US Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development visits an Environment Protection project in Kigali

28 Feb 2012

imageMs. Beata Uwimpuhwe explaining the production of briquettes in the background to Ms. Marisa Lago

On her visit to Rwanda, Ms. Marisa Lago, the Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development to U.S. Treasury, visited a project funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP). Ms. Béata Uwimpuhwe, the project coordinator, explained to Ms. Lago how the project was launched, how it benefits the members of the cooperative and how it is contributing to national environmental protection.

The “Briquettes as an alternative to fuel wood and deforestation prevention” project located in Nyakabanda, Kigali, benefits 150 members of the cooperative COOCEN (Cooperative for Environment Protection),. The objectives of this project are to promote the use of an alternative energy source to the use of wood as a potential solution to address climate change and deforestation. With support from GEF/SGP, COOCEN produces ecological briquettes and suitable cook stoves; and women from the cooperative conduct environment protection awareness raising activities in their own communities.

More than 80% of Rwandans rely on fire wood for cooking and heating, which contributes to deforestation within the country. In a bid to protect Rwanda’s environment, in 2007, the GEF/SGP, implemented by UNDP in Rwanda,  supported a project implemented by the women cooperative, COOCEN which produces briquettes for cooking and heating. The briquettes are made from organic waste recycled from the garbage the project members collect in over 4,000,000 households in Kigali.


Members of COOCEN recycling garbage for the production of ecological briquettes

Testimony was given by one of the women beneficiaries of the project, Ms. Vestine Uwimana, 44 years, married mother of 5. She used to feed her family through street fruit hawking, which is considered illegal in Rwanda. Vestine started to work for COOCEN in 2002 and was protected from running away from the police and constantly losing her merchandise. The project was advantageous to her in many ways as it permitted her to feed her family, pay for her children’s school tuition, make savings and pay for her family’s health insurance. Just as the other beneficiaries, and provides for her work insurance.

After the visit to the project and Vestine's testimony, Ms. Lago was captivated  by what she saw and heard. She was impressed by the resilience of the women, most of whom are widowers,  by their
hard work, and innovation. She stated  that she found the project very inspiring for other communities to emulate.