Rwanda | Blogs

  • Energy Supporter Objects – The Variety of Energy Technologies and Uses in Refugee Settings

    December 5th, 2017

    A blog authored by Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen and Anna Okello. December 2017.

    A ‘missing link’ in humanitarian energy access

    Energy is a critical need for refugees and displaced people: millions of displaced people do not have access to energy, and humanitarian agencies and refugees themselves struggle to work with complex energy technology systems and products – as we discuss in the Moving Energy Initiative Report. Recognising this, Practical Action has developed an extensive portfolio of work on energy in humanitarian settings. This includes current research into how refugees practice and perceive energy, undertaken by working with communities to understand how refugees in Kenya engage with energy technologies and the objects that surround them, funded by the University of Edinburgh among others. By ‘objects’ or ‘energy supporter objects’, we mean items and technologies which are integral for, or attached to, sources of energy to make energy-use possible. These technologies can be seen as missing links between the energy supply (e.g. a solar panel) and the service (e.g. a fully charged mobile phone) – the energy supporter object is the phone charger, because without it the end energy use (charging a phone) is impossible. Other examples would include, matches, wires, cooking pots, vehicles for transport, and appliances such as clocks and headphones.

    Our research shows the extent to which communities maximise their total energy access needs by using a variety of energy objects and technologies. This goes far beyond having solar lanterns and improved cook-stoves, as, for people to use these products effectively, they require a great many additional technologies and objects.

    A comprehensive approach to energy poverty in humanitarian settings

    For humanitarian decision-makers to be fully aware of how communities’ use and value energy, we argue that it is vital that the total energy life of refugees is taken into consideration. Energy supporter objects form a core part of the realities of refugee lives, and systems of support and humanitarian response need to consider these physical things as well as basic energy access technologies to effectively work with communities. For example, a bicycle may not be considered an energy technology, but many people are reliant on this form of transport to enable them to move batteries to be charged, to transport firewood, and to deliver diesel fuel.

    Energy supporter objects in practice: Kakuma Refugee Camp

    One area Practical Action works in is Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is in the Turkana District of the north-west of Kenya. In Kakuma there are many diverse communities; with people from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The camp population is currently estimated to be over 180,000 and has been in existence since 1992. In the past few years, the camp has expanded quickly with new arrivals coming from South Sudan or being relocated from Dadaab camp, which may close.

    In Kakuma, there are a dynamic set of markets, energy products and services available within the communities. During our research several types of ‘energy supporter objects’ emerged as being key to the community, including matches, wires, and phone chargers. The table below provides a summary of some of these objects and the type of ‘traditional energy objects’ they are often connected with or to in the Kenyan context.

    Communities solving their own problems

    While we don’t suggest that humanitarian agencies should provide energy supporter objects as part of their responses or aid programmes, we want to draw attention to the ways local communities are already solving these problems themselves. Many of the refugee and host community businesses that exist within or close to refugee camps are already centred on energy supporter objects and are supplying this demand gap themselves. For example, the picture below shows a refugee business owner who sells solar panels. But in his shop, there are also batteries, matches, torches, extension cables, light bulbs, chargers, speakers, sound systems and radios. By supporting and facilitating these markets, humanitarian responders have an ideal opportunity to also support income generating opportunities and the self-sufficiency of refugees – which can lead to increased human development and wellbeing of communities.

    Refugees’ energy access priorities in reality

    In many cases, our research found that the energy supporter objects were more central to business owners and refugee households than the source of energy itself. The picture below shows a music store in Kakuma camp, the owner of whom has multiple energy appliances: a computer, screens, keyboard, fans, a television and sound system. The source of energy for this business was actually a mini-grid connection, however, when discussing energy, the business owner focused almost exclusively on the appliances and uses of energy. This finding is in-keeping with Practical Action’s Poor People’s Energy Outlook report series, which has long maintained that it is not the energy supply but energy services that matter most to marginalised people – people care about what they can do with the energy, not where it comes from.

