Cover Image
close this bookThe Environmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 101 p.)
close this folder4. CASE STUDIES
View the document4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya
View the document4.2. Impact of Humanitarian Crisis on Ecosystems (emphasis on vegetation)
View the document4.3. Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: Policy and Practice in Emergency Water Supply and Sanitation
View the document4.4. The environmental impact of refugees in Africa: suggestions for future actions
View the document4.5. When Refugees Stream: Environmental and Political Implications of Population Displacement

4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya

by A. Klingshirn1

1 Deutsches Gesellschaft fur Technisches Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)

1. The Rescue Project in Kenya

Since 1992 Dadaab, a small settlement in Garissa District of Eastern Kenya, has been the site of three refugee camps, providing food and shelter for approximately 120.000 refugees who fled across the border into Kenya in face of the unrest in Somalia. Garissa District is an ecologically fragile, semi-arid area, where a sparsely populated nomadic people could make a living. The unexpected population influx with their needs for shelter and fuel, exceeded the carrying capacity of the land considerably, soon leading to a degradation of the environment, which, in turn, endangered the living environment of the local population. To make matters worse, the women collecting the fuel-wood were frequently subjected to personal danger not only through wild animals and snake bites but, much more seriously, through rape from marauding bandits.

In this disturbing situation GTZ was commissioned by UNHCR at the end of 1992 to develop and implement a strategy that would provide an environmentally sound and socially acceptable supply of household energy. One reason why GTZ was selected was that GTZ had already been supporting household energy activities in Kenya in a national programme called “Women and Energy” for nearly ten years; this meant, that a lot of experience and expertise was already available in the country, which could be mobilised quickly.

1.1. Rescue - The search for a different approach

The result was RESCUE, which is on one hand an acronym for Rational Energy Supply, Conservation, Utilisation and Education, but on the other hand it also represents a programme: it looks at rational (i.e. economic) energy supply options as well as on its efficient use, the “utilisation” implies an acceptance by the people concerned (i.e. self-help), and the “education” component recognises that unless refugees and local population alike are sensitised and understand the problem situation in its complexity (i.e. participation), the programme can not be successful.

This complexity is reflected in the objectives the programme focused on:

1. Reduce refugees' dependence on aid.

2. Secure the supply of household energy (fuel for cooking and lighting) to the refugees during the time they have to live in the camps while at the same time conserving the natural resources of the local population.

3. While the refugees are in the camp, make use of the opportunity for environmental awareness-raising, training and reinforcement of self-help efforts.

4. Introduce rehabilitation measures which will make refugees aware of their share of the responsibility for destroying the environment and mitigate conflicts with the local population; and finally,

5. Improve the safety and protection of women, especially when collecting fuel-wood.

The strategy was based on a approach which was different from the usual approaches in a number of important respects. In spite of the emergency situation (but not neglecting it) an effort was made to integrate aspects of development policy, and also involve both groups who would be affected by the measures, namely, the refugees and the indigenous host population, in the process of designing the programme. The refugees were not regarded as aid recipients, who were receiving everything free of charge, but as persons who were responsible - together with their hosts - for managing their own living environment. Merely, in view of the emergency situation, the time normally allowed for the implementation of such measures was reduced to a minimum. A later evaluation showed, that this time could have been reduced even more.

In practice this meant that the socio-cultural and economic parameters of both groups were reflected in the programme components - sensitisation, education, training and production - and the skills available in these groups could be utilised to carry out the programme as efficiently as possible:

- the focus was on activities which would be beneficial for the refugees not only while they were in the camps, but also after they had returned to their homeland, while benefiting the local population at the same time.

- In view of the lack of even minimal purchasing power, especially on the part of the refugees, a system was develop in which the acquisition of improved household technology and kitchen management methods was linked to other modalities of exchange (trees for stoves) which, in turn, were linked as much as possible to the rehabilitation of the environment.

- The resource conservation measures (establishing tree nurseries with fencing around them, experimental plantations and green belts, stove production centres, etc.) were designed and organised in such a way that they could be integrated into the local development planning process and eventually continued by the indigenous host population.

