Research in Brief: Informal versus Formal Infrastructure: Energy and water systems in the Kakuma refugee camps, Kenya
Cory Rodgers, Louise Bloom
Refugees who pursue livelihoods in protracted encampment contexts are held up as exemplars of self-reliance, but their success relies on access to basic resources and infrastructure. Such amenities are often lacking, however, because refugee camps are seldom included in state infrastructural development, and resources provided by camp agencies are intended for domestic use, not livelihoods. Nonetheless, the systems of water and energy use in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camps exemplify the ways that refugees acquire the resources needed for their livelihood activities, either by creatively re-distributing resources from formal systems of humanitarian provision, or by seeking alternative sources of these basic goods. Findings show that the form of infrastructure available in a camp has implications for safety and sustainability, refugee livelihoods, and refugee-host relations. Interventions to improve resource provision and camp infrastructure must consider the various consequences for differently positioned actors.