Institute for Environmental Security
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Fuel for Securing Ecosystems and Livelihoods
13 November 2009
On 27 October, 2009, the Institute for Environmental Security and the IUCN-Netherlands Committee have published their report "Dealing with energy needs in humanitarian crisis response operations". The report presents the findings of a quick scan of energy-related policies and practices in emergency response operations.
Recent examples demonstrate that insufficient provision of energy sources in refugee and returnee operations can have dramatic ecological and humanitarian consequences. The report contains some examples from Nepal, Tanzania, DR Congo and Ethiopia, where the large consumption of firewood and timber has led to large scale deforestation and forest degradation. In Darfur, camp residents are forced to travel up to 15 kilometers - in some cases even 75 kilometers - to find firewood. This has dramatic impacts on health, (food) security and future livelihood opportunities of the affected people and host communities.
UNHCR and other emergency aid organizations have included substantial elements of sustainable energy supply in their policies and plans; however, implementation is often late or insufficient. Although there may be time and security constraints, careful planning of refugee and returnee camps and implementing sustainable energy solutions as soon as possible are key elements of humanitarian operations, states the report.
A wide variety of potential alternative energy sources and technologies already exists. Some interesting alternatives to firewood and charcoal are:
- fuel briquettes, that were used by Burmese refugees in Thailand;
- biofuels, for instance ethanol stoves, as tested in Ethiopia; and
- solar energy cookers, that were successfully introduced in Chad, Ethiopia and Nepal.
IUCN-NL and the IES recommend here that humanitarian aid organizations take the long-term ecosystem impacts into account from the start of all relief operations. Existing guidelines and regulations (such as the UNHCR Environmental Guidelines and the Sphere Handbook) should be used by all humanitarian agencies. Also, the implementation of sustainable fuel supply should be structurally included in the budgets of relief operations.
One other important recommendation in the report is to improve coordination of fuel-related initiatives. To start with, all Netherlands based humanitarian aid agencies are invited to engage in further dialogue, during a workshop to be organized on this issue by the IES and IUCN-NL.
Eric van de Giessen
FUEL Project Coordinator