1.2. Rescue evaluation - What are the impacts?

At the end of the second year an external evaluation judged the overall impact to be positive. The refugees had accepted the challenge to share some of the responsibilities for meeting their own energy supplies needs and to be involved in repairing environmental damages to which they had contributed.

More than 80% of the households had one or two improved cooking stoves, one of which was often owner-built and one “bought” in exchange for environmentally relevant work. The same households were also introduced to improved kitchen management techniques; environmental awareness training was made available to household, schools and partner aid organisations alike. In the four tree nurseries and greenbelts experience was gained not only on the conditions of survival for various types of trees, but also with regard to the views and attitudes of both target groups. The three camps were protected with three rows of live hedges instead of barbed wire (one, or at most two, rows will suffice in the future), which made them seem less like refugee camps, optically at least. Finally schools and aid organisations planted mostly shady trees in their compounds which flourished well and as such set an example of household planting.

While all these activities still had shortcomings (the local community was not well enough integrated, the trees around the tents were not always protected and cared for, the extension skills of some of the personnel were still lacking in competence, property rights of the host population were not always reflected or clarified, etc.), it can still be said with confidence, that the general approach was right, extremely valuable lessons were learned that will contribute to better programmes in the future. However, it also became clear that the concept needs to be expanded into areas other than household energy in order to arrive at a comprehensive approach. Also more practical experiences - under different settings - are needed.

2. GTZ Involvement in HHE-Related Activities in Fuel-Wood Provision and Energy Conservation in Zaire

In the beginning of 1994, as a result of the civil war in Rwanda, approximately 1,2 million people fled from Rwanda to Goma, a town at the Northern border of Lake Kivu in Zaire, where up until then only about one hundred thousand people had lived. Several camps were established in the vicinity of Goma. The town Bukavu on the southern edge of Lake Kivu hosted approximately 300,000 refugees in its surroundings at the same time, the population of the town had doubled because of the refugee influx.

For the immediate energy requirements of the refugees, the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development provided approximately two million dollars in emergency aid. Since a number of development cooperation projects had already been carried out before the civil war, good regional knowledge and expertise was available, so that the implementation could begin immediately. This was extremely important as within a few weeks serious environmental degradation processes became visible, caused by the energy and housing needs of the refugees. Already in August 1994 the area around Goma was completely denuded.

Between July and December 1994, three main activities were implemented:

- Fuel-wood purchase and distribution in selected camps;
- Reforestation measures;
- Dissemination of fuel-wood saving measures and technologies as well as kitchen management.

GTZ organised the purchase of fuel-wood and transported it with lorries to the collection places of the international Red Cross and from there to the camp centres for further distribution to the households. Daily, 10 to 12 lorries with a load of 20-25 msq. each supplied 29 children's camps, 14 hospitals, one camp for the handicapped and two other camps where 76,000 people lived. Obviously it was impossible to supply all camps, more than a million people in total, so the cutting of trees continued and, consequently, the deforestation continued.

The measures in the area of forestry, which were carried out in cooperation with the Zairean Ministry of Environment, centred around Goma and the Virunga Park, a protected national park where approximately 250,000 people collected their firewood. During the six months while the project activities lasted, 32 tree nurseries were set up in an effort to replant 370 hectares. 2500 seedlings were needed per hectare sq. for planting during the 1995 March-April planting season. Establishing and keeping the tree nurseries was labour-intensive and problematical insofar as the distances to the nurseries were great and led through areas where fighting was taking place. For this reason, regular care was not always possible.

Finally, parallel to the reforestation measures and the fuel-wood transport and distribution, various activities were carried out for the construction and correct use of energy-efficient cooking stoves. Prior to this, a study had been carried out to select the most acceptable models available in the area and to get an overview of the local (refugee and host) expertise. Experienced project personal from a Special Energy Programme, which had been working in the area before the fighting, trained a number of trainers to build communal stoves in the Children's camp. The saving rate of the communal stoves was 50% and above. In addition, Rwandan refugees were trained to construct and use improved household stoves (saving rate approximately 20-30%) and employ more efficient kitchen management methods. The trainers came from other similar projects in Kenya and Zaire, were they had gained experiences in emergency situations.

