• Alianza Shire took part in the first ever edition of this event organised by ACNUR in Geneva at this crucial time when the number of refugees has sky-rocketed to over 25 million.
  • The aim of Alianza Shire is to pursue innovative and sustainable initiatives to make energy more accessible in northern Ethiopia. Ideally, the projects will have a high potential for scaling up in other areas, and include training and entrepreneurial programmes to be shared throughout the international humanitarian community.
  • Having completed the first pilot project in the Ethiopian camp of Adi-Harush, the partnership is now working in four other refugee camps in the Shire region and their host communities to provide electrification and lighting solutions at the community and household level.

“Alianza Shire. Energy Access to Refugees and Host Communities” was formed in 2014 by the companies Iberdrola and Signify, the acciona.org Foundation, the Innovation and Technology for Development Centre at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (itdUPM), and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), in collaboration with the UN agency for refugees UNHCR.

Its goal is to come up with sustainable solutions to make energy more accessible to the refugee population in northern Ethiopia and their host communities, and to replicate those solutions in other areas. This is the first partnership for humanitarian action in Spain.

 

Spain’s Interior Minister visiting the Alianza Shire stand at the Global Refugee Forum

 

The first Global Refugee Forum organised by UNHCR took place on 16, 17 and 18 December, 2019, at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The purpose of the Forum was to announce pledges and contributions that will make a significant impact and to exchange best practices.

In line with that goal, Alianza Shire was one of 16 initiatives chosen to be presented during the Forum. This partnership had its own stand to share some of the experiences and lessons learned so far from its work in the Shire region in northern Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of access to modern technology, so the energy supply relies largely on biomass. Currently, only 27% of the population has access to energy through the electricity supply.

In a situation like this, the main challenge for Alianza Shire lies in finding sustainable energy access solutions for refugees and their host communities.

 

Pilot Project: Energy Access in the Adi-Harush Camp

Energy networks are so precarious in refugee camps that they are a constant hazard and are never stable.

To make matters worse, the amount of firewood needed for everyday activities is severely depleting the surrounding forests. Not to mention the safety issue of lacking street lights.

For all these reasons, Alianza Shire was formed in 2014 to study the feasibility of applying electricity and lighting solutions and using biomass for cooking, and produced a map of problems and solutions.

All of these measures are intended to make energy more accessible in refugee camps in the Shire area in northern Ethiopia.

In 2017, Alianza Shire concluded its first project after completing a pilot initiative in the Adi-Harush camp, having managed to extend and improve the electric grid and street lighting thanks to keen collaboration between the local population, refugees and partnership members.

The project has helped to reduce deforestation in the area and lessen harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

It has also increased safety levels, which especially affects women and young girls, by illuminating unlit areas. The project also involved providing a stable electric network for kitchens, a school and a healthcare centre.

 

2018 – 2021: Raising living standards at refugee camps and in host communities

There are currently some 72,000 people registered in the Shire refugee camps in northern Ethiopia. But the figures keep rising as new arrivals come in.

Moreover, the country’s geography means it is frequently hit by severe droughts affecting the entire Horn of Africa, which has disastrous impacts on refugee camps.

Alianza Shire has been working on a new project since 2018, partly funded by the European Union, in an effort to further improve quality of life in four refugee camps located in the Shire region. The aim of this collaboration is to make electricity more accessible and to foster employment and education. 

To achieve that goal, communal services will be connected to the electric grid and public lighting will be installed. Thanks to this cooperation, an improvement will be seen in basic services such as healthcare, education, safety and cooking facilities.

The electricity supply will also be improved by solar home systems, not only in the refugee camps but also in host communities, as well as encouraging the development of micro-businesses among the population to offer system-related services.

After this project, the aim is to bring the proposed solutions to fruition in other humanitarian aid contexts. The partnership is driven by the will to find technological solutions to improve energy access in the long term in populations that are suffering from a humanitarian crisis, in part by encouraging the active involvement of the project’s users to take ownership.

This should help to ensure that the refugee population gains the tools and know-how needed to maintain the systems that they themselves have installed.

The members of the Alianza Shire will continue to work side-by-side with the refugee population and host communities in northern Ethiopia in an effort to improve energy access.