This study aimed at examining the fuel supply mechanisms in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps of Northern Uganda. About 1.2 million IDPs in Northern Uganda have put a lot of stress on the wood resources (major source of fuel) resulting into forests depletion, making firewood scarce, expensive and not affordable by many IDPs. The conditions related to or resulting from cooking fuel scarcity have an impact on foodsecurity, health, environmental protection and, also enhance gender-based violence. Although fuel shortage impacts in camps are known, the fuel issues are rarely thought of by the government, NGOs and other relief agencies. The main objective of the study was therefore, to gain an insight into how fuel supply in the IDPs’ camps can be made reliable, secure and adequate.

To better understand fuel dynamics as well as other important factors in a wider dimension important for fuel security in camps, a qualitative study was carried out through field visits with in-depth interviews and focused group discussions with IDPs, local leaders and NGOs’ staff. The study examined the coping mechanisms, primary fuel sources and uses, fuel programs being implemented, program implementation challenges and finally looked at measures that may ensure fuel security in IDPs camps.

The study revealed that there is yet any relief agency that has got involved in direct fuel supply. However some few agencies were involved in the promotion of tree planting and energy efficiency measures through FES programs. The FES program was mainly being implemented in the transit camps as a component of food security and livelihood program. It was also observed that firewood collection and charcoal making was one of the major economic activities in the region. Lack of proper planning and coordination, funds and energy specialists greatly affected fuel aid considerations. The study also noted that lack of a proper policy and institutional framework on energy issues in IDP camps was one of the greatest challenges in fuel aid consideration in camps.

In order to initiate strong and sustainable fuel related programs necessary for fuel security in camps, it is recommended that fuel issues be mainstreamed in governments’, relief agencies’ planning, programs and activities in addition to carrying out good data collection and coordinating system, and diversifying the fuel sources in and around the camps. Donor support, public and private sector involvement should all be mobilized for the creation of a sustainable and vibrant energy supply infrastructure in camps.

Finally, there is a need for UN to designate a focal agency, and the host governments a focal department for ensuring consistent funding, designing and coordinating the programs and maximizing programs’ effectiveness.

1.0 Background and rational for the study

This study is aimed at examining the fuel supply mechanisms in IDPs’ camps of Northern Uganda. Currently there are about 1.2 million internally displaced people in Northern Uganda due to the war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels (IMDC, 2008). IDPs in camps have put great stress on the available firewood resources around these camps making firewood scarce, expensive and unaffordable by most displaced persons. The risks endured while collecting scarce firewood present a challenging and serious concern for the IDPs (USAID, 2007).Though problems associated with fuel shortages in camps are known, the fuel issues are rarely thought of by the government, NGOs and other relief agencies (Le Breton, 1996).

The primary focus of this study therefore, was to investigate how IDPs cope up with, and how the relief agencies respond to the fuel shortages in camps. It also investigated the relief aid activities on fuel issues and how the initiatives are coordinated among the actors.

The study is pertinent because conditions related to or resulting from cooking fuel scarcity directly affects food and nutrition, health, environmental protection, shelter and, of course, women’s rights and gender-based violence (Patrick, 2006; Stites, 2006; WCRWC, 2006).

1.1 Fuel interventions in Internally Displaced People’s camps

Uganda being a neighbor to both Kenya and Sudan has a lot in common to share. The environment is largely the same and people have almost the same way of living with similar challenges and ways of responding to them. The interventions in one country have sometimes been duplicated in the other two. This section therefore highlights the general fuel related interventions in the IDPs’ camps of Uganda, Kenya and Sudan.

There have been some fuel related initiatives undertaken by NGOs and relief agencies to reduce the fuel shortage related problems (WCRWC, 2006; AED, 2007; Ziebell, 2005). The programs include direct provision of firewood, FES programs, indirect fuel wood provision (voucher) and physical protection of fuel wood collectors (WCRWC, 2006).

Most of the well known programs involving direct provision of fuel to IDPs have been done by UNHCR (WCRWC, 2006). For example 1993, it supported the Dadaab firewood project but only was able to provide 11% of the required firewood (Patrick, 2006). Although direct fuel provision can reduce the need for collecting fuel wood outside the camp, it may increase the dependency of IDPs on the providing agency and yet it is not a long term measure since it is expensive and purely external dependent.

