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Their dream is self-improvement: the story of the youth in Nyagatare

The volunteer youth of Nyagatare District, in the Nyagatare Sector, began making environmentally friendly stoves and charcoal after noticing that many people struggle to find good quality charcoal that burns for a long time.

The makers of these unique stoves and charcoal are part of a youth volunteer cooperative located in the Nyagatare Sector, which started in 2021 with the aim of self-improvement through environmental conservation, including making energy-saving stoves and long-burning charcoal from commonly found woods in the grasslands.

The cooperative’s leader, Safari Francis, said they make briquette charcoal from types of wood like acacia and other species found in the grasslands, which helps the landowners manage their grasslands better without wasting resources.

He said, “There are types of wood in the grasslands, especially acacia and others, that interfere with the growth of grass, we collect them and put them into a machine that crushes them, then another machine compacts the material into large chunks of charcoal which we sell.”

Safari mentioned that a kilogram of their charcoal contains about six pieces and is sold for 500 Rwandan Francs. A person using it efficiently can cook with it for three days without running out because it burns for a long time. He noted that it’s often bought by people who have also bought their environmentally friendly stoves, which help people cook faster.

Safari said they are now considering how to expand their project to make charcoal from waste materials, like rice husks, but they face challenges in transporting these materials to their production site.

Nathalie Mukamihigo, a member of the cooperative, mentioned that after finishing university, she began to despair about finding a job, but joining her peers in the cooperative taught her how to make stoves and charcoal.

She said, “Now I’ve also started thinking about how I can incorporate technology into these stoves to make them more efficient because I studied electricity in university. Coming together has been very beneficial to the point where I can solve some financial problems on my own.”

The cooperative, known as NVSDC, has 75 members, all youth volunteers, with goals of significantly improving themselves. Currently, they sell about 100 stoves and more than 20 kilograms of charcoal a month.

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