Displaced Energy: Indigenous Design Practices in Goudoubo Camp

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Goudoubo refugee camp in northern Burkina Faso is ‘home’ to approximately 13,000 displaced peoples from neighbouring states. Goudoubo and the Kakuma camp in Kenya form two key fieldwork sites for the ESRC-funded project ‘Energy and Forced Displacement: A Qualitative Approach to Light, Heat and Power in Refugee Camps’ on which the authors are engaged.

One of the key findings from the project is the importance of indigenous ‘design’ practices to the displaced peoples in Goudoubo. Whilst the UNHCR has distributed a range of humanitarian energy products (including solar lanterns and cook stoves) their adoption is not as widespread as expected. Instead some of the displaced peoples have re-purposed these products for their own ends, in one case using the metal sheeting from a cook-stove to construct a shelter. The lack of uptake is in part a result of the understandably complex processes of adaptation to unfamiliar regulations or social practices (Betts and Bloom, 2014). In addition to this the fieldwork has identified alternative energy practices, such as water cooling through the use of goatskins, which utilise traditional indigenous skills and knowledge from home cultures.

This paper utilises some of the initial findings from the fieldwork to address the suitability of humanitarian, design-based interventions to multiple geographical settings. It will firstly consider the different ways in which displaced communities in Goudoubo have ignored, or re-purposed what Mavhunga (2017) calls “inbound” products, and developed their own approaches to a range of energy practices. Secondly, coupled with the adaption of humanitarian goods, it will address how different traditional making skills and knowledge practices circulate in the camp, and critically how these forms of resourcefulness often play an important part in new social networks and livelihoods. Ultimately the paper situates these debates within the wider context of humanitarian design, its histories and futures.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2018
EventDesign History Society Conference 2018 - Parsons, New School, New York, United States
Duration: 6 Sep 20188 Sep 2018


ConferenceDesign History Society Conference 2018
CountryUnited States
CityNew York


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