In response to dependency and unsustainability of direct fuel provisions, some agencies like OXFAM-GB came up with innovative initiative that indirectly provides fuels to IDPs in Darfur. This initiative involved “free distribution of vouchers that allows IDPs to purchase fuel wood from the local markets and in turn OXFAM pays the locals according to the number of vouchers collected” (WCRWC, 2006). Although these initiatives could help reduce problems related to fuel shortages, still they do not present a sustainable approach to addressing fuel insecurity in camps.

Provision and encouraging the use of FES in camps is the most widely intervention used by NGOs and relief agencies (AED, 2007; WCRWC, 2006; Chen, 2005; Le Breton, 1995). In Northern Uganda, NGOs provide training to locals in making FES, and/ or provide them to IDPs at a subsidized price or free of charge (Action Against Hunger, 2006). USAID is funding local NGOs to make and disseminate FES in camps in Northern Uganda (USAID, 2007). It should be noted that although the use of fuel-efficient stoves may help to reduce the threat to fuel wood collectors, it does not completely eliminate the need for firewood and therefore the potential for attack (WCRWC, 2006)

Most of the fuel related initiatives in camps have been proven to be expensive and hence unsustainable (Patrick, 2006; WCRWC 2006; Le Breton, 1995). Even though the fuel programs are expensive, it is important to note that the central objective of humanitarian relief agencies is to save lives and therefore cost should not be paramount.

Fuel supply dynamics in camps is a very complex issue and it is not only cost or ineffective planning but also the involvement of many actors with various interests (WCRWC, 2006). Although fuel insecurity in IDP camps has been recognized by some relief agencies and some fuel programs initiated, the approaches used to address it have been of a short term nature and only in isolated cases and places. It is also important to note that the existing fuel programs in camps are informal and hence not yet fully integrated and mainstreamed into the relief agencies and governments’ budgets, plans and routine activities.

2.0 Methodology

The study was in the form of field visits with in-depth interviews intended to investigate and describe the fuel supply dynamics in camps. Through field observations and in-depth interviews, the processes that impact on fuel security and supply within the IDP setting were investigated. Various approaches like one to one interview, FGD, accompanying fuel wood collectors and observations were used to collect the data. The study examined humanitarian programs on fuel issues that were being implemented in the area by the NGOs, CBOs and public agencies.

This study was approached in three phases; (i) by reviewing the existing literature to identify the gaps; (ii) field work study was undertaken to have a firsthand understanding of the situation and; (iii) a thesis report of the study was produced. The fieldwork was undertaken between June 2008 and August 2008 in the IDPs’ camps of the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader in Northern Uganda.

In a bid to collect representative data on varying fuel issues in camps the sampling of the case camps was done based on the districts level. The districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader were taken as the study districts because they were hardly hit by the conflict.

Unyama camp in Gulu, Amida camp in Kitgum and Pajule in Pader were chosen as the camps for the study. In the selection of the camps, the following criteria were taken into account; their location, their accessibility, population and availability of the fuel programs in the camps.

The interviewee were mainly women group leaders, camp commanders, elders, selected firewood collectors, local government council leaders and the camp operational officers of Relief agencies and NGOs. The study targeted both male and female respondents above the age of 10 years. It took 20 -30 minutes to interview each responded and about 150 respondents were interviewed.

The investigator interacted with three focused groups from three camps each consisting of 9-15 members with both male and female respondents. The FGD members were selected based on their positions in the camps, experience with energy related issues in camps and potential to give information on the fuel issues in camps.

Although the data collection was largely by interviews, some observational surveys were employed e.g. I accompanied the firewood collectors to the bushes in order to gather background information and to get a feeling of the real situation.

2.1 limitations encountered.

The study couldn’t be carried out without problems. First of all although I am a Ugandan, my background was somehow different from the IDPs studied in terms of education and social standing, and sometimes also gender. It was as if I was operating in a totally different social setting. However this was overcome through a series of personal level interactions, food sharing and accompanying them to the bush when collecting firewood.

Time factor is also one of the limitations I consider to have affected my study a lot. This was because the interviews tended to interfere with the IDPs daily chores. The interviews were therefore carried out mainly when the IDPs had spare time. Remarkably, accompanying IDPs while collecting firewood was found to be a valuable strategy in data collection

Language barrier was also a big challenge on many occasions. However this was overcome with the use of an interpreter. The interpreter sometimes tended to correct interviewees’ responses which may easily affect the reliability of information collected. This was however overcome by carefully selecting an interpreter with a good command of English and research experience, and where possible, by selecting respondents that knew some English.

