An Ethanol-fueled Household Energy Initiative in the Shimelba Refugee Camp, Tigray, Ethiopia

An Ethanol-fueled Household Energy Initiative in the Shimelba Refugee Camp, Tigray, Ethiopia: A Joint Study by the UNHCR and the Gaia Association
Amare G/Egziabher, Ph.D., Environmental Officer,UNHCR-RLO
James Murren and Cheryl O’Brien, Gaia Association 20 January 2006


Executive Summary
In June 2005, Project Gaia (PG) and UNHCR embarked on a household energy initiative in
the Shimelba Camp, Tigray, Ethiopia, to investigate whether the alcohol-fueled CleanCook
Stove, powered with ethanol supplied by Finchaa Sugar Company, could provide a solution
to the growing concerns over scarce fuelwood resources in the area of the camp, increasing
resource conflict between local residents and camp residents, and poor respiratory health
among refugees resulting from or aggravated by unhealthful indoor air quality from woodburning

Initially, 100 ethanol-burning CleanCook (CC) stoves were placed in 100 homes of refugee
families who agreed to participate in the three month pilot study. A detailed assessment of
stove and fuel use prior to introduction of the CC stove was conducted, followed by weekly
and bi-weekly follow-up surveys after the CC stove was introduced. After a visit to the camp
in August by the monitoring team, comprised of UNHCR, Refugee Care Netherlands (ZOA)
and PG staff, it was determined that the new cooking technology had been readily adopted by
the test families and that the stove appeared to be meeting study objectives. Using an
interview format, the monitoring team learned that the amount of fuelwood and time spent
gathering fuelwood had dramatically decreased. Also, the refugees spoke of having less
coughing and eye irritation when using the CC stove, compared to cooking on their
traditional three-stone open fire stoves. As a result, PG and UNHCR decided to place an
additional 50 stoves in the Shimelba Camp.

A return visit to the camp in December to reassess the decrease in fuelwood collection and
use, as a result of the introduction of the CC stove, proved to be supportive of the findings
from the August visit. Fifty household energy profiles were created from among the first 100
households, since these households had the most experience with the CC stove. The 50
energy profiles showed a reduction of at least 42% in the amount of fuelwood collected by
refugees previous to the introduction of the CC stove. Time savings from less fuelwood
collection resulted in women having more time to do other household chores, care for their
children, enroll in literacy classes, pursue income-generating activities and other interests that
enhance quality of life.

As a result of the positive outcomes of the pilot study, PG (Gaia Association) and UNHCR
have embarked on a formal collaboration in 2006 to scale up ethanol stove and fuel use. A
scale-up of the project to include additional stoves into another UNHCR camp, the
Kebrebeyah Camp, is now underway. When the cost and logistics of ethanol supply are
worked out for the Shimelba Camp, more stoves will go to this camp. Given the benefit of
fuelwood savings, reduced likelihood of resource conflict, improved indoor air quality in the
subject homes, and the positive reciprocal effects on refugee livelihood, the partnership
between PG (Gaia Association) and UNHCR is one that should be given greater attention by
the donor community, not only for the Shimelba Camp but for other UNHCR installations as

Additional Images at the Shimelba Camp, March 2006

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