Clean energy project help female refugees in northwest Kenya

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Female refugees residing in Kakuma refugee camp situated in northwest Kenya are set to benefit from a clean energy project following the installation of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) hub in the area.

Sarah Hare, Senior Practice Specialist at Crown Agents said the hub that uses solar system will transform lives of women and children living in Kakuma refugee camp through provision of clean energy and sharpening of their digital skills.

“The hub is set to provide access to energy for computer use, internet, phone and solar home kit charging, vocational training, life skills and community cohesion through joint trainings of refugees,” Hare told Xinhua during an interview on Monday.

She said the facility will accord refugees and the host population an opportunity to acquire skills in leather craft, computer repairs, horticulture, weaving, plumbing, carpentry, mechanic and baking.

Energy poverty is a persistent problem in refugees’ lives since they are isolated from the national grid and lack reliable access to renewable power.

The project is also aimed at replacing the use of fuel wood for cooking that exposes households to health problems.

Only 2.7 percent of the population had access to electricity as their main lighting source in 2015 in Kakuma, a marginalized region that is home to refugees from neighboring countries including South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda.

Joe Attwood, Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) Program Manager said a series of low carbon and market development activities are being initiated in Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County located in northwestern Kenya.

Attwood noted that many refugees in the camp do not have any form of lighting at night as women and girls also face various risks when they leave camps in search of firewood.

“We want to ensure that the low carbon and market development projects remain self sustainable through full involvement of local communities,” Attwood added.

He noted that the approach further seeks to lessen hostilities between refugees and the host community due to stiff competition for scarce fuel sources.

Attwood observed that the project intends to dispel a belief that refugees are a liability to the society they live in.

BBOXX, a partner in the project plans to establish a distribution outlet for sale of solar home systems in and outside the camp.

“We have lined up consumer awareness activities to education refugees and host communities on the benefits of solar products,” said Pervin Mariga, the company’s Kenya Retail Manager.

He said the firm has established solar kiosks outlets where refugees and the hosts will operate as distributors or technicians of energy products such as solar home systems, solar lanterns and improved cook stoves.

Under the project, a solar-powered ICT and learning hub is complete and is equipped with low-energy consuming computers, internet, printers, photocopiers and stationery.

Two healthcare clinics managed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) at the camp are also set to be unveiled.

It will train IRC staff, as well as 15 skilled and non-skilled people from the host and refugee communities to support the installation, operation and maintenance of the solar system at IRC’s two primary healthcare facilities.

Once complete, the project is expected to cut IRC’s diesel fuel consumption and operational costs by 80 percent and save costs amounting to 63,000 U.S. dollars annually.

Some of the initiatives, including the construction of a solar-powered ICT and learning hub in the refugee camp, are complete, while the installation of solar systems on two health facilities within Kakuma refugee camp is on-going.

The MEI project is being managed by Energy 4 Impact through a partnership with Chatham House, Practical Action Consulting, Norwegian Refugee Council and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Other partners include BBOXX, Kube energy and Crown Agent.

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