More Rwandans are ditching charcoal and opting for gas as the energy source for cooking, statistics from gas imports indicates.
Imports for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) have increased fourteen times in the last seven years, a trend that officials at Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) have interpreted as being the real picture of how fast Rwandans are adopting the use of cooking gas.
In 2010, Rwanda imported about 700,000 kilograms of LPG but the imports have since been increasing and the country imported 10 million kilogrammes of the gas in 2017.
The figures were availed to The New Times by RURA officials quoting data from the Rwanda Revenue Authority.
According to Eng. Gérard Rusine, Director of Gas and Downstream Petroleum regulations at RURA, about 90 per cent of LPG in Rwanda is used for cooking, which means that the demand for gas use in the kitchen is high in Rwanda.
"There are many homes and institutions in Rwanda that are using gas for cooking and approximately 90 per cent of LPG is used for cooking purposes. More and more Rwandans are using gas for cooking and they realise that using gas is healthier and cleaner than using charcoal," he told The New Times on Friday.
Imports for gas shot up especially in the last two years when the government started campaigns in favour of cooking gas use.
The amount of LPG imported doubled from 5,020,595 kilograms in 2016 to 10,278,617 kilograms in 2017 owing to what RURA officials described as government campaigns in favour of the use of cooking gas in the kitchen.
The Rwandan government has been sensitising Rwandans to use cooking gas at their homes, with one resolution from the 14th National Leadership Retreat calling for setting up sound mechanisms for use of gas and other modern environmentally-friendly energy sources for cooking in households as well as in schools, prisons and other big institutions.
Rusine said that the uptake in gas use in the kitchen will continue to grow if the government keeps up its sensitisation campaigns and also puts up more incentives to enable gas suppliers to do their job.
"It's a matter of awareness and the government needs to put more investments in awareness about the use of gas for cooking because it's very cost-effective and it's clean energy," he said.
Among the incentives, Rusine said, is availing gas storage facilities for LPG suppliers across the country, setting up LPG strategic stocks which can be used in case of serious shortage, and waiving taxes on gas accessories.
As for Rwandans, the official encourages them to give up on using charcoal and firewood for cooking because it's toxic.
A large number of Rwandans still use firewood and charcoal for cooking, which remains a danger to their health and the environment as forests are cut in process.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over four million people die prematurely every year from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels (wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves.
Betty Mukamparirwa whose family is made up of three people started using cooking gas in 2017.
Today she pays Rwf15,000 to buy 15 kilogrammes of gas, which she uses for about two months by alternating its use with charcoal.
Though she prefers using gas for cooking, she still uses charcoal to cook some foods like dried beans because they require longer hours on the fire.
"It's an advantage using gas because it's faster and clean," she said.
When it comes to the cost of cooking using gas or charcoal, Mukamparirwa said that mixing both is the best way because when you use charcoal alone for cooking everything it becomes costly and at the same time cooking everything using gas is not easy.
It cost Mukamparirwa about Rwf100,000 to get started on using gas in her kitchen because she had to buy a stove and a gas cylinder and its accessories as well as do the first fill of gas before she could start refilling her gas cylinder at about Rwf1,000 per kilogramme from suppliers in Kigali, where she lives.