By Duncan Mboyah
A Kenyan refugee camp that is home to 185,000 refugees is set to benefit from a 3 million pound project that will deliver clean energy to refugees. The project is aimed at replacing the use of fuel wood for cooking that exposes households to health problems besides providing lightning.
Joe Attwood, Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) Program Manager said told recently ScienceAfrica that a series of low carbon and market development activities are being initiated in Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana, north-western Kenya. Attwood said in an interview.
Attwood noted many refugees in the camp do not have any form of lighting at night as women and girls also face various risks when they leave camps in search of firewood. Energy poverty is a persistent problem in refugees’ lives since they are isolated from the national grid and lack reliable access to renewable power.
Kakuma, a marginalized region, where only 2.7 percent of the population had access to electricity as their main lighting source in 2015 is home to refugees from neighboring countries including South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda.
“We want to ensure that the low carbon and market development projects remain self sustainable through full involvement of local communities,” Attwood added. He noted that the approach further seeks to lessen hostility between refugees and the host community due to stiff competition for scarce fuel sources.
Attwood observed that the project intend to dispel a belief that refugees are a liability to the society they live in yet they are often ignored important economic actors with the potential to make significant socio-economic contributions to themselves and the host community.
MEI is working in a partnership with Chatham House, Practical Action Consulting, Norwegian Refugee Council and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Other partners include BBOXX, Kube energy and Crown Agent. BBOXX, a private company that partners in the project plans to establish a distribution outlet for sale of solar home systems in and outside the camp.
“We have lined-up consumer awareness activities to educate refugees and host communities on the benefits of solar products,” Pervins Mariga, the company’s Kenya Retail Manager said.
He said that the firm has established solar kiosks outlets where refugees and the hosts will operate as distributors or technicians of energy products such as solar home systems, solar lanterns and improved cook stoves. Under the project, a solar-powered ICT and learning hub is complete and is equipped with low-energy consuming computers, internet, printers, photocopiers and stationery.
Sarah Hare, Senior Practice Specialist at Crown Agents said that the hub will provide access to energy for computer use, internet, phone and solar home kit charging, vocational training, life skills and community cohesion through joint trainings of refugees and the host community.
“At least half of the solar ICT hub’s users will be women and it will also allow children to learn and develop confidence in ICT skills from an early age,” she added. Hare observed that the facility will accord refugees and the host population an opportunity to acquire skills in leather craft, computer repairs, horticulture, weaving, plumbing, carpentry, mechanics and baking.
Kube Energy is solarizing two healthcare clinics managed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at the camp. It will train IRC staff, as well as 15 skilled and non-skilled people from the host and refugee communities to support the installation, operation and maintenance of the solar system at IRC’s two primary healthcare facilities.
“Once complete, the project is expected to cut IRC’s diesel fuel consumption and operational costs by 80 percent and save costs amounting to US Dollars 63,000 annually,” Mads Hansen, Kube Energy Chief Executive Officer said.
Some of the initiatives, including the construction of a solar-powered ICT and learning hub in the refugee camp, are complete, while the installation of solar systems on two health facilities within Kakuma refugee camp is on-going. MEI project that is managed by Energy 4 Impact has commissioned a series of projects to test the model of private sector engagement in projects in Burkina Faso and Jordan besides Kenya.