Cooking in Displacement Settings: Engaging the Private Sector in Non-wood-based Fuel Supply

In displacement settings, providing cooking solutions that reduce negative impacts on the environment and health remains a challenge for local governments, humanitarian agencies, businesses and refugees.

Research paper
Published 22 January 2019 Updated 6 October 2020
A user of LPG distributed through UNHCR’s SEED programme in the Diffa region of Niger. Photo: Louise Donovan, UNHCR Niger.

A user of LPG distributed through UNHCR’s SEED programme in the Diffa region of Niger. Photo: Louise Donovan, UNHCR Niger.


  • Providing adequate cooking fuel and clean-burning, fuel-efficient stoves in displacement settings has long been a major challenge for local authorities, humanitarian agencies, non-governmental organizations, local communities and refugees themselves. Refugees generally have limited access to modern cooking solutions. Most either depend on insufficient humanitarian agency handouts of ‘in-kind’ firewood or have to travel long distances to collect firewood.
  • There is significant potential for private-sector engagement in this context – which, though largely overlooked to date, could result in win-win scenarios for all stakeholders. Refugee camps and other displacement settings present opportunities for private-sector cooking fuel companies to expand their customer bases, with the added advantage for vendors of offering concentrated demand and scope for economies of scale.
  • For the Kakuma refugee camp complex in Kenya, the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) decided to engage with the private sector directly. The MEI requested expressions of interest from local private-sector companies for expanding sales and distribution of fuels in the complex through the concession. The winning company – National Oil Corporation of Kenya – is to receive a prize of $50,000 for its proposed concession to supply liquefied petroleum gas both to refugees in the Kakuma complex and to the surrounding host community.
  • The MEI also conducted interviews with various stakeholders in other contexts and countries who are engaged in efforts to develop market-based approaches to providing clean, fuel-efficient cooking solutions to refugees.
  • Based on the interviews and the concession process, the MEI recommends greater donor investment and longer-term guaranteed funding for cooking interventions. This is needed to allow sufficient time to build sustainable markets and secure the requisite engagement and investments from the private sector.
  • Larger, longer-term investments by the private sector – supported through partnerships with donors and humanitarian agencies – in infrastructure and demand creation (both in and outside the refugee community) can reduce the price of alternative solutions and support a gradual transition away from subsidies.
2019-01-22-PatelGross2 (PDF, 0.84MB)