Rwanda: Best Practice Case Studies

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Energy programs have been implemented across Africa and specifically the Eastern Africa by various organizations for over twenty-five years. Programs have evolved and improved by taking advantage of both formal and informal communication of program features and lessons learned. The best practice projects presented herein seek to build experience and knowledge by establishing a structure for sharing best practices to help meet today’s complex energy challenges.

Improved Charcoal Stoves in Urban and Peri-urban Kigali, Rwanda

Inefficient transformation and use of biomass and a rapidly growing population have put Rwanda’s natural resource base under intense pressure. Excessive cutting of trees for fuel, farming, and urbanization has led to deforestation, soil erosion, and excess run-off that has reduced the lifespan of dams and hydro-electric plants. Lack of energy in some regions has exacerbated food security and nutritional deficiencies, undermining the country’s efforts to meet its development objectives.

It is within this larger context that the Government of Rwanda announced in May 2006 its desire to increase the use of fuel-efficient charcoal cook stoves to as near 100% of households as possible.

Implementation Strategy

The project builds on previous advances, and uses the power of the Rwandan private commercial sector to increase the production and purchase of fuel-efficient charcoal stoves in a sustainable manner.
While the plan focuses on Kigali as the largest market with the best potential for significantly reducing charcoal usage in a sustainable, commercial way, it is envisioned that some of the secondary towns likely will be served by the market linkages created by the project. However, additional resources would need to be allocated to an additional program specifically targeting secondary towns to achieve similar impacts (i.e. the 80% market penetration sought in Kigali) elsewhere.
Surveys of both cook stove vendors and randomly-selected households in various parts of Kigali undertaken during the project study indicate that the canamaké stove is the most popular existing improved stove, with approximately 40% market penetration (percentage of households with one or more canamaké stove).
The stove tests revealed that the higher quality one-pot canamaké, representative of the model to be disseminated, achieved average fuel savings of approximately 33% over traditional all-metal and all-ceramic stoves. In other words, the canamaké stove used one-third less fuel on average than the household’s existing stove. At this rate, the payback period for the stove would be one to two weeks, depending on the canamaké’s purchase price (between US$2-3) and the user’s actual savings, which will vary somewhat according to stove use and the household’s current stove.
Though distribution of the stoves is well developed, some improvements could be made in Kigali neighborhoods with low penetration of the high quality stove.
In this way, underserved neighborhoods would become better served by the commercial distribution network, and the rate of adoption in those areas and in general would be improved.

Impacts and Benefits

While it would be desirable to achieve 100% adoption of the most fuel-efficient, charcoal cookstoves among Kigali’s charcoal-using households, in fact there are some households that will be reluctant to buy a given product because feel they cannot afford it, or they don’t like it for whatever reason. Therefore, a 3-year goal of 80% is more realistic.
This time line is for a three-year project in which intensive promotion of existing high-quality stoves is pursued concurrently with improving the quality standards of stove producers. The idea is for intensive activity from the beginning in order to begin registering significant results within the first year. The second year would see the growth continue, arriving at the objective late in the third year when the emphasis will be on consolidation of the gains made in quality and quantity. At the end of the project modest growth should continue.

The project presents an opportunity to achieve something unprecedented – efficient charcoal cookstove market penetration on an unparalleled scale, with an improved cookstove for almost every pocketbook. Several key activities must be carried out in a tightly coordinated fashion for this to be accomplished. However, first, the quality of a high percentage of canamaké cookstoves must be raised considerably for consumers to have confidence in the product. Second, branding must be undertaken in order to make it as clear as possible to consumers how to identify good quality versions of the canamaké. Third, mass media marketing will be critical to market development and therefore to the achievement of the project’s sales objectives.

Institutional Biogas in Rwandan Prisons

In Rwanda, the 1994 war and genocide resulted in severe overcrowding of prisons, holding over five times the number of prisoners originally planned, over 120,000 nationwide. The overpopulation led to unsustainable use of firewood for cooking and rendered toilet facilities inoperative, posing health risks to the prisoners, and to the general public, through air pollution, and contamination of soils and water.
Between 2001 and 2002, the Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST) successfully set up a pilot biogas project at Cyangugu Central Prison to address the problems of sanitation, alternative fuel for cooking purposes, and the possibility of recovering manure for production of food crops and woodlots. The Project was financed by the Ministry of Internal Security, and Penal Reform International, with contribution from KIST in the form of continuous research and development.

Implementation Strategy

Through treating toilet wastes from the entire prison, 275 m³ of biogas is generated daily for cooking purposes. As a result, biogas has reduced firewood demand in the prison by 50%; the bio-effluent is now safely applied on the farm, and the bucket system of evacuating toilet pits has stopped, as the wastes flow by gravity: from toilets to bio-digester, and from bio-digester to the farm.
To ensure the replication of this success, UNDP is supporting a KIST-implemented biogas project for Kigoma Prison, with funding from the Netherlands Embassy. In addition, the Ministry of Internal Security, in partnership with the Red Cross, has plans to provide three prisons per year with biogas systems.

Impacts and Benefits

To date the project has trained a total of 150 artisans and technicians, out of which 3 private businesses have so far been established. In 2005 KIST won an international environmental award in recognition of its innovative work at Cyangugu Prison, the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy. It is planned that by 2013 no prison will be using firewood.

-> A more recent story on the prisons can be read here.

Further Information


GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: VII - Best Practice Case Studies.