Although there was a sense of relative peace, there was also a constant fear that we may be attacked by LRA remnants and Karimajong warriors as the area was not very secure for free movement.

3.0 Fuel security and supply mechanisms in the camps: Discussions of the findings and the experiences

3.1 General context

Since the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement in 2005 between the Uganda Government and LRA; and the commencement of peace talks; the security situation in the region has improved. A number of IDPs began leaving the mother camps heading to their homes. They built make-shift houses as they traveled back – popularly known as transit sites.

IDP camps were established in the 80’s and 90’s with the common fuel source being firewood and charcoal. Due to over reliance on wood as the sole energy source, forests near the camps have been depleted. From the interviews and observations, the biggest firewood shortage is in the mother camps where almost all the surrounding trees were felled. Fuel shortages in the new sites (transit camps) and the returnees’ homes are relatively small. This is because the trees were able to grow during the IDPs’ absence.

All the interviewed IDPs and Aid Agencies’ staff agreed that fuel provision was a neglected problem in the camp. It was also a health risk especially to girls and women as it exposed them to the risks of physical and sexual harassment. One policeman at Paricho Sub County was quoted lamenting that “It’s high time, all the stakeholders accorded attention to fuel supply problem in camps because the circumstances surrounding the firewood search are severe especially to the girls and women”. Though the problems associated with firewood collection are well known, there is yet any firewood supply program initiated in the camps apart from an FES program being implemented.

The fuel supply activities were by local and international NGOs, security personnel, local communities, local fuel sellers and IDPs themselves. The fuel supply mechanisms in Northern Uganda camps may be divided into two; direct and indirect fuel supply. The direct supply was by the local communities and the IDPs themselves, and they were either collecting firewood themselves or buying from fuel sellers. Indirect supply involved promotion of tree planting, supporting the IGA and, fuel efficiency by NGOs. The security personnel were ensuring access to firewood by IDPs through physical protection during firewood fetching, however, this is also open to abuse.

The fuel supply mechanism existing in the IDP camps of Northern Uganda are summarized in the figure 1 below.

Figure 1 (Kasiyre)

Figure 1 showing the current fuel supply mechanisms in the camps of Northern Uganda

3.2 Major actors in Fuel related programs

Constitutionally the government is responsible for the security and the welfare of the internally displaced persons. As a result in 2004 the government formulated a policy for IDPs with an objective of ensuring “effective and timely protection and provision of assistance to IDPs”. Article 2.2.2 and 2.2.4 of National IDP policy provides for IATC[1] charged with planning and coordinating activities of actors working with displaced people, and IMPC[2] responsible for policy formulation. But these don’t include a ministry or a department responsible for energy issues. Article 3.8.4 of National policy on IDPs says “During displacement and at initial stage of any return and resettlement process the OPM/DDP shall provide food staff and non food relief”. Most of the food staff and some non-food except fuel requirements are catered for as evidenced in the National IDPs return, resettlement and reintegration strategic plan, 2005.

The government’s influence over the IDPs and the activities of the relief agencies cannot be over emphasized. This is because the government formulates policy, is in charge of security and its department (OPM) is responsible for planning, coordinating and overseeing the relief agencies’ activities.

Humanitarian agencies both international and national are interested in the welfare and security of the displaced persons. The National NGOs and CBOs do not have the financial resources and therefore always depend on the International NGOs and the government in funding their activities.

The International NGOs also have different interests in the welfare of the IDPs. Some are directly interested in fuel issues like World Vision and NRC which are implementing FES program. Some are interested in other issues like IGA which contributes to fuel insecurity indirectly.

Private sector plays an important part in ensuring consistent fuel supply in camps. These are mainly firewood collectors and charcoal makers who sell their products to the IDPs in the camps. Their activities also depend on the economic status of the IDPs, if they don’t have enough money, then they sell charcoal and firewood to town as we saw in the previous section. In the long run, the sale of fuel with in the camps depends on the IGA. The private sector can also influence the IGAs with in the camps through offering of trainings and giving credits to IDPs in form of loans to start up IGA activities which indirectly affect fuel security. The private sector foundation of Uganda is already offering trainings and small credit to IDPs.

