Over three billion people cook every day using dirty sources of fuel. The negative impacts on people’s health, safety, and the environment are vast and will have long term effects on our way of life if left unchecked. The world needs a better solution, and an innovative company from Rwanda called Inyenyeri has created one. They provide clean, efficient cookstoves plus fuel to those in need through a for profit model. This easy, cost-effective program reduces biomass use, slashes household emissions, and is available to all regardless of where they live or financial status, including the world’s most vulnerable people: refugees.
According to a 2015 report, access to clean energy is particularly lacking within refugee camps – 80% have ‘absolutely minimal access to energy’. In 2016, Inyenyeri developed a program to provide the cleanest, most fuel-efficient biomass cookstoves currently on the market to refugees in the Kigeme Refugee Camp in Rwanda. The business model integrates free cookstoves with a subscription agreement to purchase biomass pellet fuel on an ongoing basis. Using pellets instead of charcoal reduces the amount of fuel needed, time spent on fuel procurement and cooking. Furthermore, using less charcoal limits deforestation and erosion overall. The program has distributed over 2,000 cookstoves in Kigeme, achieving close to 60% market penetration. While the camp is cashless, UNHCR provides weekly cash transfers to people living in the camp, and Inyenyeri set up a system in which the cash transfers can be exchanged for pellets that power the cookstoves. “When transfers are timely administered, we see as much as 70% of fuel transfers spent on pellets versus other forms of fuel,” said Claude Mansell, Inyenyeri CEO.
Inyenyeri is looking to broaden their work beyond the camp and scale their operations and distribution capabilities. They have already received support from Shine Campaign Partners IKEA Foundation and Oikocredit, and have signed a Memo of Understanding with the Government of Rwanda, represented by the Rwanda Energy Group (REG), with the aim to reach 1 million households with fuel-efficient renewable cooking solutions. With additional funding, Inyenyeri could increase the number of current households served from 5,000 to 30,000. Consider the potential impact, the Inyenyeri system meets 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
We are currently presented with an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the health and future of the Earth and its people. It will take the radical transformation of existing practices to make this change – including moving away from dirty sources of energy, and toward more efficient and sustainable technology. It all starts in the home, and in this case, in the kitchen.