Teen Fem Boss: Nadege Iradukunda Transforming Waste To Energy In Rwanda
At the age of 18, Nadege Iradukunda was nominated for the 2012 Anzisha Prize award for her innovative startup that brought about sustainable solutions to the challenge of expensive cooking energy cost her community faced. At the time of her nomination for the Anzisha Prize, Iradukunda was a senior five student learning at the College St. Emmanuel Secondary School in Nyanza District, Rwanda.
Iradukunda came up with her innovation after learning how Rwanda’s prisons were utilizing biogas fuel as opposed to wood fuel for cooking. In the back of her mind she knew how many students in her community were barely affording to pay the additional fees required by schools in order for schools to provide meals for students while at school. The additional fee on the school fees made learning very expensive for majority of the school kids in her community. Schools spent the extra fee to buy wood fuel used for cooking meals for their students.
Given the fact that also a large percentage of people in her neighborhood relied on wood fuel for cooking, this automatically made the demand for wood fuel very high. Something that led to increased rate of deforestation and with that other problems such as soil erosion crept in. There was also an increasing incidences of respiratory illness reported among kitchen workers, that resulted from the excessive smoke that is associated with burning wood fuel for cooking. Iradukunda saw an opportunity to apply the idea she got from the prison’s cooking into helping her community.
In order to implement her idea, Iradukunda teamed up with the United Youth for Rwanda Development (UYRD). This is a youth led not for profit NGO operating in Rwanda whose core mission is to sustain health and livelihood services provision to the marginalized and underprivileged youths using education and advocacy. Iradukunda’s project named the Biogas Digester Plants (BDP) face one major challenge as she puts it, “funds for this project because its budget is very high and it is why among our activities, there is raising awareness so that schools may thereafter install on their own”.
Iradukunda and her colleagues at UYRD buys, assemble and deploy the BDP to secondary schools in their community. By last year April, 2013, the group had already deployed 15 BDPs that were serving over 15,000 students and significantly reducing the cost of school fees. Now that schools were spending less on cooking, as a result of substituting the expensive wood fuel with cost effective and eco-friendly biogas fuel. The trickledown effect is that now many students are able to attend school given that the school fees have also become more affordable.
Iradukunda and her team at UYRD aims at spreading the use of BDP throughout Rwanda, as it not only solves the problem of expensive wood fuel used in cooking, but also prevents deforestation, soil erosion, respiratory illnesses and would generally be classified as green energy. BDP is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of environmental conscience technology. Her inventions earned her a prestigious nomination into the top 13 finalist who qualified for the 2012 Anzisha Prize, a program created by the African Leadership Academy in conjunction with MasterCard Foundation.