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Biomass in Rwanda

Background and Justification

 

The National Energy Policy and National Energy Strategy, recognizes that the use of biomass energy has potentially serious environmental implications and may be non-renewable unless properly managed. Biomass energy will remain dominant for cooking, other household uses and small-scale industries. In this regard it is imperative that forests and woodlots be more productively managed, and charcoal more efficiently produced. Failure in this realm could result in accelerated deforestation as the demand for energy due to the increasing population increases. The energy policy proposes more efficient production and use of biomass energy by households and that this should be complemented by promoting other sources of energy, including biogas, pellets , briquettes and LPG.

The current national energy balance statistics show that biomass (mostly wood fuel) accounts for about 83% of the total energy consumption, followed by petroleum at 9.7%, electricity at 1.3% and others at about less than 0,5%. In rural areas, the reliance on biomass is over 90%. Most Rwandans live in rural areas where traditional biomass, mainly wood fuel has remained the leading source of energy for cooking. 


However, the potential of biomass has not been effectively utilized in the provision of modern energy for a variety of reasons. One is the failure to exploit the opportunities for transforming wastes from agricultural production and processing into locally produced modern energy. Continued over-dependence on unsustainable wood fuel, biomass residue and other forms of biomass as the primary sources of energy to meet household energy needs has contributed to uncontrolled harvesting of trees and shrubs with negative impacts on the environment. In addition, continued consumption of traditional biomass fuels contributes to poor health among users due to excessive products of incomplete combustion and smoke emissions in the poorly ventilated houses common in rural areas. 


Biomass consumption is putting pressure on existing resources, with an estimated 870,000 tons woody biomass deficit in 2009. Along with this the use of biomass for fuel is having harmful effects through health impacts and emissions. To rectify this, the Government is further developing the public sector forestry programs, has licensing for tree harvesting and is diversifying away from traditional wood fuel to look at other forms of biomass such as papyrus and rice and coffee husks, as well as biogas which benefits from the ‘One cow per poor family’ scheme. The Government has put in place strict tree harvesting regulations; only licensed persons with permits are allowed to cut trees, including those from private lands. These measures have helped to reduce deforestation and Rwanda is one of only a handful of countries in Africa where the relationship between charcoal consumption and deforestation no longer exists. Government is to focus on increased wood production.

 

Improved cooking technologies 

According to a recent study, traditional wood fuel is the energy used by the vast majority of rural households (i.e. over 90%) for cooking.   The average household uses around 1.8 tons of firewood each year to satisfy its cooking needs with a traditional stove. The average monthly consumption per household on fuel wood is RWF 1,930. 

The government program has been running since the 1980s with 60% household penetration. Private sector led efforts are also distributing cook stoves that are up to three times more efficient than the traditional 3-stone stove, and can reduce biomass consumption by anywhere between 68-94%  This will free up the time spent by women and children in collecting firewood, giving them more time to study and undertake more productive commercial activities. Whilst it must be noted that there are significant health and social benefits of transitioning to charcoal, it is likely to increase the pressure on the li mited wood supplies. This issue is likely to be accelerated as more and more people move from rural to urban and peri-urban settlements where charcoal is more common and convenient.

In Rwanda, before the intervention of Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), most rural families used traditional cooking stoves that use firewood and agro residues as fuel.  These stoves have certain inherent defects; the smoke produced stays in the kitchen due to the absence of a vent pipe and ill ventilation, which is harmful to the health of users and their families. Utensils and clothes are also blackened by soot.  Similarly, open fire has an inherent risk of burning houses or their occupants (MOD, 2008).  Women and children are most affected as they spend longer periods in the cooking areas.  In addition, the wood fuel gathering is one of the hardest and time consuming duties for poor rural women; it uses time that could be better employed in more productive activities.

According to the Integrated Living Conditions Survey conducted by NISR (2006c), people over six years old spend an average of 15 hours per week on domestic tasks. Aggregated by all age groups nationally; females spend 21 hours and males seven. Cooking and childcare consume a large proportion of time for females in households; women and girls spend 15 hours a week on these two tasks alone; the time spent on cooking varies depending on the type of cooking stove used. On the other hand, fetching wood takes much longer in rural areas.  Reducing gender inequalities, moving towards greater equity, and building a viable sustainable development path in which women could access an active and participatory role, are all challenges that must be met, when you empower women, you empower  society.  Making energy services accessible and affordable to rural women contributes to their socioeconomic development and affords a better quality of life hence alleviating poverty.

