Improved Cook Stoves for East Africa - Rwanda

This initiative is taking a market-based approach in stimulating Rwandan households to switch to better kitchen practices and save firewood. “Improved Cook Stoves for East Africa” extends a successful project from Malawi to Rwandan women for them to locally produce improved cook stoves, which improve their quality of life and help address the problem of climate change.

Fast facts:

  • 3,425 households reached
  • 1.75 tonnes of wood saved per household per year
  • More than 250 men and women directly involved

The problem

Many East African households depend on biomass for cooking and heating. In Rwanda, 95 percent of people use solid fuels for cooking, while further south in Malawi, biomass meets 93 of energy needs. But dependency on solid biomass such as firewood is harming the environment, as overharvesting of wood degrades the land and contributes to climate change. Burning wood for fuel also causes indoor air pollution that adversely affects populations that are already disadvantaged, in particular women and children.

The solution

Companies Hestian Innovations and Billem Innovations are heading up a project for women in Rwandan communities to install and sell a clay-based, more efficient Canarumwe stove. Production is simple and partially mechanized, and uses local materials. Along with stove installation, households are also trained in a variety of practices to better manage the kitchen and improve fuel efficiency.

Imparted efficiency measures include collecting small branches instead of cutting down whole trees, growing their own fuel, and using dry firewood that minimizes smoke emissions. Good kitchen management practices include usage of only a small quantity of firewood, dry firewood only, a lid on pots to retain heat, soaking beans before cooking, and preparing all ingredients before lighting the fire. The initiative also encourages households in Rwanda to consume less firewood, and consider trying other forms of solid biomass such as crop residues and briquettes.

Helping the planet

The project aims for efficient and sustainable tapping of natural resources - using less forest resources at the household level helps preserve such resources for the community. Leaving trees standing allows them to carry out an important carbon-storage function, addressing the problem of climate change.

Collecting less firewood from forests can also prevent erosion and sedimentation of rivers, which is harming ecosystems and hydropower generation. Using more efficient stoves also means less air pollution, both indoors and out.

Helping people

Households save time, effort, money, and possible bodily harm by utilizing more efficient cook stoves. Stoves improve quality of life by reducing exposure of especially women and children to smoke. They also allow Rwandans to invest more time in activities besides collecting firewood. Through money generated by selling stoves, they are able to do things like pay school fees, improve their homes, and buy livestock.

Spillover effect

The Rwandan project is to some extent a replication of a similar project in Malawi. It’s still in its beginning stages, targeting households in 11 of Rwanda’s 30 districts. While low-income rural households are currently being targeted, the project will eventually include middle-income households as well as other biomass efficiency projects, such as green charcoal production, green brick production, and development of productive thermal appliances.


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