The donors too have got an indirect but important influence on ensuring fuel security in camps. This is because the government, private sector and international agencies activities in such a situation are funded by the donors.

3.3 Coordinating Mechanisms:

The war in the northern Uganda has led to competition between donors as one staff of a donor agency put it; “everyone wants to score.” Often this makes some avoid coordinating their activities. The presence of several donor coordination groups in Uganda has not helped the situation; the coordinating approaches for the donor community is still inadequate.

Local District Government offices are supposed to coordinate the work of local NGOs, but they are under-resourced and weak. Lack of proper coordination and overlap in programmes remain a major challenge throughout the affected areas. In terms of fuel supply and provision, there is no organized partnership engaged in fuel supply systems.

3.4 Coping strategies:

IDP households facing fuel shortages are forced to improvise ways of getting access to fuel in order to survive. The probable ways are demonstrated in figure 2 below.

Figure 2 (Kasiyre)

Figure 2: A categorization of coping strategies

The fear of problems related to firewood collection has made the IDPs resort to different coping strategies in dealing with firewood shortages. This section therefore focuses on IDPs’ coping strategies and their classification and on the attempts by the government and relief agencies to address the fuel problem in camps.

Fuel wood purchasing: In most cases, IDPs purchase charcoal and firewood from firewood traders that operate within the camps. Although there are markets and traders for charcoal and firewood, it’s very expensive for IDPs since they have no defined sources of income.

Collections from their former homes: With the recent relative peace in Northern Uganda, the IDPs have sometimes resorted to returning to their former homes (sometimes about 10km away from the camps) to cut trees and carry them to the camps to be used as firewood.

Labour exchange for firewood access: It was observed that some IDPs were offering themselves as labour to dig or first collect a bundle of firewood for the land owners before they could be allowed to collect firewood for themselves. “While looking for food, we also bargain for firewood on the labour offered”, lamented Oloka Atim [3]

Food rations exchange for firewood: In some situations, IDPs exchanged the acquired food aid rations for firewood. It should be noted however that food rations are not enough to fully cover the needs of a family and therefore the exchange is a tough decision.

Gender support:Culturally, in Uganda firewood collection is a role of a woman, however in the wake of insecurity in the area, men and boys took on the responsibility of gathering firewood. The reason behind this was explained by a male carpenter in the Unyama camp. He said, “We men risk being attacked by rebels by venturing into the bush to collect firewood in order to save our wives and daughters from being attacked and sexually harassed”.

Altering eating patterns: Some IDP families have resorted to preparing only one meal a day as a fuel saving strategy. It should be noted that this strategy of having one meal a day is widely practiced in the camps not only because of firewood shortages but also due to food shortages.

Income-generating activities:These are very important towards economic self-reliance of the IDPs which is a big component of fuel security for IDPs in Northern Uganda. Some IDPs earn income from casual jobs like boda boda (bicycles and riding), selling of the local brew to get money to purchase firewood and charcoal. Agriculture is also a very important economic activity in the camps, where the yields are sometimes sold for fuel.

International assistance:There are over 30 NGO’s (both local and international) operating in the IDP camps of Northern Uganda. Most of the relief agencies’ staff interviewed wondered why most of the agencies were not paying attention to the fuel issue. An administrative assistant of one of the UN agencies asserted that the area of fuel supply in camps is still “virgin” because at the time of research, there was not even a single Aid Agency in Northern Uganda putting its attention towards direct fuel provision in IDP camps. This means that fuel accessibility in IDPs camps is not yet recognized as an important component of aid package. More efforts are placed towards the immediate need of food yet food without fuel to cook it is not complete.

However World Vision, Action Against Hunger, NRC under their component of livelihood program initiated a charcoal saving stoves project in the camps to ensure efficient usage of the fuel wood and charcoal.

Relief Agencies have in one way or another contributed towards the reductions of the risks associated with collection of fuel wood. For example in early and mid 2000’s, when the conflict was at its peak and the insecurity around the camps was very high, Aid Agencies influenced the UPDF to guard the IDPs when on search for fire wood. Because of the inappropriateness of the programs, and when there was no foreseen security danger, the IDPs invaded the bush and forests without any protection.

