Cleaner energy, safer food: the bioenergy potential in Rwanda


Universal access to clean and reliable energy services is a critical aspect of sustainable development and food security, but it remains a significant challenge in Rwanda, where the predominant reliance on traditional biomass sources, poses serious health and environmental risks.

The Sustainable bioenergy potential from crop, livestock and woody residues in Rwanda: An integrated bioenergy and food security approach report emphasizes how sustainable bioenergy provides greater access to energy without putting pressure on natural resources. It demonstrates how biomass can be used for the generation of electricity and clean cooking fuels supporting goals set by the Government of Rwanda under their National Strategy for Transformation and BEST, Rwanda's Biomass Energy Strategy "By transitioning from traditional biomass to sustainable bioenergy pathways, Rwanda can improve energy access, mitigate environmental degradation, and enhance the food security and overall wellbeing of its population," says Maria Michela Morese, Senior Natural Resources Officer and Team Leader of FAO’s Energy Team.

In Rwanda, only about 47 percent of households have access to electricity, and just 2.4 percent of the population has access to clean cooking fuels as of 2020. Because of the lack of alternatives, nearly 85 percent of energy comes from traditional biomass sources, such as firewood and charcoal for cooking. While traditional biomass is a natural source, its use can lead to health issues, environmental degradation and deforestation. Between 2000 and 2020, it contributed a 13 percent net decrease in tree cover.

To support this transition, FAO’s Energy team evaluated the bioenergy potential of the country to produce cooking fuels and bring electricity to remote, off-grid areas. This assessment examines the production of modern solid biofuels, such as pellets, briquettes and charcoal briquettes, and explores off-grid electrification through gasification and combustion technologies, including the financial feasibility of each option.

The analysis, conducted as part of the "Bioenergy and food security assessment and capacity building for Rwanda" project, offers insights, valuable for the implementation of Rwanda's bioenergy strategy, informing decision-making, guiding policymakers and relevant stakeholders, and highlighting potential areas for growth and investment.