An improved cooking stove (ICS) is a stove that needs far less biomass than a traditional stove to cook the same amount of food and consequently also produces far less smoke than a traditional stove.  This reduction in smoke is made by either having far better combustion or by having an excess of air, or with a combination of both.  It can save up to 75% of fuel wood compared to the traditional stoves.  It is cheap and easy to operate, there is no need to blow the fire, it can have one or more openings for pots/pans, and it reduces smoke in the kitchen.  The major impact can be seen on health and environment problems.  ICS save on fuel and improve hygiene in the kitchen.  ICS provides direct benefits to the women and girl children by reducing the time and drudgery related to procuring firewood.  

In Rwanda, ICS has now become a government policy whereby efforts are being made so that it can be widely used in rural communities.  Since the beginning of 2005, Rwanda Defence Force took the lead and has been the major implementing institution of this program. Not only did it implement it, but also played the facilitating role of providing training and capacity building to the local population and institutions to enable them to implement ICS in their homes and institutions (MOD, 2008).

Therefore, in light of the above background, this study basically aimed at investigating the type of energy and cooking stoves used by people in rural areas as well as raw materials used to make the stoves.  The study also focused on the biomass used and where it is obtained.  It examined stakeholders/organisations that have helped in the provision of improved cook stoves in rural Rwanda.  This study will provide the base for developing strategies for future monitoring and evaluation and as well as assessing the impact at the end of the project.

 

Biogas

The potential biogas market in Rwanda is estimated at 150,000 households, among predominantly rural customers. Government has put in place an elaborate program for disseminating bio digesters in households, schools and prisons to reduce demand for wood and charcoal and improve people’s health since 2007—the National Domestic Biogas Programme (NDBP). The NDBP’s initial focus was on capacity development, training technicians and entrepreneurs, and social marketing. The institutional Biogas Program began at KIST as a pilot in 1999. 

In 2008, Government announced a policy to introduce biogas digesters in all schools (estimated at around 600), large health centers and institutions with canteens. Through this Institutional biogas program, 86 Institutional biogas digester were constructed in secondary schools and prisons. Since the beginning of the program, 10200 domestic biogas digesters have been installed in households.
EDCL in partnership with SNV has already provided training of 2 masons per Sector in 26 Districts (excluding Nyagatare, Kicukiro, Nyaruguru and Karongi).

45 private companies and 1 mason cooperative in 26 District are active in biogas business.
The biogas systems installed in the schools and prisons have reduced firewood consumption by close to 60% and 40% respectively, along with significantly improved hygienic conditions and cost savings.


 Use of alternative fuels

There are a number of alternative fuels to Biomass, Biogas program is currently implemented as a suitable fuel for cooking. LPG and Kerosene are both potential alternatives, as well as pellets and briquettes that can be used in cooking. 

 

LPG

Rwanda has no domestic production of natural gas. The country relies on imported gas especially LPG from other countries. The LPG market in Rwanda is dominated by 10 importers and marketers including Société Pétrolière-SP , Kobil , Sulfo Rwanda , Rwanda Oxygène, Merez  Hashi energy, Abbarci Petroleum, Safe gas Lake Petroleum Rwanda, RUCSA Investment. Retail distribution is done through service stations, independent distributors, and supermarkets in an assortment of cylinder sizes ranging from 3 kg to 50 kg  and also the tanks from 500 kg to 5000 kgs are available for big Institutions. 

The use of LPG as a source of cooking energy has started to attract the attention of cooking energy consumers but its penetration has not yet reached a satisfactory level to see its impact on the reduction of biomass use.

At household level, the progress in promising looking at the quantity of the imported LPG and sales of the companies involved in this business However, the use of LPG in institutions is quite inexistent yet the institutions such as schools, hotels and restaurants are the ones that consume bigger amounts of firewood and contribute much to deforestation. It is in this context that preliminary feasibility study was done in some schools and police and military camps  to carry out needs assessment.

LPG and Biogas are the most feasible and possible energy alternatives to biomass that have the potential to counteract many adverse health and environmental impacts. Electricity production has developed for the last few years and the projected consumption of electricity is far low compared to the produced electricity. Electricity is also being considered as one of the forms of cooking energy that will help the country to reduce the dependence on biomass and increase demand for electricity. Other wood fuel efficiency utilization mechanisms have also to be encouraged given the fact that not all the people will be able to afford the proposed alternatives in the required timeframe. 


Pellets and briquettes

The promotion of pellets and briquettes is one of proposed interventions of biomass dependence reduction strategies from 83% to 42% by 2024. This will be done by : 

·         Training producers of pellets and briquette to produce quality products 

·         Provide technical support to pellets and briquettes producers

·         Attracting private sector to develop pellet and briquette-making factories

·         Facilitating factories to access raw materials (e.g providing forest concessions to pellets makers)

·         Carrying out extensive decentralised awareness campaigns

·         Promote the use of pellets and briquettes  in households as a replacement to charcoal and firewood. 

·         Disseminate a business model that allows people in possession of raw biomass to exchange it with pellets or briquette to support those who do not have monetary resources. 

 

ARGEO