By Bazio Doreen.

In the past few years, government has made an effort to implement a ban on illegal charcoal business in Northern Uganda which has not only affected people’s livelihoods but also forced many households including refugees to find an alternative. Equally, several NGOs, environmental groups and local leaders have warned refugee communities about the dangers of cutting trees and have also encouraged to embrace planting and embrace other alternatives like briquettes.

Briquettes give heat five times than charcoal and burn for a minimum of eight hours, meaning that a common person will be saving a lot and the same to the industries. Seeing this as a great business opportunity, women in Nyumanzi refugee settlement Block A and B is improving livelihoods of about 180 direct beneficiaries and many others indirectly.

These innovative women have dedicated at least 3 hours every day since August 2023 to make energy cooking stoves and briquettes ever since they received 47 million from Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) and technical training from Greenwich.

In a day, the group makes at least 2-5 stoves. Cumulatively, the group has so far sold 81 out of 105 stoves and 2 sacks of briquettes making a net profit of 1,215,000/=. Each cooking stove costs 15,000/= and 10 briquettes cost 1,000/=. The stoves and briquettes are marketed and sold during food ration days and also taken to neighboring refugees settlements like Baratuku and Elema.

Martha Alang Ayo, 30, the Chairperson of the group A says that now with the knowledge and skills acquired, she can now start her own business should any need arise. She is also grateful to DRDIP for igniting her leadership skills because it is her role to ensure that all the women work as required.

“I am happy that I have learnt how to make the briquettes and cooking stoves. Even if the group disintegrates in the future, I will be able to continue making and supporting myself.” Alang boasts.

Alang also says that because of division of labor between the women, they have built peaceful co-existence, friendship and cohesion that enables them have social and moral support to each other.

Alang(left), Amour (Right) standing in their workshop with some of the products.

Amour Kwerang, 37, a member of group B, observes that they no longer look at themselves as vulnerable because they have learnt that you reap where you sow and hard work is a must.

“For us refugees, we now have to sweat to get what to eat because some of us no longer receive food ration. At first, making the cooking stoves looks hard but many of us have now learnt.” Amour explains on what achievements they have made.

Adjumani District Development Plan II (2017-2020) noted the high rate of deforestation and bush burning worsened by the burden of hosting 237,787 refugees who mainly destroy trees to get firewood and timber for construction. The District Development plan also notes that 99.7% of the about 450,000 population in Adjumani depends on wood fuel. However, refugees and host communities with support from donors like DRDIP is helping tackle this challenge by providing a cheaper and affordable option that helps to conserve the environment and also provide a source of income. According to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), as of January 2023, Adjumani was hosting 208,413 refugees.