Research in Brief: Informal versus Formal Infrastructure: Energy and water systems in the Kakuma refugee camps, Kenya

This brief explores the provision of infrastructure and resources, specifically water and energy, in the Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya. It highlights the mix of formal and informal mechanisms involved in resource acquisition and management, emphasizing the importance of infrastructure for refugee livelihoods and host community relations. The content underscores the need for improved resource provision systems that support refugee entrepreneurs and consider the impact on the local community. It also emphasizes the significance of basic resources and infrastructure for the self-reliance and success of refugees in protracted encampment contexts.


The research focuses on the infrastructure and public services in the Kakuma refugee camps in Kenya, particularly the water and energy systems. It highlights the interaction between formal and informal components of infrastructure and their impact on refugee livelihoods. The study finds that while camp agencies regulate the formal system of water provision, the energy system is largely supplied through refugee and host community businesses. The informal sector plays a crucial role in resource provision, with refugees creatively redistributing resources from formal systems or seeking alternative sources.

The research emphasizes the importance of considering the consequences for different stakeholders when improving resource provision and camp infrastructure. It also highlights the dilemma between protection-based provision and market-based livelihood facilitation. The study suggests that upgrading infrastructure should take into account the potential winners and losers, such as refugee entrepreneurs and members of the local host community who benefit from the current system. Overall, the research underscores the need to balance the rights-based protection of refugees with the facilitation of sustainable livelihoods through improved infrastructure.



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