During the just concluded Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) expo at Gikondo in Kigali, many visitors crammed around one stand marvelling at ‘magical’ stoves.
These were not ordinary stoves as they are powered by only one piece of charcoal, hydrogen, and are connected to electricity or four radio batteries using a phone charger.
“Considering daily feeding needs of a family, school fees, rent and other expenses, the high price of charcoal is very frustrating. Currently a bag of charcoal in Kigali costs over Rwf8,000. That is why I bought this stove that uses one piece of charcoal; it is really amazing,” said Samuel Nyirimanzi, a father of five children residing in Kicukiro District.
The stove, which costs Rwf15,000, can last for at least three years, according to the exhibitors.
Fahadi Imanzi, the manufacturer of the stoves, said the “Rengera Modern Cooker Stove” uses only one unit of electricity per month (costing Rwf300) and one piece of charcoal per cooking.
“The main advantage of the stove is that it solves energy problems and protects the environment by limiting deforestation. It uses hydrogen and charcoal. The hydrogen is generated automatically from the water in the stove as one cooks. One sack of charcoal can be used for between three to six months depending on size of the family or how many times you cook,” he explained.
To start the stove, Imanzi explained, the charcoal is set alight and electricity is immediately plugged in using a phone charger that powers a motor that produces hydrogen.
The stove can also use charcoal debris or domestic waste like banana or potato peels or dry cabbage leaves.
According to the Minister for Education, Dr Papias Musafiri, Rwanda could reduce the import burden if TVETs were strengthened to supply home-made products.
“This is what will help us achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All emerging innovations, both by schools and private individuals, should be given space to be developed so that they do not remain on the drawing boards,” he stressed.
Experts say post 2015 SDGs call for urgent action to combat climate change and its impact, affordable and sustainable modern energy, as well as forest management, among others.
Status on charcoal use
According to Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, wood fuel remains the only affordable fuel for the majority of Rwandans.
Kigali’s demand accounts for 60% of the national charcoal production.
The fourth edition of Rwanda Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV 4) 2013/14 indicated that 83.3 per cent of Rwandans use biomass energy for cooking (wood and charcoal) - dominantly used in the countryside by 94.4 per cent of the households.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, biomass is used by more than 80 per cent of urban households as the main source of cooking energy, according to FAO 2014 report.
The demand, expected to double in Africa by 2030, is fuelled by rapid urbanisation and population growth.
The national target of promotion of improved stoves in Rwanda is to move from 15 per cent to 30 per cent in Kigali, and from 4 per cent to 10 per cent in other cities by 2020, according to Adrienne Mukashema, the deputy director in charge of forestry management at Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA).
Production and burning of charcoal continue to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases as Africa is said to be the largest emitter from charcoal production (2/3 of emissions globally).