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An electric cooker to fight deforestation and promote peace around Virunga National Park

Progress stage
Nov 2022 to Oct 2024
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Energy
  • Nov 2022 to Oct 2024

The introduction of electric cooking as an alternative to charcoal could help stop the massive deforestation underway in Africa’s oldest natural park located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This project, led by the Centre for Environmental Economics in Montpellier (CEE-M), aims to replace the use of biomass with an electric pressure cooker. FID funding of the impact evaluation will be used to understand whether its adoption affects forest protection.

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In Goma, over 90% of households use charcoal for cooking. Timber plantations are not large enough to meet the exponential demand for fuel. As a result, most of the demand is met by charcoal illegally produced by armed groups in protected forests of the UNESCO World Heritage Virunga National Park, thus fueling conflicts and threatening the natural habitat of endangered species like the mountain gorilla.

An electric cooker to fight deforestation and promote peace around Virunga National Park


The project co-developed by CEE-M, the Virunga Foundation and the University of Antwerp relies on the assumption that the gradual replacement of charcoal by the use of an electric pressure cooker can contribute to curbing deforestation, reducing household energy costs, and contributing to peace in the area.

The project provides an electric pressure cooker, fully subsidised by the hydroelectric power social enterprise, Virunga Energies, which is 100% owned by Virunga National Park. The resulting increase in electricity expenditure by beneficiary households would eventually create a return on investment for the company, while reducing demand for charcoal.

In particular, the FID-funded evaluation will help assess which delivery mechanisms (local ambassadors, one shot free electricity bundle, nudges) may facilitate the adoption of the proposed new cooking method, and to what extend it may reduce charcoal demand and use.

Une femme fait fonctionner le cuiseur électrique

Expected results

The adoption of the electric cooker by the targeted families reduces the demand for charcoal, and consequently illegal income; moreover, it improves conservation efforts in one of the world’s largest tropical forests.

  • Gradual replacement of charcoal cooking with electricity
  • Reduction in energy costs and subsequent increase in the use of electricity
  • Gradual elimination of illegal charcoal consumption
  • Increased income and improved health conditions for local people
  • Weakening a key income source for armed groups, improving security in the area
  • Empowerment of women
  • Reduction of deforestation, limitation of CO2 emissions, protection of wildlife

In February 2024, the research team will post the first findings of this test, ahead of a final survey slated for the end of year. One of the first observed outcomes is the confirmed interest of the participants in this cooking method, as evidenced by the increase in household electricity consumption, reflecting prolonged usage during the study period. While the direct effects of electric cooking on health have not yielded tangible results to date, surveys suggest that raising awareness about the environmental and social issues surrounding the Virunga Park could enhance the adoption of these cookstoves. The final survey results are expected to be available in early 2025.

Centre for Environmental Economics – Montpellier

Centre for Environmental Economics – Montpellier

The Centre for Environmental Economics – Montpellier is a research group that works on environmental economics and behavioral economics. It is affiliated with the CNRS, INRAE University of Montpellier, and Institut’Agro.


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