Madeleine Ikizanye, a resident of Nyarugenge District, uses cardboards and sawdust as cooking fuel because she cannot afford to charcoal after prices rose twofold in the past two months.
The prices of charcoal increased to Rwf1,000 (small basket) from Rwf500 at the beginning of this month. A medium-sized basket costs Rwf2,000 presently in city market and suburbs compared to Rwf1,000 previously. Retail traders use baskets of different sizes to measure charcoal.
Ikizanye told The New Times that firewood, which is an alternative source of cooking fuel is also hard to get and costly.
Charcoal is the common source of cooking energy used by many town dwellers, especially low and middle-income earners. According to a study by the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) about three years ago, wood and charcoal remain the major sources of cooking energy in the country, accounting for over 80 per cent.
The survey also indicated that 72 per cent of people in Kigali use charcoal for cooking.
Pierre Kamanzi, a charcoal dealer in Kimisagara Nyarugenge District, attributed the price increase to dwindling supply over the past months from the Southern and Western provinces, the main producers of charcoal, as well as low imports from Tanzania.
Kamanzi said prices started going up at the beginning of March, adding that dealers now buy a sack of charcoal at Rwf10,000 from Rwf6,000 previously. He added that distributors used to buy the commodity at between Rwf4,500 and Rwf5,000 per sack, but it now ranges from about Rwf7,000 to Rwf8,000.
He, however, noted that charcoal prices have generally gone up across the country. This has forced wholesalers and retailers to increase prices to cover costs, like transport charges and rent, he added.
Chantal Uwimana, a house wife, is worried that this will impact her family as she cannot afford liquefied petroleum gas, adding that the majority of city residents do not have domestic animals to set up biogas facilities.
Alternative sources of cooking energy
Dismas Bakundukize, the director of forestry management unit at Rwanda National Resources Authority, encouraged Rwandans to embrace alternative sources of energy like biogas or use energy saving stoves that use less wood fuel or charcoal to protect forests.
According to research by national resources authority, 0.1 per cent of people who are staying in Kigali use liquefied petroleum gas for cooking.
Bakundukize said some districts could have imposed restrictions on charcoal burning to avoid depletion of forests and guard against soil erosion particularly in the hilly countryside.
Government promotes use of alternative energy sources to protect the environment and ensure sustainable forestry development. It targets to gradually reduce reliance on firewood and charcoal for fuel. This is hoped to support the forestry sector to growth and contribute meaningfully to the country’s development besides reducing reliance on imported forest products.