EnDev Market Based Energy Access Project - Northern Kenya

Renewable energy & natural resource management

EnDev Market Based Energy Access Project - Northern Kenya

The project in brief

Implemented by

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation - Kenya




Phase 1 of the MBEA project ran from October 2017 to September 2019. Phase 2 started in September 2019 with an envisaged end date of March 2023 and incorporates the learnings from Phase 1.


Since 2017, SNV implements the EnDev MBEA project to increase access to clean cooking and solar-powered solutions for refugees and the host communities through market development. SNV supports private sector clean energy companies to enter the market in Kakuma, set up sustainable distribution channels and implement marketing activities. To stimulate demand and shift away from a donation-based mindset, SNV works to create awareness, change behaviour and perception towards clean energy products among the local communities.

Project aims 

The MBEA project was designed to drive a paradigm shift from the humanitarian, donation-based approach of meeting refugees’ energy needs towards a greater focus on private sector delivery. In collaboration with UNHCR and private sector partners, the project set out to increase access to clean, safe and affordable cooking and lighting solutions to households, businesses and social institutions among both refugee and the host communities through market development.

Resources used 

The project was designed and funded under the Energising Development (EnDev) programme. In addition, the incentive policy by UNHCR has enabled refugees to work directly in the project as incentive workers and indirectly by private sector companies. Furthermore, the overall growing market maturity in Kenya eased supply chain development for off grid solar products in particular, and availability of flexible financing mechanisms such as mobile payments.

Main activities of the Good Practice

The project activities are primarily aimed at addressing market entry barriers for solar and clean cookstove companies. Market barriers include lack of supply chains and poor and distribution infrastructure, low product awareness in the camp, limited purchasing power of households, lack of access to finance and flexible payment plans. Key activities on the supply side focus on providing technical assistance to solar and clean cookstove companies to set up operations in Kakuma. The technical assistance depends on company-specific needs. The support comprises market entry support to obtain the necessary permits to operate in the camp, facilitate linkages to shop keepers and sales agents that can sell the products of the partners, and assistance in recruiting local staff. The partners also receive activity-based grant funding for market activation on a co-financing basis. Activities include marketing events and training of local staff and sales agents on sales and product information.

To increase the availability of high quality and affordable artisanal stoves, a stove production unit (SPU) was established in 2018 for which refugee and host community artisans were trained on stove production. To commercialize the venture, a private sector company took over management and its operations are ongoing and growing, with limited financial support by the project.

On the demand side, company specific marketing activities are complemented by general awareness and behavioural change campaigns, which focus on the benefits of purchasing clean, safe and reliable solutions in the market as opposed to waiting for donations.


  • Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS)-Camp Managers and arm of the National Government
  • Swiss Contact, Don Bosco Vocational Training, St Clair Vocational Training
  • Private sector companies

Challenges and how they were overcome


The MBEA project has shown promising results in transitioning to market-based models for energy provision in a humanitarian setting. However, various challenges were encountered during implementation. These include:


  • Initial resistance against introducing market-based models within refugee community.
  • Traditional open-fire cooking practices are deeply rooted in the day-to-day routines of many refugees.
  • Introduction of alternative fuels for cooking and sustaining a sustainably supply
  • The lack of purchasing power among refugee households remains a barrier for people with low-income levels to access clean energy product.

How they were overcome

Based on the experiences in the MBEA I project, the following key recommendations were identified:

  • All stakeholders must be included and willing to commit to achieving the transition to a market-based model for energy access.
  • Marketing efforts must be complemented with awareness raising and sensitization among households to increase acceptance and adoption of clean energy products.
  • More work needs to be done to attract industrial cookstove suppliers to sell in the camp, alongside a diversification of alternative fuel supply chains.
  • Barriers to access to finance and default risks must be addressed to increase uptake among low-income households.
  • Decentralized, local business operations lead to improved customer service and should be expanded further to drive market sustainability.

Read the lessons learned report for further details.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • The MBEA project developed a market for clean energy products in Kakuma and raised awareness on the benefits. By the end of 2019, the project facilitated the sales of solar lanterns (2556 units), solar home systems (4322 units), and industrial cookstoves (2005 units).
  • End users reported that the use of solar lighting has led to longer study hours, improved security, and access to entertainment and news through solar radios and TV. Businesses with solar lighting and/or systems report increased earnings due to longer opening hours and expansion of services. Improved cookstove users reported fuel, cost and cooking time savings.

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

The host community has, similar to the refugee community, limited access to electricity and improved cooking solutions. The project has a clear objective to support the provision of clean energy products to both refugee and host community and build a strong local supply chain, creating jobs and income generation opportunities.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Refugees living in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement in North--Western Kenya rely primarily on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs and services, with limited levels of access to clean energy products. The MBEA project works to remove market barriers and promote clean energy uptake among members of the refugee and host community in Kakuma, subsequently promoting self-reliance and decreasing aid dependency.

Next steps 

Lessons learnt and recommendations on market-based access to energy have fed into follow-on activities under the MBEA II project. For more details, read the final report on experiences and lessons learned from the MBEA pilot project with an overview of the project design, activities, results and elaborate lessons learnt and key recommendations.

The MBEA II project continues to support solar and clean cooking companies in promoting stoves and solar for households. The project scope was further expanded to solar-powered productive use technologies for businesses in the camp. In addition, the new phase also explicitly focuses on the promotion of stoves and small-scale solar solutions for social institutions in the camp. Within these project components, special attention is also given to behavioural change and awareness raising to further stimulate the adoption of clean energy products, especially for clean cooking.

Further support required for the project to continue or scale up

SNV would like to see the MBEA approach replicated in other long-term humanitarian settings to reduce the aid dependency of refugees and provide vital energy access to improve livelihoods among refugees and host communities.