Rwanda: Govt Subsidizes Clean Cooking Technologies to Safeguard Forests
Ahead of its debut on the carbon market, the government has urged residents to embrace subsidized clean cooking technologies. These innovative solutions aim to alleviate pressure on forests throughout the country.
The move to promote clean cooking technologies comes as Rwanda prepares to introduce its carbon market framework at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023. These initiatives, including forest conservation and clean cooking technologies, are pivotal in the country's strategy for the carbon market.
Carbon credits, essential in this market, represent measurable and verifiable reductions in emissions from certified climate action projects. These projects work toward diminishing, eliminating, or preventing greenhouse gas emissions.
Each carbon credit signifies the removal of a tonne of carbon emissions, enabling nations, companies, or entities to finance carbon-cutting projects elsewhere and count the avoided emissions toward their climate goals.
Issa Karera, who oversees the promotion of clean cooking technologies at Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL), a subsidiary of Rwanda Energy Group, highlighted that the subsidized improved cookstoves being distributed can decrease the use of wood fuel and charcoal by up to 50 percent.
The initiative to subsidize improved cookstoves is projected to cost 15 million Euros (Rwf20 billion). This subsidy aims to enhance the accessibility of clean cooking technologies by reducing system prices, particularly for the lowest income segments of Rwanda's population.
Funded in part by the World Bank's Clean Cooking Fund, this subsidy will benefit approximately over 2 million people, providing them with access to clean cooking technologies. Karera mentioned the goal of distributing these subsidized improved cookstoves to 500,000 households by 2026, with around 200,000 households already benefiting from the initiative.
Rwanda aims to decrease its dependence on wood fuel and charcoal in cooking to 42 percent by 2024. Presently, 25 companies are registered to supply improved cookstoves countrywide, with 12 companies already engaged in distribution. However, some districts, such as Rusizi, Nyamasheke, and Burera, have not yet partnered with any distributing company.
Karera highlighted the varying subsidy percentages based on household economic status, ranging from 90 percent to 45 percent.
The Ministry of Environment estimates that an investment of $1.37 billion by 2030 is required to achieve the government's target of reducing charcoal use from 79 percent to 42 percent of the population. This reduction aims to alleviate pressure on Rwanda's forests, which currently cover 724,695 hectares (30.4 percent) of the country's total land area.
Officials caution that without adopting clean cooking technologies, the progress made could be undermined. Charcoal production and firewood consumption lead to the felling of approximately 380 hectares of forest every week.
To mitigate these issues, the focus includes mobilizing sustainable financing, promoting biomass replacement, supporting green charcoal producers, distributing improved cookstoves, and continuous awareness campaigns to encourage the adoption of clean cooking energy sources.
Despite advancements in some districts, the reliance on wood fuel and charcoal remains high. Statistics reveal that 93 percent of households in Gicumbi district and 83.9 percent in the Western province still depend on wood for cooking.