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close this bookEnvironmentally-Induced Population Displacements and Environmental Impacts Resulting from Mass Migrations (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) / Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 1996, 128 p.)
close this folderExtracts of Main Contributions
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Extracts from General Background Paper
View the document2. Extracts from Opening Speech
View the document3. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document4. Extracts from Statement
View the document5. Extracts from Introduction
View the document6. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document7. Extracts from Introduction
View the document8. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document9. Extracts from Case Study
View the document10. Extracts from Case Study
View the document11. Extracts from Introduction
View the document12. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document13. Extracts from Introduction
View the document14. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document15. Extracts from Case Study
View the document16. Extracts from Introduction
View the document17. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document18. Extracts from Case Study
View the document19. Extracts from Case Study
View the document20. Extracts from Presentation and Demonstration of “PEKO PE”
View the document21. Extracts from Case Study
View the document22. Extracts from Introduction
View the document23. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document24. Extracts from Background Paper
View the document25. Extracts from Closing Speech

19. Extracts from Case Study


Muiruri J. Kimani

The challenge in household energy programmes and environmental mitigation in general, is to ensure that the impact of the refugees on the local environment is minimal, the interventions undertaken are a preparation to cope with imminent environmental problems the community face upon repatriation and that they do not compromise the security and well being of the communities. To do this, agencies need to abandon their traditional concept of refugees as passive recipients of free aid without responsibilities to their host environment, their lack of capacities to solve problems and eminent dependency. Refugees should be considered like any other rural (poor) population, albeit with more limited resources, holding key responsibility in mitigation activities.

Guiding principles

The following guiding principles need to be taken into account when devising household energy programmes:

1. recognize the emergency nature of the situations but appreciate the fact that the emergency phase per se will shortly be over but the refugees will remain;

2. interventions should embrace a ‘developmental concept where the refugee and local community participate in the development, adaptation and control and sharing of benefits resulting from the interventions. The groups who are most affected by the problem should have more say in the interventions;

3. interventions should aim to offer ‘wider’ and ‘longer term’ solutions e.g. contribute to incomes, improve personal security, reduce workloads etc;

4. interventions should be fairly simple and adaptable by the refugee and local community where external inputs, if any, should be minimal and ideally readily available locally;

5. interventions need be flexible and easily replicable taking advantage of existing skills and the frequent refugee (inter-camp) movements; they need to be exportable and useable back home and;

6. interventions should not be construed as ‘free hand-outs’ similar to the food and nonfood items freely issued to the community. Hence, apart from showing initiative, the communities need to contribute a portion of the required inputs.


Ideally, the benchmark for household energy programmes should be a ‘package approach’ covering the demand and supply aspects, thus, fuel acquisition, supply, utilization, reforestation and general environmental protection. Different aspects of the programme components should be used to influence and strengthen each other. For example, it is possible to accelerate the rate of stove adoption when it is tied to the supply of firewood whereby a household is supplied with firewood only if it has constructed and is using an improved stove.

Technological solutions should be arrived at through a consultative process with the community bearing the following:

+ familiarity: technologies should not require radical changes by the community but should be based on what they have and are used to;

+ simplicity: they should not add extra burdens to the community in terms of time, labour or education and should take into account the prevailing gender considerations;

+ affordability: the basic models should not necessarily require cash investments;

+ durability: they should not ‘age’, e.g. be destroyed by rain and should be built and repaired with minimal external training inputs;

+ sustainability: they should be built, maintained and reproduced without depending on agencies to provide (external) inputs like clay, metal etc.;

+ flexibility: they should be dismantled, built up again and modified without the services of extension workers;

+ adaptability: they should encourage users to further improve them e.g. with mud/clay lining, additional wind breaks, lower pot rests, platforms to place pots, drying racks and shelters etc.

Furthermore, technological interventions should encourage and support the community to look at their lives as dynamic and progressive and contribute to (self)confidence building.

Local community participation

The local community should be actively involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of household energy programmes. This is because the community has a higher long term stake than either the refugees, regional or central government in the well being of their immediate environment. Lack of participation results in hostilities between the local and refugee communities. The degree of each actor’s participation should be determined by the entire group.

Commercialization and income generation

Experience in conventional development has demonstrated that stove programmes aimed at sustainability need to be commercialized. Initial subsidies and grants are necessary in the research, development and awareness creation phases but have to be carefully and judicially applied and phased out sooner than later. This principle of Commercialization may not be wholly applicable to all refugee situations, especially during emergencies. However, its is clear that whatever the refugee phase, the approaches employed have long term effects in all future programme interventions.

