How rural youth project is reducing charcoal usage

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By Michel Nkurunziza

Youth who have teamed up to form “Gicumbi New Vision Cooperative” in Gicumbi District are making a fortune from manufacturing modern cook stoves with a vision to set up a mega factory to save Rwanda’s forests.

 The cooperative which started its operations in December last year is composed of young people from different communities who were previously jobless.

 “We produce cooking stoves that use less charcoal and supply them to members of the public aimed at reducing deforestation,” said Philbert Nyirimanzi , the president of the cooperative with 30 members.

Youth grouped in “Gicumbi New Vision Cooperative” in Gicumbi district are making a fortune from modern cook stoves with a vision to set up a mega factory to save Rwanda’s forests. Photos: Sam Ngendahimana.

 He said that they have been employed by the district to produce modern cook stoves adding that they seek to set up their own factory.

 “Each member is paid Rwf2,700 per cook stove produced. We produce a minimum of 200 cook stoves per day,” he said.

 A member can produce up to three and 10 cook stoves per day.

 “If you make three stoves, that makes around Rwf10, 000 per day,” he said.

 Each member of the cooperative earns over Rwf200,000 per month.

 The youth have so far produced 6,700 cook stoves with a target to produce 23,400 which the district seeks to distribute to vulnerable people so as to reduce pressure on forests.

 The improved cook stoves saves 50 per cent of wood or charcoal compared to the quantity used in cooking on a three-stone fireplace.

 Most of the cooperative, he said, have spent the savings from their wages and bought properties such as land, forest plantations and livestock.

 He said that each member of the cooperative has contributed Rwf50, 000 as a share in the cooperative so as to get enough capital besides other weekly savings.

 The savings, he noted, will help to register their cooperative and start their own cook stoves production unit in the near future.

 “One stove is sold at Rwf45, 000. This means once we will set up our own production unit, we will be making a fortune from such business,” he said, adding that they aspire to manufacture other products such as ovens, metal cases and others.

Cook stove testing laboratory

 The produced modern cook stoves are tested in the national Cookstove Testing Laboratory recently established at the Rwanda Standards Board at the cost of $370,000.

 Powered by the project dubbed “Improving Efficiency and Sustainability of Charcoal and Woodfuel Value Chains Project”, the lab provides testing and certification for locally manufactured cookstoves, calculates emissions and offers other services related to renewable energy testing with a mission to reduce pressure on forests.

 The project aims to improve the efficiency and sustainability of wood fuel value chains in the north west of Rwanda through improved woodlot management and seed quality, efficient charcoal production and the promotion of alternative energy sources.

 So far, more than 600 cooperative members from 19 cooperatives have been trained on efficient charcoal production and biomass processing and provided with equipment for green charcoal making according to Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).

 A charcoal traceability system to trace charcoal movement from woodlots to the end user has also been developed.

 Status of pressure on forests

 According to Rwanda Forestry Authority; at least 380 hectares of forest are felled every week for charcoal production and firewood.

 At least 61,000 sacks of charcoal are supplied to Kigali every week making 72 per cent of charcoal consumers countrywide.

 The pressure triggers soil erosion and derails efforts to mitigate climate change.

 Rwanda seeks to reduce its dependence on the use of biomass from 79.9 per cent in 2018 to 42 per cent by 2024 to reduce pressure to forests while maintaining forestation.

 The current status of Rwanda’s forest cover is 724,695 ha (30.4 percent) of Rwanda’s total land area.

 Rwanda committed to restore two million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes by 2030.

  Jean-Pierre Mugabo, the Director-General of Rwanda Forestry Authority the two million of degraded land equals 75 per cent of the total land of the country.

 “We have currently 900,000 hectares being restored. That means 45 per cent of the two million hectares of degraded forests and landscapes and we remain with 55 per cent,” he said.

Tree seed centres

Rwanda has opened Tree Seed Centres to boost supply of high-quality seeds.

The two Tree Seed Centres are located in Gatsibo and Huye Districts.

Mugabo said that there are new tree seed centres expected to support Rwanda to increase forest coverage and improve the quality of forests, a win-win for people and biodiversity.

  “Although we have achieved forest cover goals, we still need to increase forest cover to mitigate the impacts of climate change, promote healthy soils and rivers, and protect communities from landslides.

 To do so, we need high-quality seeds and the new tree seed centres we are launching today are a big part of the solution,” added Juliet Kabera, Director General, Rwanda Environment Management Authority.