Refugees adopt energy- saving stoves to save trees

A girl lights a stone stove at a refugee camp. Photo by Felix Warom Okello.

What you need to know:

  • Conservation. The loss of green vegetation including swamps has caused floods whenever it rains and prolonged drought in the district.
  • The situation is no different in Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Yumbe District, which is the largest in the world.
  • After years of deforestation has taken its toll on the environment, energy saving activities such as stone stoves are gaining popularity, writes Lilian Namagembe.

Ms Charity Gune, a widow, arrived at Agojo settlement camp in Uganda’s West Nile District of Adjumani in October 2016.
It was at the peak of the now five-year-old South Sudan war between President Salva Kiir and his former vice Dr Riek Machar. Ms Gune was allocated a 30 by 30 metres plot of land by government where she settled with her three children.
It was a forested land with different tree species such as shea nut, mahogany, but they were cut down to pave way for firewood and construction of houses.
Since hundreds of Gune’s countrymen started flocking to Uganda from troubled South Sudan, the world’s youngest State, there has been increased destruction of natural trees in refugee hosting communities.
As they pour in, the green canopy of different tree species and bushes pave way for settlement. Refugees had to slash the bushes and forests to get firewood to cook food supplies provided by the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
“When we arrived here, we were using the three stones for cooking and the fire wood could easily be blown away,” Ms Gune says, adding that that they had to fulfill their fuel needs.
Gune is not alone. She is part of the close to one million South Sudan refugees in different camps who have since fled South Sudan to Uganda to seek safety. Districts such as Adjumani, Arua, Yumbe, Moyo and other Uganda-South Sudan border districts are among the most affected areas.
According to the UNHCR report on Refugee and Host Community Ratios by District in November last year, the number of refugees in Adjumani district surpasses that of natives by 61 per cent compared to 39 per cent of the latter.

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