Fuel wood distribution and substitution

It is imperative that fuel be provided to refugee and forced migration situations. Indeed, the argument is why provision of fuel is not considered as a basic item alongside health, food, water, shelter etc. which it should. After the ‘minimum’ fuel requirements is met, continued provision of ‘sufficient’ fuel should be considered and evaluated as an option along with the rest of other household energy interventions. The questions to answer being the type, cost, short and long term impacts, utility, supply logistics, health etc. aspects of the fuel. So far, fuel wood remains the most feasible fuel in many refugee situations especially in sub-Sahara Africa.

Fuelwood provision

Fuelwood supply

Organized supply

Trucking of fuel wood is a very expensive intervention especially where communication infrastructures are not well developed.

Ideally, the fuel should be bought from private, government plantations or individual farmers. The purchase of fuel wood especially from individual farmers, need not be looked at as contributing to ‘further” deforestation but should be seen as a stimulant for additional afforestation through replacement of harvested trees and as a needed income for the community. It is therefore important that the fuel purchase be accompanied by afforestation measures providing material and technical support to the farmers.

Fuelwood collection support

It is unlikely that 100% of the required fuel is provided through organized supply; the balance is met through self-fetching. The communities need to be supported to enable them to fetch fuel from distant places in order to preserve their immediate environment. Agencies can provide transport to designated fuel collection points. The people could be asked to walk back with their fuel. On the way back the truck could transport small quantities of fuel for the vulnerable households. If need be security can also be deployed in the designated fuel collection area.

Fuelwood distribution

Where there are different agencies involved in supply and distribution of fuel, there are usually disputes regarding the delivery and distribution points. The vulnerable households may not have easy access to the distributed fuel, either because the distribution sites are far away, they are not informed where the distribution takes place, or they are physically disabled to the extent that they cannot reach the distribution sites. The agencies together with the communities need to develop comprehensive and equitable fuel distribution strategies. They should also agree on penalties for non-compliance to the agreed strategies.

Fuel substitution

Fuel substitution should be continuously done to determine the more affordable and sustainable options.

Fuel substitutes

There are many fuel substitutes including solar, peat, briquettes, paraffin, tireless cookers etc. Each of these substitutes should be carefully evaluated on their technical feasibility, logistic requirements, health and safety aspects, adaptability, and cost implications. It is necessary to start with fuels that are familiar or close to those already in use. In addition, the introduction of the fuels should be given preference in fuel substitution programmes.

Food baskets

The type of food basket available should be considered in household energy programmes. For example, it is better to supply milled rather than whole grains because the former requires less energy to cook. Socio-cultural, nutrition, viability etc. issues must be considered before options like milling are adopted.

Institutional linkages

Household energy programmes are fraught with rivalries. Unfortunately these rivalries are deeply entrenched and instead of resulting in better projects on the ground, they are resource and time wasteful.

Intra-agency collaboration

The advantage of a single agency adopting a “package approach” (for example comprising of firewood purchase and supply, re-afforestation, and energy conservation training) are many. However, close collaboration between people working in the different components is crucial. Professional divergence must not be allowed to exist.

Inter-agency collaboration

It is the norm to find agencies adopting different household energy approaches even in homogeneous situations. Diversity may be necessary but in most cases it is not out of need but simply for corporate identity. It is necessary to harmonize adopted approaches in order to encourage:

* sharing of costs for transport, supervision, and expertise;

* cross-fertilization from the experiences and know-how of different camps;

* less disparities in exploiting the saving potential in the various camps (the first 20% are cheaper than the next 10%);

* undertaking complementary activities and faster gathering of feedback through systematic and standardized monitoring and evaluation; and,

* allowing for more flexibility with the available budgets to react to population and programme needs, e.g. new camps, could benefit from programme experiences and resources from other camps, by minimizing the start-up periods.

The lead agency, UNHCR environment office or household energy (environment) working groups should ensure that there is active collaboration and networking between different implementing agencies. Professional rivalry must not be allowed to exist.

Inter-project collaboration

Inter-project collaboration is necessary to eliminate or minimize re-inventing the wheel in different programmes. Most household energy approaches have been tried and refined in one situation or other. It would be cheaper to borrow and adapt experiences from such projects in new situations. Although funding is usually cited as the key setback to inter-project collaboration, there is also a clear lack of interest, knowledge and initiative on the part of the implementing agencies.


Refugee and forced migration situations are not temporary phenomena and expecting repatriation within two years after an influx often proves to be ambitious. Evidently, planning for household energy and environmental programmes in general should be long-term - minimum four years. In order to allocate and use resources more efficiently, it is recommended that agencies, from the start, plan on a mid- to long-term basis. Experience has also shown clearly that conventional development approaches can be successfully adapted and applied to refugee and forced migration situations. The approaches need to be dynamic, and adapt to changing situations, i.e. emergency relief, intermediate development, and even look further to repatriation, rehabilitation and re-integration phases. It is important that qualified and experienced staff be entrusted with the implementation of these approaches. Sound and objective decisions on and from the ground are necessary, not only to ensure overall programme success but also to influence thinking at higher levels.