    We suggest that NGOs and practitioners can focus on the way that people use energy and the practical realities of living as a refugee, to more successfully deliver support and energy access technologies. Understanding energy supporter objects is one angle that could be used to achieve this. More information on the energy lives of refugees and displaced people is available from the Moving Energy Initiative and Practical Action’s work on humanitarian energy.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • MasterCard Young Africa Works Summit

    May 26th, 2017

    Earlier this year I attended the second annual Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda hosted by MasterCard Foundation. The theme of the summit was built around shifting discussion from how to engage youth in agriculture, to youth as drivers of agricultural transformation. The summit explored three sub-themes that contribute to agricultural transformation, gender, technology and climate-smart agriculture.

    Almost a third of participants were young people from across the continent of Africa.  They shared their experiences, successes, challenges and innovations in agriculture related businesses. First of all, I was impressed by the confidence displayed by the young people presenting  in front of an international audience and how they challenged some of the ‘norms’.

    Key from all the presentations was how technology can act as a huge incentive to attract youth to take up agriculture as a business. Rita Kimani, Co-founder and CEO, FarmDrive uses new data­ driven technology to increase the availability of capital. Her work focuses on leveraging technology to enable smallholder farmers in Africa to achieve sustainable livelihoods.

    Alloysius Attah, CEO and Co-founder of Farmerline from Ghana, founded Alloyworld, a photography and video production company, and iCottage Networks, a Web and Mobile startup. Brian Bosire, Founder of UjuziKilimo, an agricultural technology company that brings affordable precision farming to smallholder farmers in Kenya, enabling them to produce more from their farm, curbing hunger and food insecurity. UjuziKilimo uses sensors to analyse soil and farm conditions to provide real-time, precise, actionable recommendations over mobile phones to rural farmers who lack access to extension services and information on weather and markets.

    On gender Pilirani Khoza is the Founder of Bunda Female Students Organisation (BUFESO), an organisation that supports disadvantaged university students at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Concerned with the lack of women participating in higher education, she empowers young girls to pursue studies in science and agriculture by helping to fund their tuition and other fees.

    My key takeaways from this summit were;

    • Let youth lead development of agri-business by creating an enabling business environment for them to exercise their innovativeness and experimentation
    • Technology plays a very important part in providing incentives for youth to participate in agriculture
    • Government is key to creating an enabling environment for youth-led agri-business to grow (very few African governments are doing this)

    Here are some inspiring quotes from the event.

    “We are all leaders and the role of leaders is to connect the problem to solutions.”

    “Technology is our mother tongue.”

    “If you are not in love with a farmer, raise your standards.”

    “If you can’t fly you can run, if you can’t run you can walk, if you can’t walk you can crawl, if you can’t crawl whatever you do keep moving!!”

    Learn more about the event on the Young Africa Works website

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • A qui appartient le Nil ?

    Le Nil traverse huit pays d’Afrique et chacun de ces pays revendique sa part du fleuve en investissant dans de gros projets.

    Le barrage Grand Renaissance
    Le Nil bleu prend sa source en Ethiopie, un pays qui avait jusqu’à maintenant largement sous-exploité le fleuve pour l’irrigation ou la production d’électricité . Aujourd’huit, l’Ethiopie s’est lancée  dans la construction du plus grand barrage hydroélectrique d’Afrique, en détournant une partie isolée du fleuve. L’idée est alléchante, car Les turbines vont permettre de tripler la production d’électricité dans un pays ou seulement 1/5ème de la population y a accès. On imagine facilement l’impact positif que ce projet peut avoir sur la santé, l’éducation et le développement des petites entreprises dans le pays.

