Author: Lukas Gavril Gnaur

Wood fuel saving cook stoves are improving livelihoods in Kenya

With the support of the ACP-EU Energy facility, the project “Improved cook stoves for Households and Institutions” has enhanced access to and use of efficient, renewable and clean energy options in five counties in Kenya.

Approximately 200,000 people have experienced significant improvements in livelihood with new efficient wood fuel cook stoves with a saving wood fuel capacity up to 50% according to the project partners: Hivos, ETC and SCODE. Especially women have been targeted, and women are now at the centre of stove installation, maintenance and repair in the five counties. The participation of women in the value chain has translated to income generation, which in turn has increased women’s standing in their families and within the community. The empowering of women in the project, making them “change agents” within their communities, is a big part of the project’s success.

Engagement with village credit associations, SACCO’s, has ensured access to cook stoves allowing SACCO-members to buy stoves on credit. Thus, poor rural households delivering milk to their SACCO can now access a cook stove through a check off system. However, this has only been applicable in counties with a strong SACCO movement.

The adoption of a market-based approach has ensured that an income can be derived by anyone or any organisation that decides to enter the cook stove value chain. The project has made a difference for many poor households in poor rural areas; however, the highest impact has been in the areas with most economic resources where the market for improved cook stove has had the best conditions to thrive.

 

Strategic shift in Senegal from biogas to organic fertilizer

The Program of Implementation and Dissemination of Biodigesters in Rural Areas of Senegal (PIDB), aims at reducing poverty and improving living conditions through access to biodigesters.

During implementation, the project discovered that a byproduct of the biodigester – organic fertilizer produced of the biogas slurry – was much more commercially interesting than the biogas itself. A new strategy has now been put to action where the beneficiaries repay the construction investment of the biodigester in organic fertilizer sold to companies. Instead of subsidizing the construction of biodigester, the project now offers a financial guarantee to those companies willing to endeavor into this new economic activity in Senegal.

In addition, some of the fertilizer produced can also be reused for personal gardens, increasing the yield of this activity. The arduousness of women’s daily lives is also diminished by the biogas as they can cook faster and no longer need to collect firewood.

The main constraint to produce biogas – and organic fertilizer – is the feeding of the digester. The bacteria cultures need to be fed daily, using a mixture of animal and vegetable waste and 50 liters of water, for the most widespread biodigester model in this project. Access to water and waste is mandatory and it takes time and effort for the household to gather those essential components and keep the digesters running. Here the commercial importance of the fertilizer plays a key role as it turns the activity into an important source of income.

In addition, the lack of grass often forces the peasants in Senegal to move to find pastures, or to leave their animals to the shepherds. Without a direct access to animal waste, there is a risk of killing the bacteria culture in the digester. Solutions still needs to be found but the commercial value of the fertilizer makes that task easier.

If the project succeeds it would entail fewer people moving in the dry season which would allow for a profound change on every aspect of development, starting for example by the education of children now having the possibility to remain in the school all year.

Biogas is not a technology for the poorest households. Nevertheless, there is great potential in villages with access to water and for households with at least 5 head of livestock.

Multi-technology project adds flexibility to meet different local needs

 

The project for access to electrical services in small towns in the Sédhiou region in Senegal, has had a great impact. Through a multi-technology approach the project has been able to adapt to different needs in the region. The three technology types include connection to the existing grid, mini hybrid power plants or connections with individual systems (SHS). The project has resulted in a total of 131 villages being electrified, which has had a high impact on the local living environment.

A great strength of the multi-technology approach is that it allows the right technology can be applied based of the beneficiaries’ needs or economic interests rather than selecting villages based on the characteristics of the technology. This is definitely an approach to be considered in other electrification projects.

However, even though all infrastructures were completed, the active participation of the society was not as high as expected. This was mainly due to the fact that community users could not afford the connection fees.

But the potential impact of the project is still significant, and two grid-connected villages have had an accelerated increase in the number of connections after the project. Access to electricity means possibilities for cols storage for commercial and domestic use, metal welding and milling etc. Furthermore, public lighting has had important impact for the living environment allowing improvement of the education of children of young people.

High impact of cross-border electrification in Togo from Benin and Ghana

Because of long distances, it is often found too expensive to electrify isolated areas by grid. In the case of isolated areas close to neighbouring countries, however, it can in some cases be feasible to connect from the neighbouring country where the electricity grid might be closer. To overcome the high expenses and challenges of electrifying isolated areas, three projects have implemented cross-border electrification-projects in the northern, western and southern parts of Togo from Ghana and Benin respectively. The regional organisation, West African Power Pool, has led all three projects in collaboration with the national utility companies.

 

Impact is visible in the larger villages electrified by the project. These have experienced a significant increase in economic activities with more craftsmen and shops among the positive socio-economic effects of the cooperation across borders. The population in all villages achieving electrification have experienced improvement in living conditions and now enjoys a social life in the evening, lower risk of snake attacks because of streetlight and access to cold soft drinks and water. Furthermore, health centres report significant improvement in treatment, especially at night. Schools also report a higher student success rate through the ability to study in the evening either in classrooms, under illuminated posts or at home.