The results were encouraging: in a first effort 17 stove builders (masons, metal workers, extension personnel) were trained and 22 communal stoves (either permanently installed or transportable) were built. Later on, communal stoves were built in all children camps and other institutional setups working in the area to provide medical care and other services.

In other camp, Kahindo, a core team of 19 trainers and 40 extension staff trained 8,000 local stove builders who then built for the individual households free of charge. Energy-saving methods and efficient kitchen management techniques (splitting, drying, maintaining and putting out fires as soon as the cooking process has stopped, soaking hard grains, using lids, cutting firewood into small pieces, efficient meal planning and stove maintenance) were also taught by the core team. For the vulnerable groups (single and old people, the disabled, single mothers with small children who could not collect fuel themselves, and sick people) 4,000 all-metal stoves were purchased in Kenya and distributed. Towards the end of the programme small scale businesses were catered for especially. They were found to be a rewarding group to work with, as the major consumers of fuel and as such more interested in saving, while being multipliers for others at the same time.

The experiences within this programme - as far as technical training, environmental awareness materials and information was concerned - were shared with other aid organisations, such as the International Red Cross, CARE, MSF Belgium and others, so that step by step a large pool of expertise was built up.

3. From Participation to Empowerment to Self-Reliance

Environmental mitigation projects in emergency situations are not different from other development projects in the goals they want to achieve and the approaches they need to follow. However in certain respects, such as in the speed of action required, the time horizons for the different target groups, and the generally greater complexity of the problems, there are significant differences. In almost all sectors of everyday life results have to be achieved in a very short time in a politically and economically unstable environment. The elements of sustainability and economic independence of the activities implemented will almost certainly come second to quick action. Most of the time it is necessary to proceed at several levels simultaneously: planning, awareness raising, training, self-help construction, design and testing and production all are needed to be implemented at once. Since there is no time for in-depth research and detailed testing procedures, the recourse to prior experiences and established procedures is all the more important. Despite this handicap, a gradual change from emergency to development planning must be initiated in the early stages of emergency responses and rehabilitation measures planned from the beginning rather than after the return of the refugees.

Priority Issues for Household Energy and Deforestation

Although this paper has focused on household energy and deforestation problems in refugee-affected areas, it is clear that in an acute emergency situation there are more pressing needs, such as appropriate settlement strategies (location, size of camps, type of compounds), the provision of food and clean water, the protection of water sources (often a life-threatening problem, which has to receive the utmost priority), health and hygiene campaigns (preventive). However, from a natural environment point of view the procurement of fuel and building materials is also a central concern, that has long been neglected. The following are a number of steps that can be taken to mitigate these problems. These measures have all been supported by GTZ within the last two years in emergency situation in Eastern Africa. While they may not be the best procedures in every situation, they have proven expedient and useful in the given circumstances. Reflecting on the experiences gained, the points are presented in order of time and importance:

1. As dry wood stocks can usually cater for fuel-wood needs in the first weeks or months only, the felling of young, green trees poses the most immediate threat to the surrounding forests. Building poles should, wherever possible in the future, be included in the relief package. Proper shelter material and sufficient blankets can save large amounts of trees being cut for shelter construction and additional amounts of firewood being burnt for warmth.

2. Depending on the diet provided, the most effective and probably cheapest way of saving firewood and women's labour at the same time is the milling of hard grains either in central milling facilities or in small, decentralised, locally operated mills.

3. The second most effective measure of immediate impact is mass training in energy-saving methods (such as the storing and drying of wood) and the construction of simple windbreaks to protect the fire as a first step and improved stove construction as a second step. In addition to saving fuel, these activities contribute to creating environmental awareness, especially if accompanied by continuous training.