    Mais le prix à payer est élevé : il inclue le déplacement de tribus, l’impact sur la nature, et pire encore, les tensions politiques que ce projet a déclenchées. Les 85 millions d’égyptiens en aval se demandent si leur partie du fleuve va s’appauvrir. L’Ethiopie se veut rassurante, en affirmant que l’eau utilisée dans les turbines sera entièrement rejetée. Mais L’Egypte refuse catégoriquement la possibilité de perdre le contrôle du flux du fleuve, et menace de détruire le barrage en revendiquant son droit historique. En effet, un traité colonial britannique a accordé en 1929 un droit de véto à l’Egypte sur tout projet en amont du fleuve. Le traité a été modifié ensuite pour déléguer une partie de ce pouvoir au Soudan. L’Ethiopie et les autres pays traversés par le Nil ne disposent d’aucun droit.

    En Ethiopie, le barrage Grand Renaissance va permettre au pays de tripler sa production d’électricité(photo

    Le Nil sous pression
    Voici un autre exemple de partage forcé du fleuve : l’agriculture intensive. J’admirais les photos aériennes des crop circles sans en mesurer l’impact. Dans les plaines assoiffées du Soudan, sur le plus long tronçon du Nil, a surgi un oasis artificiel de 9000 hectares. L’idée : détourner les eaux du Nil pour permettre l’irrigation de 102 cercles de verdure créés grâce à de gigantesques irrigateurs à pivot central. On pourrait penser qu’il s’agit d’une solution pour mettre un terme aux problèmes de malnutrition. Eh bien, non ! Non seulement on y produit uniquement de la luzerne pour l’alimentation animale, mais le produit de cette culture ne bénéfice pas aux Soudanais. Ce sont leurs riches voisins des états du Golfe Persique qui en profitent.

    De gigantesques cercles de verdure sont créés grâce à des irrigateurs à pivot (Image courtesy Robert Simmon and Jesse Allen, USGS/NASA)

    De gigantesques cercles de verdure sont créés grâce à des irrigateurs à pivot (Image courtesy Robert Simmon and Jesse Allen, USGS/NASA)

    On mesure parfaitement les tensions que ces développements suscitent. Les habitants des rives du Nil vont devoir se concerter tôt ou tard pour s’assurer une répartition équitable des eaux du fleuve et permettre un développement durable dans ces régions, ou s’habituer à voir le débit du Nil diminuer grandement dans les prochaines années.

    La BBC a réalisé un documentaire sur BBC iPlayer (Sacred Rivers with Simon Reeves)

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Rwanda: a one people nation

    April 11th, 2014

    Practical Action Consulting has worked in Rwanda for a number of years and recently opened an office there.  Denyse, accounts and admin officer, reflects on the transformation she has witness in her country.

    Monday, April 7, 2014 was the official opening of the 20th commemoration of genocide against the Tutsi people; different countries sent delegations as well us United Nation and African Union Commission to comfort Rwandans during this difficult time of painful memories.

    Remember, unite, renew

    Rwanda’s commemoration slogan is ‘Remember, unite, renew’

    For the last three months young Rwandans have been carrying the flame of remembrance to all district of the country and this gives hope since three quarters of Rwandans are under 30 years old (they are the new Rwanda).

    Having experienced the 1994 genocide 20 years ago I wouldn’t have imagined Rwanda this way.  Personally I thought that the world had come to an end and all we wished was for a less painful death e.g. being shot.

    A few months after the genocide we thought it was a bit safer but most of us were prepared for another war considering the situation from Tutsi survivors, other Tutsi family from abroad ( exiled in the preview Hutu massacres) who really had power and a thousand reasons to seek revenge on Hutus. I personally never imagined going to school again, making new friends,  eating food harvested in Rwanda, not surviving on aids from UNIHCR, UNICEF, and other international organizations.

    But now look at Rwanda, we have become a one people nation and after all we have one culture, one language which proves that we have been, are and will be one not considering other invented ideologies to separate us.

    Rwandans have chosen truth, unity and reconciliation.  Rwandans have chosen to forget about tribes, forgive and admit what happened then focus on building the better future that the results are palpably seen on the ground.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment