The challenge of providing energy for cooking whilst conserving Rwanda’s remaining forests
In Rwanda 98% of the population use biomass as fuel for cooking, resulting in approx. 7,000 deaths from air pollution annually as well as causing significant degradation and deforestation across the country. The total demand for conventional woody biomass for fuel and construction in 2009 was 4.8 million tonnes, although the sustainable supply potential for the same period was only 3.8 million tonnes. This results in a demand “gap” which is not met by sustainable supply and over time leads to overexploitation of sustainably managed areas, reducing the sustainable supply and further increasing the “gap”.
Almost one fifth of Rwanda is forested, of which only 13% is natural forest held within protected areas (none is classed as primary forest). The remainder consists of poorly managed and generally overexploited eucalyptus and pine plantations owned by both State and Private individuals. It is these plantations that currently supply most of the biomass for fuel, although with BAU the gap between sustainable supply and demand becomes so large by 2020 that it is likely that the protected areas would be affected by illegal biomass collection.
In spite of its degraded forest area, Rwanda boasts 15 species of primates including the critically endangered Eastern gorilla and the endangered chimpanzee. Alongside these iconic species are over 670 bird species, 4 of whom are threatened with extinction – the shoebill, Grauer’s rush warbler, the Kungwe apalis and the Congo Bay-owl (also listed as an EDGE species). As a small country (26,338km2) and with a growing population, currently at 11.61 million people, Rwanda has the highest population density of all countries in Africa. The largest threats to the remaining natural ecosystems are linked to population pressure and poverty, and the demand for biomass is primarily for wood fuel and charcoal.
Inyenyeri’s approach to cooking energy provision
Inyenyeri, a Rwandan fuel-utility company, has developed a unique and innovative model that provides even the poorest households access to a clean cooking solution.
Inyenyeri produces sustainably sourced wood pellets, that when paired with the cleanest available biomass cookstove, reduces the amount of wood used for cooking by 80-90% compared to traditional cooking methods. This allows the company to crowdsource wood from rural families, who in exchange receive the Fuel+Stove system for no cash, and still have enough pellets to sell pellet fuel to urban households at a cost lower than cooking with charcoal. This Fuel+Stove system will significantly contribute to preventing death and disease, deforestation, and climate change caused by household air pollution.
The MimiMoto Fan-Gasifying Stove that the company uses is the world’s cleanest solid biomass stove, the first of its kind to meet IWA Tier 4 Indoor Air Quality Standards- the emissions profile of LPG. Using these stoves will reduce 212k metric tons of wood from being used for fuel, which is equivalent to 1,256 ha of forest.
Althelia investment and scale up
Inyenyeri is eager to scale quickly in response to the seriousness to Rwanda’s biomass shortage. With a financing facility of up to €8m from Althelia Climate Fund, Inyenyeri aims to provide 50,000 households with a clean cooking solution by 2020 and will explore exporting the model to other countries.