Negative coping strategies

Environmental depletion:Finding themselves in a state where they have limited or no access to alternative fuel and income sources, IDPs resorted to unsustainable firewood collection practices e.g. non-selective tree-felling and indiscriminate forest clearance in order to meet their fuel and economic needs.A paradox arises in promoting sustainable approaches to firewood collection and use when the IDPs do not have formal economic survival strategies and alternative fuel sources. They will tend to take a short–term measure to meeting their fuel security and welfare needs without considering longer-term implications of these measures. This is understood because IDPs primary concern is welfare and security but not environmental protection.

Manipulation of international aid: In the face of few options in hands of the IDPs, they have resorted to manipulation of international aid as the only viable copying strategy in meeting some of their needs. Many IDPs admitted to having sold food rations to buy firewood at one point and some families exchange a portion of food in return for firewood. It is important to note from above that neglect of fuel provisions in the camps not only presents risks to IDPs within the camps and potential problems with the host community but also enhances food insecurity within the camps.

Prostitution: In some of the camps visited, sections of people complained about increased levels of prostitution. One of the accusations is that the main client s for IDP prostitutes, given the general lack of cash within the camps, are NGOs’ staff. Those interviewed agreed that selling sexual favours, whether for cash or on the basis of a kind of support, is a result of poverty and an absence of economic survival strategies. A leader of one of the camps visited made an accusation that some women give in to such acts so that the NGOs staff and other persons with freedom to move outside the camps can bring them fuel especially charcoal and paraffin for lighting.

Vandalising public structures: Though illegal, some IDPs vandalize the nearby structures like school furniture, doors and windows and use them as firewood [4]. This is a serious problem that most headmasters of the primary schools around the camps complained of. When Pakwalo P7 primary school was visited, the windows and doors were vandalised and there was not even a window or door left in the buildings of the school.

3.5 Challenges in implementation of fuel related initiatives

In Northern Uganda there is no direct and indirect fuel provision and the only program being implemented is on the fuel efficiency. Therefore this section will not only discuss the challenges met by the relief agencies and the government involved in the promotion of FES but also the challenges that may be encountered in trying to implement programs aimed at ensuring fuel security in IDP camps. It will also present the challenges encountered by the IDPs involved in the fuel business.

Many IDPs have been conditioned to relief assistance and therefore the implementation of an initiative geared towards their self reliance sometimes meets a lot of resistance. For example after the training in making and using FES, they demanded that NGOs provide them with the materials for FES making and yet they were locally available [5]


As many IDPs are returning to their original homes, they are very many programs and activities taking place at the same time. As a result, little time is spared by the IDPs for fuel initiatives. This is due to the fact that fuel related initiatives are not taken seriously by many IDPs. They spend most of the time in programs (especially seeds and agricultural equipment distribution programs) perceived to be of more economic importance. This was the perception of many IDPs as summarized by Mr. Okidi [6] “You cannot think of fire before you are sure of what to eat”. This has slowed down the activities of those programs aimed at fuel security in these areas.

FES programs being implemented in Northern Uganda, have sometimes met resistance in being adopted by the IDPs. The reasons given as to why efficient stoves are not adopted very fast are; (i) The initial lighting time is relatively high compared to the traditional lighting time of the three stones stoves and; (ii) The stoves are relatively expensive (1 to 3 dollars for small stoves) given the economic situation prevailing in the camps. Some NGOs have been targeting institutions like schools and the prices of institutional stoves are just not affordable and may not attract the attention of these institutions in adopting FES. According to the World Vision procurement Officer, they purchase each institutional stove at 2millions Uganda shillings (1200 US dollars) for their programs aimed at improving nutritional status in schools. This price may not be high but due to the economic conditions in the region and given the fact that primary and secondary education is free of charge, the schools hardly have any source of income apart from the government. It should be noted however that the government only finances things such as paying salaries for teachers which it considers important and fuel for cooking is not among them [7].

The Kitgum FAO representative reported that FAO has been calling for large scale FES productions so that many stoves can be manufactured and distributed easily and fast. However this call has not been taken up by the NGOs involved because most agencies prefer to support trainings that allow many people to acquire skills. The way the programs are designed is in a such way that a group of people is trained to later train their fellow IDPs for fast multiplication of the skills.