 

The three projects have to a large degree improved the quality life in the selected locations. Still, cross-border electrification lines have disadvantages: The main difference between localities served by the Togolese network and localities served by either the Ghanaian or Beninese network, is the duration of outages with the latter experiencing cuts for several days. Causes are difficult to place but can either be due to geography of border areas, where it can be more cumbersome to repair the grid, or because the utility companies in Ghana and Benin are less in a hurry to restore grid lines that supply Togolese clients than they are when it is their own clients that are without electricity. Whatever the reason is, the consequences of long outages are substantial for shops and craftsmen who can go bankrupt as a result of an unexpected electricity break for several days.

The good quality of works and the anticipation of future demand in the dimensioning of lines and transformers have guaranteed a stable and secure service for several years, and the three projects have proved that cross-border electrification can be a feasible alternative to off-grid electrification in isolated areas.

 

Access to modern and sustainable energy services in Mali

The Project, Access to modern and sustainable energy services, in Mali has successfully distributed 4000 improved stoves and 5000 solar powered lamps in cooperation with local women’s groups in 60 villages. The women’s groups have been organized in 4 umbrella organizations that manages their own funds. Currently, the associations have much more working capital than the initial sum they started with, and are continuously ordering new equipment based on the demand of women in the local villages.

The rural areas in Mali often have to deal with very inefficient energy solutions, such as a pot on three stones for cooking, and low quality battery-torches or kerosene lamps for lighting. Although these areas have a great potential for introducing more efficient solutions that can benefit women in terms of time and resources, the lack of economic resources and effective distribution systems remain a significant barrier.

The project has identified villages that already had functioning women’s groups, which were organized into associations, and whose members have received training in literacy, counting and management. The associations were provided with an initial sum to start a working capital and have since been responsible for ordering and distributing improved stoves and solar lamps from suppliers – to great effect, given that the current working capital is much higher than the initial sum.

“The lamps give freedom; you can do many things with them and the children have the lighting to study” says a member of the Kotongontala association in the Bougouni Cercle.

 

The various village groups distribute the equipment and collect reimbursement from its members, which includes the cost of the equipment as well as an interest for the associations. AMADER, Agency of the Malian government, has been involved in the project to ensure that the stoves follows the national standards and to strengthen the replication of the approach to other poor rural areas in Mali.

New power line to Muhura and Bugurura

The Muhura power line project has ensured that social services in the cities of Muhura and Bugurura,  such as hospitals, schools, and high schools, as well as households, traders, and various workshops have been connected to a stable supply of electricity. Thus, the Muhura power line project has had a profound social and economic impact.

Formerly, various social services have depended on diesel generators for their supply of power. But the generators have proved too costly in maintenance and diesel expenses. A few households and traders have had small and unreliable solar panels installed and for more electricity demanding tasks, such as welding, people have travelled to the capital, Kigali to use the workshops there, but after the project, there are now several workshops in the area thanks to the power supply.

The two cities are experiencing a boom in economic activities that, according to the head of the Umudugu in Muhura, are clearly visible, “The city is much improved. Now, we can do the same things here as in Kigali. We now have local workshops – mills, welding – a hairdresser’s salon, cold drinks.”

In order to connect the two cities with a stable and strong supply of electricity, the project build a power line that runs 15 kilometres from the Rwandan national power line to Muhura, the district capital of Gatsibo.  A distribution network has been installed to sustain the various social services, traders and households in the two cities. Through this project the social services have been connected to the distribution network, whereas connecting households, traders and other private customers is an ongoing process that is handled by the Rwandan electricity company, EUCL.

 

New efficient stoves and charcoal-production techniques in Rwanda

The CASE project has successfully helped in countering deforestation in Rwanda, by introducing more efficient stoves as well as efficient techniques for producing charcoal, affecting approximately 145,000 people.  

Deforestation is a huge environmental issue in all East-African countries. Having lost more than 25% of its forests over the past 40 years, Rwanda is no exception. 96 % of Rwandans still depend on wood for domestic energy – the alternatives being either unreliable or unaffordable – and the demand for land and the degradation of natural resources will only increase. This emphasizes the importance of countering deforestation and finding sustainable solutions to the energy needs of the population.

The main driver behind the deforestation is the use of firewood and especially charcoal for cooking in urban areas. The charcoal is often produced in rural areas far from where it is sold. The CASE project hasfirst of allattempted to reduce the demand for firewood and charcoal, by introducing more efficient stoves. Second, to increase the income of the beneficiaries, the project has helped them to master techniques for producing charcoal. 

The project has helped local authorities to assume their vital role and, with previous experience with Village savings and Loan-groups (VSLs), the project lead, Care Rwanda, used these as a platform for selecting project beneficiaries. A research facility has been responsible for selecting stove models as well as training local stove producers, and an NGO, which specialized in charcoal production, has handled that component.

This setup has produced strong results and the technical solutions, adapted to the local context, have created a lasting impact affecting approximately 145,000 people.  Today, 7 years later, the stoves introduced in the project are still working, and are used and appreciated. The local charcoal-producers are almost exclusively applying the techniques learnt in the project and local authorities are effectively protecting forest resources in cooperation with the charcoal-producers.