The adoption of clean cooking stoves in Rwanda is seen as a critical step towards mitigating deforestation and reducing carbon emissions. With both rural and urban dwellers relying on biomass fuels burned inefficiently for their daily needs, there is a clear indication that something needs to be done to speed up the transition. What that is requires the collective efforts of a number of stakeholders, including the government and local NGOs. But challenges, primarily of the economic variety, stand in the way.

This article is an attempt to review the traditional cooking practices in Rwanda and their role to deforestation; analyse the environmental, economic, and social benefits of clean cooking stoves, enumerate the policies and strategies put in place by the Rwandan government to address the issues; acknowledge the challenges and limitations faced by the transition; discuss the future prospects for clean cooking stoves in Rwanda; and, finally, look at some of the ways Web3 regenerative finance (ReFi) solutions can help.


Traditional cooking typically involves open fires or simple stoves, commonly known as three-stone stoves, made from clay or metal. These methods are highly inefficient, with much of the energy from the fuel being lost as heat rather than being used for cooking. A large proportion of Rwandan households rely heavily on biomass fuels for their daily cooking needs. In rural areas, firewood accounts for 93% of the cooking fuel used, while charcoal is predominant in urban areas (NISR EICV5, 2018). The decision to use biomass fuel is driven by economics. Wood and charcoal are much cheaper compared to other energy sources. But as trees are cut down for fuel, the resulting deforestation contributes to habitat loss, soil erosion, and the release of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and other greenhouse gases.

Efficient and clean cooking stoves are designed to use less fuel and burn it more efficiently. By improving fuel efficiency, these stoves can significantly lower the rate of deforestation and decrease carbon emissions in Rwanda, thereby promoting environmental sustainability, prioritising biodiversity, and improving societal health, particularly that of women and children, who are most affected by inefficient cooking stoves.

It is essential to expand the use of clean fuels and technologies to confront the negative impact of traditional cooking methods. Alternatives include solar, electricity, biogas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, alcohol, and biomass stoves that meet the emission targets in the WHO guidelines. However, a nationwide transformation to clean cooking stoves calls for strategic action by both the government and private partners.

Positive steps

An estimated investment of US$170 million is needed until 2024 to halve the number of households using traditional cooking technologies (World Bank, 2020). The Rwandan government has adopted policies and implemented measures aimed to reach this goal. These include public awareness campaigns, financial incentives, and integrating stove programs into broader environmental and development initiatives.

The Rwanda Biomass Strategy, updated in 2019, identifies the need to promote more sustainable sources of biomass and improve the management of natural resources in the country. It addresses both the supply and demand of biomass fuel with the aim to achieve a balance by 2030. Increasing the efficiency of the biomass value chain through improved cookstoves is fundamental for ensuring that energy needs are met sustainably without compromising the integrity of the remaining forests.

The Rwanda Energy Policy proposes an extensive programme to encourage households to switch to modern energy technologies and carriers. Included are various measures to ease the transition.

The Education Sector Strategic Plans (ESSP) reflects the ambition to promote more sustainable management of natural resources and shift away from traditional cooking sources. The target is to reduce the number of households depending on traditional cooking fuels from 79.9% in 2017 to 42% by 2024. These targets are supported by the implementation of the Biomass Energy Strategy (MININFRA, 2019), which aims to reduce the demand for biomass fuels. This includes raising customer awareness, strengthening value chains of clean fuels and cooking technologies, and strengthening the coordination and capacity of public institutions in the sector.

Under the Paris Agreement, the Rwandan government updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in May 2020 to include the promotion of efficient cookstoves as a mitigation measure. The goal is to disseminate efficient cookstoves to 80% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population by 2030. US$380 million has been earmarked for this measure (GoR, 2020).

Challenges and limitations

Despite the clear advantages offered by cleaner cooking, the main hindrance is still economic. Many households, particularly in rural areas, do not feel the need to buy fuel. They can simply collect it from the forest for free. If it cannot be collected for free, it can cost up to US$11 per month based on current market prices. With average rural incomes at less than US$100 per month, local deforestation is the only option. Charcoal, on the other hand, is typically more expensive. A bag of charcoal can cost as much as US$20, making it a lucrative business.

The high initial cost of clean stoves is another barrier. For example, the most advanced biomass cooking stoves can cost up to US$65, an amount that is out of reach of most Rwandans. Addressing affordability through subsidies and financing options is crucial to increasing adoption rates.

Cultural resistance to changing traditional cooking methods is another hindrance. Education and awareness campaigns are necessary to promote the benefits of efficient stoves and encourage behavioural change. There is also the issue of distribution and maintenance in remote areas. Even if villagers wanted to change, the logistical challenges of getting clean stoves and fuel to them are formidable. Developing robust supply chains, local distribution networks, and maintenance services can help address these issues and ensure the long-term success of stove programs.