Citizens participation in the planning process at the local level is enshrined in the 2004 National policy on internal displacement, however lack of resources and basic necessities prevent full citizen participation in programs aimed at promoting fuel security. Furthermore funding and staffing at the local council [8] levels is inadequate. Lack of government organ specializing in the energy at the policy, planning and coordinating levels was observed to be among the reasons why energy issues in camps are not taken to be serious. According to the National policy on displacement (Uganda government, 2004), article 2.2.4, it stipulates that policy formulation and overseeing displacement matters is a responsibility of the IMPC on IDPs and which unfortunately doesn’t include a ministry responsible for energy issues. This explains why energy issues in conflict areas are neglected during policy formulation. Furthermore article 2.2.2 empowers IATC (which doesn’t include any agency responsible for energy) to plan and coordinate activities of the sectoral ministries, private sector and NGOs. It is also charged with establishing the National relief plan, and oversees the allocation of funds for the relief programs. As a result of this, in establishing the requirement of displaced people and allocation of funds, energy requirements are rarely thought of.

IDPs are faced with many risks and dangers during firewood collection. These include abduction, torture, sexual harassment and even murder. However these risks and dangers differ from camp to camp. The risks in camps depend on the prevailing security situation with in that camp. This security problem affecting the IDP fuel wood collectors greatly affects the fuel security status in the camps since it interrupts the fuel supplies.

Lack of accurate and reliable data on fuel requirements and utilization also greatly affects the effectiveness of the fuel initiatives [9]. This makes it impossible to plan and implement effective fuel interventions. Furthermore, it is difficult to assess how and where to target the fuel interventions and where the intervention could have the greatest impact.

Achieving fuel security in camps and preventing negative impacts associated with fuel shortages requires an integrated approach that incorporates the perspectives of all the stakeholders i.e. the energy specialists, NGOs and relief agencies, donor community, responsible government bodies and IDPs themselves. Of course this is easier to assert than to achieve. These groups have different assumptions, strategies, goals and institutional limitations which make coordination and communication problematic since fuel is a cross-cutting issue in relief considerations.

Limited income generating activities in the region has also complicated the fuel issue. This is because it has led to over reliance on the relief agencies since people do not have money; IDPs cannot buy FES though they are subsidized. Therefore any program introduced which requires IDPs monetary contribution will not have any big impact on the fuel security situation. It should be noted that many IDPs rely on firewood as a key source of income as well as cooking [10]. Therefore without income generating activities in place, protection of both human security and the environment which are two of the most important reasons for fuel provision in camps cannot be achieved.

If direct firewood provision was to be implemented, there would be a challenge of where to get firewood that is enough with minimum costs. This is because the forests around the camps within the shortest radius are already depleted. Also in such conflicts situations, the security is not good which makes Lorries carrying firewood are vulnerable to being ambushed and burnt

Many NGOs’ field staff are overburdened, and lacked the requisite time and technical expertise to successfully implement FES programs.. According to the FES in IDP setting summary evaluation report (2007), the NGOs had insufficient quality control systems in guiding their FES program implementation. Only a few had collected baseline data and their monitoring and evaluation procedures were weak (USAID FES evaluation report, 2007).

3.6 Perceived solutions to the implementation challenges

This section lists the measures that could be taken to overcome the challenges met during fuel programs implementation in ensuring fuel security in the IDP camps. It looks at the measures suggested by the interviewed people and also incorporates the recommendations from the study that may improve the fuel security situation with in the camps if adopted.

Direct and indirect fuel provision: Fuel provision component should be included in the already existing programs of aid agencies. Fuel related issues should be factored into camp designs and programs at the earliest stage of the conflict. The strategies may include reforestation around the camps, selective harvesting of firewood and small scale direct firewood provision.

Conducive securityPeace promotion in the affected area so that people can move freely while searching for firewood as well as assist relief agencies carry out their duties effectively is paramount. The strategies may involve physical protection for firewood collectors. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done but if well planned, it can be a good way of ensuring the security of fuel collectors. It should also be noted however that physical protection is unsustainable and open to abuse and therefore should be looked at only for a short time.

Prioritizing fuel needy areas:An assessment to identify IDPs’ fuel requirements and appropriate target areas for fuel security should first be carried out in order to design appropriate and informed fuel related interventions. Interviews with Government officials, NGO’s and various actors revealed that the main focus of fuel security activities need to be centered around fuel access and fuel availability components of fuel security.

