Promoting Market Based Energy Access for Cooking and Lighting in Kakuma Refugee Camp

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Refugees living in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Northern Kenya rely primarily on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs and services, with limited levels of access to clean energy products.

The Market-Based Energy Access (MBEA) project was designed to drive a shift from a humanitarian, donation-based approach to market-based energy access for refugees in Kakuma refugee camp, Kalobeyei integrated settlement, and the surrounding host community. SNV implemented the pilot phase of the project between October 2017 and September 2019 with funding from the Energising Development (EnDev) programme. MBEA II launched in October 2019.

The recently published report Promoting Market Based Energy Access for Cooking and Lighting in Kakuma Refugee Camp: Experiences & Lessons learned presents the experiences and lessons learned from the MBEA pilot project with an overview of the project design, activities, results, lessons learnt, and key recommendations.


Kakuma refugee camp is located in Turkana County in Northern Kenya and was established in 1992 as a result of war in Sudan. To promote better integration between refugees and the host community, Kalobeyei integrated settlement was established in 2018. Today, the camp and settlement host 192, 000 refugees with new arrivals every day from various conflict zones across the region. UNHCR coordinates provision of basic goods and services, including the distribution of free firewood rations, which covers one-third of households’ fuel requirements. The camp is not connected to a formal grid for electricity supply. The lack of energy access leaves most people to rely on lighting and cooking solutions that are typically characterized as expensive and inefficient with adverse effects on health, safety and the environment. 


The Market Based Energy Access project was set out to provide clean, safe and affordable cooking and lighting solutions through a market-based approach in Kakuma and Kalobeyei to both the refugee and host community. The project activities were primarily aimed at creating market supply through facilitating market entry and business development activities by suppliers of clean cookstoves and solar lighting systems. In addition, awareness raising, and community sensitization activities promoted household demand for these products. Throughout the project, SNV engaged closely with UNHCR, representatives of the local government, the host community and refugee community leaders.


By end 2019, the project had realized the market entry of 12 private sector companies to the camp, facilitating the sales of solar lanterns (2556 units), solar home systems (4322 units), and industrial cookstoves (2005 units) to both the refugee and host community. 

In addition, a local Stove Production Unit (SPU) was set up, and commercialized to increase the availability of high quality, affordable, and locally produced artisanal charcoal and wood stoves. The SPU, which was operationalized towards the end of the project, produced and sold 277 stoves and continues operations in the camp. 

These sales figures show promising results in transitioning towards market-based models for energy provision in humanitarian settings. Private sector partners have set up shops and engaged local sales agents, committing to a long-term presence in the camp.

However, building a market for clean energy products in the complex environment of a refugee camp and the host community also faces challenges. Lessons learnt and recommendations on market-based access to energy have fed into follow-on activities under the MBEA II project.

Lessons learned & recommendations

The following key recommendations were identified:

  • All stakeholders must be included and willing to commit to achieving the transition to a market-based model for energy access.
  • Marketing efforts must be complemented with awareness raising and sensitization among households to increase acceptance and adoption of clean energy products.
  • More work needs to be done to attract industrial cookstove suppliers to sell in the camp, alongside a diversification of alternative fuel supply chains.
  • Barriers to access to finance and default risks must be addressed to increase uptake among low income households.
  • Decentralized, local business operations lead to improved customer service and should be expanded further to drive market sustainability.

For more details, read the final report on experiences and lessons learned from the MBEA pilot project with an overview of the project design, activities, results and elaborate lessons learnt and key recommendations.