Update on energy project in Uganda
An increasing population coupled with fuel wood scarcity and over dependency on it for energy supply led to an energy crisis at the Kyangwali refugee settlement in Uganda in 2013. This was as a result of gradual depletion of vegetation cover. Beyond the environmental challenges, social issues such as women being exposed to abuse and violence as they travelled long distances in search of new energy sources came to the fore.
To address this, the Uganda programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) initiated a project to promote alternative energy sources using materials such as maize cobs, stalks and husks, vegetable peelings to make briquettes for use on energy-saving cooking stoves. With funding support from UNHCR, the goal of the project is to increase access to more sustainable, safer and cleaner energy for refugees and the host community at the Kyangwali refugee settlement.
The community embraced the idea and project participants were identified from different villages. To encourage uptake and quality production, AAH Uganda facilitated learning exchange visits and training on briquette production between 2014 and 2018, and provided briquette producers with 8 manual machines. There has since been a gradual enhanced capacity for briquette production, adoption of alternative sources of fuel and improved involvement and participation in environmental conservation.
Alphonsine Muhawenimaana clearly captures the positive impact the project is having on these communities. She is the group leader of Weka Hakiba Women’s Group, one of the briquette producers that has benefitted from the project. Alphonsine is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived in Uganda in 2009 and now lives in Kyebitaka village within the Kyangwali Refugee settlement. On average Weka Hakiba’s 20 members produce 300kgs of briquettes weekly and sell each bag at approximately USD $16 per bag . There are five other briquette producing groups. Cumulatively the 6 briquette groups produce 1 tonne of briquettes per month.
The project gains to date include:
- Increased adoption on the use of biomass as renewable and profitable energy in Kyangwali.
- Improved household income: Collectively, briquette groups produce an average of 600kgs per week (approximately 2.5 tonnes per month). On average, the income among the briquette producing group members has increased from USD $ 1 to USD $ 1.8 per day. In addition, Nyamiganda groups have formed village savings and loan associations to support their members access to finance.
- Skills transfer through which the trained briquette producers train other members of the community. At least 42 briquette-making groups and more than 500 community members have been trained.
- Increased awareness of the need for tree planting and environmental conservation by protecting the available vegetation cover. The demand for the briquettes has also raised the demand for tree planting for species used in the binding process during briquette production.