Data collection and analysis: There is a need to develop a comprehensive and well coordinated data collection system on fuel requirements and its use in the camps. The data collected through this system should serve as a basis for fuel related decision making processes in order to initiate appropriate and sustainable programs. Funds should be put aside for a comprehensive research before launching projects in order to put fuel related relief and activities on a better track. This would also drive new policy directions for fuel related issues in IDP camps.

Capacity building and improving inter-organizational coordination: Both the National and local governments should be committed to ensuring fuel security in camps by appointing energy officers to ease the coordination between nongovernmental and community-based organizations in securing the necessary assistance to implement fuel programs. Many organizations lack human and financial capital. There is also a lack of inter-organizational coordination, which leads to budget-consuming duplication and a failure to collaborate, if not to compete[11] . Therefore fuel security in the camps may be ensured by implementing agencies appointing and training energy experts to oversee the activities, securing funding for the fuel programs and having a sustainable inter-organizational coordination and collaboration.

There is a need by UN to designate a focal agency, and the host governments a focal department for ensuring consistent funding, design and coordinate the programs, maximize programs’ effectiveness and above all be accountable for all fuel security programs being implemented.

Promotion of Income Generating Activities (IGA): Without an income source, the IDPs are dependent on the relief agencies. This increases their vulnerability to fuel shortages and the related impacts. With an income source, IDPs may be able to buy FES or even buy alternative fuel like paraffin. Insecurity in the areas partly reduces the supply of fuels like paraffin, but the major reason for not trading such fuels is that the IDPs cannot afford to buy them[12] . This has of course led to little or no supply of paraffin and in turn led to overdependence on firewood as the main source of energy. For the sustainable IGA, the activities must be developed based on evidence based, defined and reliable market surveys to ensure ready markets for the IDPs’ goods produced

Fuel sources diversification: To avoid overreliance on the firewood which becomes scarce with time and exposes IDPs to danger during its collection; the fuel sources should be diversified according to the prevailing conditions in a given IDP camp. Use of paraffin; biogas from animal and human waste; and solar cookers-the region being a generally sunny one; are important sources of energy which could be adopted in the IDP camps. In addition to diversification, fuel efficiency measures should continue to be promoted in areas where they have not been initiated and enhanced in the existing programs.

4.0 Conclusions and recommendations


Briefly, the study shows the supply mechanisms both by the IDPs themselves and the relief agencies. The supply mechanisms considered included the direct fuel supply and other measures like fuel efficiency and physical protection necessary for fuel security.

The study found out that there is yet no relief agency involved in direct fuel supply. However some few agencies are involved in the tree planting and promotion of energy efficiency through FES.

Lack of coordination and overlap in activities remains a major problem in the fuel related programs in Northern Uganda. The only collaborating partnership has been mainly in the knowledge and information sharing to avoid duplication of activities but rarely do they have cooperative approaches during implementation.

The study observed that fuel supply in camps is taken as a personal onus and responsibility to find oneself firewood and charcoal.

Firewood collection and charcoal making being a major economic activity has enhanced fuel supply in camps though many IDPs do not afford to buy it. Some IDPs access fuel wood through exchange of the acquired food aid rations and or labour for firewood. Disturbing findings were the exchange of sexual favours for fuel among IDPs and NGOs staff and; vandalizing of public institutions like schools for firewood.

An interesting finding of the study is that the IDPs in the transit camps appear to be better taken care of fuel wise than in the mother camps as most of the FES programs are being implemented in the transit camps.

In practice, most of the programs do not have fuel consideration component with the exception of FES programs. However, examining the programs being implemented there is nothing to suggest that fuel issues are considered during the planning and implementation of the programs.

The study noted that expensiveness of the programs implementation, lack of initial planning and resistance to change by the IDPs and over reliance on aid greatly affected fuel security in camps.

NGO’s and the governments at lower levels lack personnel specialized in energy issues. The study noted that lack of a coordinating body and insecurity also greatly affected the fuel security and fuel aid in camps.

Lack of an energy body representation on both IMPC and IATC has led to energy issues to be neglected in policy formulation process and in establishing the requirement of displaced people and allocation of funds respectively.

