Prisons Nearing Zero Firewood Target Despite Covid-19 

Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) says the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the cooking technology targets that were set in all the thirteen prisons across the country.

Last year, RCS had set  a target to graduate a 100% from using firewood while embracing use of briquettes, but the move has been hindered by COVID-19.

 Initially, prisoners would move out to grow rice and then use pulp manufacturing briquettes.  

Briquettes are compressed blocks of coal dust or other combustible biomass material including charcoal, sawdust, wood chips, peat, or paper used for fuel and kindling to start a fire. 

“Our targets were hindered by locking down prisoners in their cells because of Covid-19. Only a very few prisoners who are highly manageable in observing all the Covid-19 preventive measures can be allowed to  go out for some work which made it impossible for us to make briquettes,” SSP Pelly Uwera, Spokesperson of RCS told KT Press during a phone interview on Tuesday 26.

SSP Uwera said that the cooking technology targets are expected to be achieved when the condition normalizes in the prisons across the country, possibly after the country getting the Covid-19 vaccine and medicine.  

According to RCS, the main cooking technology in use among prisons is biogas at 65% followed by briquettes and firewood, 3%. 

The RCS zero firewood usage target came after the government conducted several awareness campaigns countrywide on the use of safe, effective, and clean cooking technologies to ensure that the country meets its target to reduce the use of biomass energy.

Available figures from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) indicate that about 80% of Rwandans still use firewood for cooking, but by 2024, Rwanda is targeting to have reduced the figure downward to 42%.

According to Rwanda Energy Group (REG), the current national energy balance statistics show that biomass (mostly wood fuel) accounts for about 83% of the total energy consumption, followed by petroleum at 9.7%, electricity at 1.3%, and others with less than 0.5% percentage points. 

In rural areas, the reliance on biomass is over 90%.

SSP Uwera said that briquette technology; the allegedly most environmental friendly cooking technology, will be boosted again after COVID-19.

“The available rice pulps are being supplied by the rice cooperatives, but when conditions normalize, prisoners will resume going out of cells for rice cultivation and we shall get pupl supplies,” SSP Uwera added.

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