Kalobeyei, 8 December 2017 – In collaboration with the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the Office of International Programs, College of Agricultural Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, UN-Habitat has launched a project for briquette production in Kalobeyei new refugee settlement and the host community in a commitment to improve access to cooking energy.

The programme is supported by the Government of Japan, the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) through its research theme on sustaining rural-urban linkages.

Through the integrated and participatory process, this project encourages skills development, job creation, income generation and establishment of sustainable integration of refugees and host communities by working together for a clean and healthy livelihood.

In December, the first workshop was facilitated by Dr. Mary Njenga, a renewed research scientist and practitioner on bioenergy, environmental management and gender in Africa and worldwide.

Traditional cooking fuels

In Kakuma and Kalobeyei, both host and refugee communities depend on charcoal and firewood as cooking fuel. Where cooking energy is included in relief, it is provided to the most vulnerable households and only covers about 10% of their needs.

Refugee women source firewood from the surrounding woodlands, an activity that is exhausting and life threatening for women and children including rape and is associated with conflict with host communities and land degradation. Women in the host community produce charcoal using traditional kilns that takes days to have charcoal ready and the amounts produced are so low.

Lots of charcoal waste made of small pieces that are not useful are left in the production sites as well as small branches of trees, resources they are being trained to recover for briquette making. Opportunities are also being identified for sourcing of organic waste in the refugee camp for briquette making.

With preparation support from UN-Habitat, the ICRAF expert has trained 20 women from the host communities focusing on processing raw materials, hand making and testing of briquettes as well as using them for cooking. In the first two days the women learned different manufacturing techniques, and in the third day of the workshop the women tested the briquettes by cooking tea for the whole group.

Integrated planning for shelter and energy provision

They noticed that the briquettes made from charcoal dust and soil as a binder dried in three days under shade and although they appeared to produce less intense heat compared to charcoal or firewood they cooked as well. The women were excited that the briquettes burned slowly for a long period and they looked forward to using them for cooking gather, a mixture of maize and beans, which takes hours to prepare consuming a lot of fuel.

The project aims to use waste organic materials from different sources at the Refugee Settlement, in particular from markets, and use it for hand making briquettes that will be sold in the market as sustainable alternatives to compliment charcoal and firewood. This will help reduce the high cooking energy deficit suffered by the refugees who as a coping in strategy barter or trade the little food they receive to source cooking fuel.

ICRAF will conduct laboratory tests to assess the burning characterizes as well as carry out cooking tests to assess the concentrations of gases and particles resulting from cooking with the briquettes. The results will advise on the healthiest practice that further influences the shelter design.

The activity ensures sustainability of public space, conservation of the local natural resources, economic empowerment for women and establishing linkages between refugee and host communities towards a peaceful coexistence, while seizing economic opportunities