Finally, the study observed that the biggest challenge affecting fuel security and supply mechanism in camps is lack of a policy and institutional framework on fuel issues.


As a possible remedy to the problem, the study recommends that; Fuel issues should be mainstreamed in all the NGOs and governments programs and policies regarding IDPs. Energy specialists should be brought on board to fully articulate energy concerns of the IDPs during policy formulation, programs planning and implementation.

There is a need to diversify fuel sources and there should also be a well coordinating system spearheaded by a UN designated body. The fuel diversification should consider the specific conditions of the camps. In Northern Uganda, biogas from human and animal waste and solar energy may be the favorable energy sources according to the prevailing conditions.

For the creation of a vibrant energy supply infrastructure in camps, Public budget allocation coupled with donor support and private sector involvement should all be mobilized specifically to cater for fuel security in camps. This can be achieved by having a special department of energy in each NGO, relief agency and government body working with the displaced people. In so doing energy challenges in the camps will be identified and the related issues well articulated for the designing appropriated programs that will attract funding and support.

In addition, a good data collection and coordinating system should be put in place in order to initiate strong and targeted fuel related programs. The data should be evidence based to help in designing an effective, and a suitable and targeted fuel intervention program that can bring about positive impacts fast.

There is no doubt that the security of the fuel traders and firewood collectors is paramount and therefore should be guaranteed to ensure uninterrupted fuel supply to the camps.

Income generating activities should be promoted with an aim of making IDPs economically independent. IDPs economic muscle will encourage the private sector trading in fuel to start supplying them. This will also make IDPs not wait for the fuel relief aid which also sometimes does not come on time.

Finally for energy issues to be well articulated during policy formulation and planning relief requirements, the government should reconstitute the IMPC and IATC to include a ministry responsible for energy or a body specialized in energy issues.

List of acronyms and abbreviations

AED Academy for Education Development

BBC British Broadcasting Service

CBO Community Based Organization

COU Church of Uganda

CPAR Canadian Physicians for Aid and relief

CRS Catholic Relief Agencies

DRC Democratic Republic of Congo

DDP Department of Disaster and Preparedness

GBV Gender Based Violence

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization

FES Fuel Efficient Stoves

FGD Focused Group Discussions

IATC Inter Agency Technical Committee

IGA Income Generating Activities

IDPs Internally Displaced Persons

IMDC Internal Monitoring Displacement Centre

IMPC Inter-ministerial Policy Committee

LRA Lord’s Resistance Army

MSF Medicine San Frontiers

NEMA National Environment Management Authority

MEMD Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development

NFA National Forest Authority

NGO Non Governmental Organization

NRC Norwegian Refugee Council

OAU Organization of African Unity

OPM Office of the Prime Minister

R2P Responsibility to Protect

PTA Parents Teachers Association

SOER State Of Environment Report of Uganda

UBOS Uganda Bureau Of Statistics

UNDP United Nations Development Program

UNEP United Nations Environmental Program

UNHCR United Nations High Commission for Refugees

UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women

UPDF Uganda People’s Defence Forces

UPE Universal Primary Education

USAID United States Agency for International Development

WCRWC Women’s Commission for Refugee women and children

WFP World Food Program


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[1] IATC is chaired by the Office of the Prime Minister and consists of key government ministries and departments, local government, International and National NGOs and key donor representatives. It is responsible for planning and coordinating activities of relief programs

[2] IMPC consists of key ministries (does not include ministry of Energy) and are responsible for policy formulation and overseeing IDP matters.

[3] a resident of Unyama camp

[4] Interview with the Headteacher of Pakwalo P7 Primary Schools near the camps

[5] Interview with FAO representative in Kitgum

[6] Mr. Okidi is the chairman of Unyama camp zone 1 and a volunteer with Unyama eco-centre

[7] Interview with a headmaster of one of the primary school

[8] Uganda’s governance is decentralized into local councils (LCs) the highest being LC5 and the lowest is LC1. Among these, LC5 and LC3 are the ones facilitated by the government in staffing.

[9] One to one interview with FAO official in Kitgum

[10] Sale of firewood, wild grass etc. is the fourth major livelihood source of the householdsEmergency food security assessment report Kitgum district-June 2008

[11] Assessment report on-war affected children and youth in northern Uganda, 2006

[12] Interview with a shop operator who was selling paraffin at Unyama camp

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