Future prospects

For easier adoption by the local population, particularly in remote areas, greater emphasis on social and behaviour change campaigns and partnerships with financial institutions in implementation approaches is needed. These include promoting new technology standards and regulations. The Rwanda Energy Policy also proposes developing subsidies for clean cooking technologies to improve the impact and scale-up potential of existing programs.

An example of these subsidies is the establishment of the results-based financing scheme under the Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project by the World Bank. US$17 million in clean cooking results-based financing will partially subsidize the price of clean cooking solutions for at least 500,000 households by 2025 (BRD, 2021).

Potential future advancements in cooking stove technology could further enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and increase user acceptance. Innovations in design, materials, and manufacturing processes can make efficient stoves more accessible and appealing. Electric cooking stoves, in particular, have potential due to high electricity access in urban areas.

The Government of Rwanda has identified urbanization as an opportunity for socio-economic growth and acknowledges that well-planned urbanization may help achieve proper use of land and other natural resources. With the urban population projected to double from 17.8% in 2017 to 35% in 2024, and a target reduction in urban charcoal consumption of 32%, demand for this new technology will naturally increase. Surveys suggest that nearly half of the households using traditional stoves, especially in urban areas, are willing to upgrade. The question is whether the economics will make it possible.

ReFi's potential for impact

Web3 regenerative finance (ReFi) solutions are designed to help make small-scale, grassroots projects viable. Such projects can get direct access to global pools of funding in which the community decides how the money is allocated. ReFi solutions are also designed to incentivise individuals to make climate-friendly choices. We are seeing it work with solar energy, where a supplier can now run its own electricity network to serve the needs of the community.

Similar models can work with clean cooking stoves in Rwanda:

Grant funding

We have seen a number of grassroots projects, such as AYOWECCA Uganda, leverage fundraising mechanisms such as Gitcoin Grants to source the necessary capital for project implementation. This has allowed these projects to make impact without waiting on government or other private funding to come through.

In Rwanda's case, local projects operating in small geographic regions can leverage ReFi funding mechanisms to augment efforts by the government and NGOs. The speed at which these projects can receive funding means they can get clean cooking stoves to households much faster. Impact reporting from the initial rollout would then act as a basis for future funding.

Cookstove credits

Perhaps the most interesting ReFi solution in the Rwandan context is centered around the cookstove credit. The end goal is a system where households are incentivised to use clean cooking stoves. In this case, the source of the incentives is the sale of credits to global buyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint. While questions remain about the actual climate impact of cookstove credits, there is no doubting the localised benefits of reduced deforestation and cleaner household air.

There are a couple of ways to go about it. The first involves a project that is financing the transition to clean cooking stoves. It can use the sale of the resulting credits to sustainably fund expansion. It could also share some of the revenue with households to help offset the cost of fuel.

The second approach has the households issuing and selling the credits themselves. Using clean cooking stoves, therefore, becomes an important additional source of revenue. Shamba Network is currently working on similar solution for farmers in which they can issue and sell the carbon credits generated from their land.

The challenge, of course, is getting these credits verified by global standards such as Verra. Primarily due to cost, it would be difficult for projects to go through the process, let alone households. Two other ReFi solutions, Regen Network and Solid World, are exploring ways to make cookstove credit issuance possible at both the grassroots project and household level.

ReFi is by no means a panacea. Solutions are often very effective at small scale, but have not yet been proven across wider geographic regions. For now, the important thing is that we are seeing positive examples that can be emulated.


There is no doubting the benefits of clean cooking stoves: reduced deforestation, lower carbon emissions, better household health. They are a viable solution to address environmental challenges and promote sustainable development in Rwanda. The barriers to transition, however, are primarily economic. Especially in rural areas, it is unrealistic to expect people to pay more for something they do not necessarily need.

Financial support from the government and NGO sector is central to the transition. For its part, the Rwandan government has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce reliance on traditional cooking stoves and biomass fuels. To speed up the transition and build sustainable sources of private funding, local projects should explore the adoption of ReFi solutions such as grant funding and cookstove credits. These collective efforts will only serve to improve the lives of Rwandans and protect the environment in the face of rapidly increasing surface temperatures.


BRD. (2021, March 02). Priority sectors- Energy. Retrieved from Development Bank of Rwanda:

Energy4IMPACT; Policy and market review for modern energy cooking in Rwanda, Working paper; June 2021

GoR. (2020). Updated Nationally Determined Contributions. Kigali.

MININFRA. (2015). National Urbanisation Policy. Kigali.

MININFRA. (2017). Energy Sector Strategic Plan. Kigali: Ministry of Infrastructure.

MININFRA. (2019). Biomass energy strategy: a sustainable path to clean cooking. Kigali.

MINIRENA. (2018). Rwanda National Land Use Planning Guidelines. Kigali.

NISR. (2018). EICV5: Rwanda Poverty Profile Report. Kigali: National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda.

NISR. (2021, 02 03). Key figures. Retrieved from National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda:

REG. (2021, 02 04). Biomass. Retrieved from Rwanda Energy Group:

World Bank. (2020). Rwanda - Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project.

This article represents the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of CARBON Copy.