Like most young people born in her part of the town, Nadege Iradukunda didn’t have many privileges; but unlike most of them, she had a burning desire to make a difference and to be a source of hope and courage to her people.
Unwilling to be tossed about by the waves and tides of time, Nadege took a decision not just to create her own future, but also to help other young people achieve theirs and then ultimately change the narrative of her country.
No longer will Rwanda be remembered for depravity, hardship and loss, as a new crop of youngsters are championing change and drawing a more interesting picture for the world to see.
It is indeed one thing to be able to identify a need and another to be able to bring about a solution to the need. At 19, Nadege has done this and more for her people. In her own way, she has lightened the face of Rwanda and is set to restore her dignity.
In 2010, the youngster saw a growing need in her country and was immediately compelled to take initiative. Her innovation has helped to significantly reduce the operation costs of most schools in Rwanda by providing them bio-digester plants that use a natural biological process to transform food waste into energy.
“I was inspired by the fact that school fees increased every year and caused difficulties to some of my poor colleagues. I thought that it may be because expenditure for school materials also increased and one of them was wood for cooking.”
She realized that, since, in Rwanda, schools spent heavy budgets on firewood for cooking meals daily, there was a need to bring about a sustainable solution which will not only reduce the environmental impact but also save heating and lighting costs by as much as 40%, and essentially make education much more affordable and accessible to more Rwandan children. Nagede was also concerned about the fact that the use of wood stoves contributed to deforestation and soil erosion and caused respiratory diseases among kitchen workers.
The rising star discovered that Rwanda’s prisons used biogas instead of wood in cooking; this knowledge and a desire to make a difference propelled her to step out and bring about change. She immediately joined forces with others in the United Youth for Rwandan Development (UYRD) to get more schools to adopt biogas energy. The team developed the Biogas Digester Plants (BDP) project that buys, assembles, and deploys bio digesters in secondary schools.
The 19 year old senior five student at the College St. Emmanuel Secondary School, in Nyanza District is now a member of UYRD’s fundraising team of 10 members, led by Gilbert Uwizeyimana, a fifth year medical student at the National University of Rwanda.
Since the inception of the project she has overseen the deployment of 15 bio-digester plants, serving more than 15, 000 students.
In attaining her goal, the greatest challenge she faced was raising funds for her project. About this she says;
“The solution I found was to replace trees with domestic biogas for cooking as many prisons in Rwanda do. But the challenge I met was to seek for funds for this project because its budget is very high and it is why among our activities, there is raising awareness so that schools may thereafter install on their own.”
As expected, the young genius’s invention continues to gain attention and support.
In 2012, she was selected among the 13 finalists of the Anzisha Prize, created by the African Leadership Academy alongside the MasterCard Foundation.
Nadege’s major concern is for the Rwandan youths, at every opportunity, she encourages them to take action and to contribute to the development of their country, especially since the youths make up over 70 percent of the country’s population.
“I want the Rwandan youth to know that they can make a difference and contribute to the country’s development. They don’t have to wait to complete university studies in order to start working; they have to start working when they are young.”
Like Nadege, you can make a difference in Africa. Get up and get going.