair, a German organisation.

Besides being eco-friendly, the organisation has gone beyond the search for profit to subsidise their product in order to grant rural households access to their revolutionary product.

“Initially the stove would cost about 100,000Rwf, but we are selling it at 26,500Rwf thanks to a subsidy enabled by Atmosfair and approved by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),” said Molly Mutesi, the Save80 Project coordinator.

Murangwa and Mutesi demonstrate how the Save80 stoves are assembled from steel plates. The organisation has sold 15,300 stoves since launching the product in 2013

SWITCHING TO MODERN COOKSTOVES AS ONE

Esperance, Thancien, Esperance and Epiphania, right, pose for a photo at Epiphania's home in Mushishiro sector, Muhanga district. these women are part of Ubumwe cooperative, a group of maize farmers who have discovered the benefits of cooking using Save80 cooksoves.

One cooperative in Mushishiro sector of Muhanga district is fully sold out to renewable energy technologies. The awakening came through their president Epiphania Mukarubariza. She may only be five feet tall but she is an authority over the 19 women and two men who are members of Ubumwe Mushishiro cooperative society.

The cooperative began in 2010, conceived by women who wanted to collectively farm and market maize. Together the group owns 2ha of land on which they produce arrowroots, sweet potatoes, maize and cassava. Their biggest customers are schools in the sector.

 “We encourage people to join and take advantage of the collective marketing. Being a group increases our chances of getting funds for any venture we embark on together,” Epiphania explained, adding that the purchase of improved cookstoves is one such fringe benefit. “I cannot tell you how much SNV has helped us; even the poorest member has a stove!”.

Epiphania lights up when she remembers how she came across the revolutionary cookstoves that have transformed lives in the households of her members.

“I was invited to a workshop where SNV was teaching about balanced diet and renewable energy. We also saw some modern stoves that were new to us. I came back and told my members what I had learnt. We decided to take a loan from the District Sacco to enable members to buy the stoves. As we waited for the loan, we attended an exhibition in Muhanga and placed an order for 21 stoves. SNV later delivered them to our village, and all the extra stoves were sold to villagers,” Epiphania narrated.

The cooperative members are enjoying their stoves while repaying the loan of 550,000Rwf payable in two years.

Best practice

Epiphania and her coop members realise that renewable energy can only create impact if it is experienced. They have therefore began mobilisation campaigns in Mushishiro, during times when they are not working on the farm. The cooperative members gather together residents of various Cells in Mushishiro for diet clinics where they demonstrate the efficacy of the stoves. Through these clinics, they have been able to convince residents to eat balanced diet and put aside money to invest in stoves.

Teacher finds second passion in cookstoves

Justine Niyigena checks how far rice has cooked on her Save80 Type B stove.

Justine Niyigena is a P6 school teacher at Ecole Primaire Mushubati in Muhanga District who is looking to sell the stoves, to capitalize on the benefit she has experienced first-hand. She bought the stove in 2014 by serendipity.

“A certain woman was retailing them in town and she told us how the stoves could save firewood. I am glad I listened and bought it even though it had not become popular yet!”

At the time she made the decision to invest in a Save80 stove, Justine was using two sacks of charcoal per month, spending some 16,000Rwf for both. She was also buying firewood worth about 5,000Rwf. On a teacher’s salary, the energy bill was not sustainable.

 “I now spend just 5,000Rwf on firewood and buy one sack of charcoal. With the 8000Rwf I have managed to save each month, I have bought pigs, rabbits, a goat and some chickens to keep at home”.

Justine says she is also able to feed her children meat more frequently as a result of the livestock venture she has undertaken and the children are healthier. But she has an even greater reason to be grateful;

“My children come home for lunch and it is usually ready before 12 noon, they used to carry cold packed lunch. Now every meal they eat is hot, and as a mother it makes me happy”.

Justine has cut a niche as a mobiliser for renewable energy. “Just from talking to my colleagues, I have managed to convince some 48 people to buy a stove,” she remarked proudly.

The RET4Nutrition project has succeeded in creating linkage between rural households in Muhanga and renewable energy technologies through exhibitions and mobilisation efforts.

My stove sent my child back to school

Emmanuel shows how bright his solar lamps can be.

Emmanuel's wife Francine serves a plate of beans for her son after school.

Emmanuel Habumuremyi considers his Save80 cookstove an investment, not an expense. The stove has improved life for the family of seven in unconventional ways. He and his family live in Shogwe sector, Muhanga district. Previously an ordinary rural family typically cooking with a firewood furnace and trying to light a smoky kitchen using a kerosene lantern, they are now setting the example in energy efficiency for the neighbours.

“I used to spend 15,000Rwf per month on firewood. If I bought a log it would last us a day, now it goes upto four days. This has reduced my firewood budget to 1,200Rwf per month,” Emmanuel said.

For Emmanuel, buying an improved cookstove and a solar lamp has translated in a monthly savings of about 14,000Rwf. “We used that money to send one of our children back to school after he had been home for lack of school fees,” Emmanuel said.

Emmanuel recalls the health issues the family suffered before switching to renewable energy. “The children would have black stuff in their nostrils after using the kerosene lantern we call ‘katadowa’, but now they are alright”, he recalled.

His wife Francine quantifies the benefits from a different perspective - nutrition. “I wake up at 5am, put beans to cook and go to the farm after putting them in the wonderbox. I no longer come back to check whether the fire has gone out, I come to eat. And my kitchen is clean, all the time,” she added.

The couple have held several demonstration sessions in their home and managed to convince 160 people from 9 SILC groups in their sector to invest in a cooking stove of their own.