About the Authors: Todd Pierce serves as Public Affairs Advisor and Wendy Henning serves as a Program Officer in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Over 53,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic Congo compete with native Rwandans for scarce resources, including timber for cooking fires. This competition has led to deforestation of a beautiful, green landscape and to friction between refugees and the host population. The Rwandan government has restricted wood-cutting in order to preserve the environment, but as a result refugees sometimes struggle to find enough firewood to cook with.
The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration sought to mitigate the problem by giving money to the American Refugee Committee for the improved cook stoves you see above. This adobe-like structure, built around a three rock base traditional in the region, reduces the amount of firewood needed to cook by directing the heat straight to the pot. This is not only good for the environment, but reduces time and risk collecting firewood. Other benefits are the added safety of children playing near open fires and the reduction of smoke. The stoves are appropriate technology, as materials are available locally and cheaply, and construction is simple.
The project comes from the Julia V. Taft Refugee Fund, formerly the Ambassadors’ Fund for Refugees.