Sustainable Energy Transition in Refugee Camps: The Case of Uganda and Kenya

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship.

The Department of International Development, University of Oxford with Mandulis Energy.



Professor Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) at the University of Oxford

Dr Sarah Rosenburg-Jansen, Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) at the University of Oxford.



The ESRC Grand Union DTP is awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship based in the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford. It is being offered in conjunction with the Mandulis Energy.

There is growing research interest in energy in humanitarian contexts, particularly in refugee settings. In refugee camps and settlements in Africa, refugees tend to rely upon biomass energy, which has serious implications for both refugee wellbeing and environmental sustainability. Until now, there has been little research to systematically examine the structural challenges that shape sustainable energy transition in forced migration contexts.

This project aims to address this gap by exploring the research question: what are the determinants of sustainable energy transition in refugee camps? To explore this, it will examine three sub-questions at different levels of analysis 1) The market -- what are the demand and supply-side issues that enable or constrain transition to sustainable energy in forced migration settings?; 2) The household -- what are the costs and benefits of acquiring clean energy cooking stoves for refugee households?; 3) The community -- how do refugees’ social interactions shape and influence adoption of sustainable energy?

The project will explore this through an empirical focus on East Africa, looking at refugee camps and settlements in Uganda and Kenya. It will focus on Palabek and Nakivale settlements in Uganda, and the Kakuma camps and Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya. This variation will enable exploration of how energy transition takes place in refugee contexts with different governance and socio-economic characteristics.

The research will be interdisciplinary, drawing from economic anthropology and development studies to explore challenges and opportunities for clean energy technologies in refugee settings. It will adopt a mixed methods approach including both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. Reflecting this, we encourage applications from candidates with an interdisciplinary background in Development Studies or a related discipline such as anthropology, sociology, or political science. Experience of undertaking research in refugee settings in East Africa would be an advantage, as would lived experience of forced displacement.



Mandulis Energy is a cleantech social enterprise focused on sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy delivery in refugee contexts. Rather than focusing just on biomass, it aims to consider the social context of its work, engaging with communities to support last mile sustainable energy transition. In particular, it aims to work with refugee-led organisations as important intermediaries of sustainable energy transition. Mandulis works in four refugee settlements across Uganda (Palabek, Kyangwali, Nakivale, and Kyaka II), where it develops socially-embedded approaches to deliver clean energy technologies through ‘energy hubs’. It is exploring expanding its work to Kenya. It collaborates with a range of other relevant actors within the global ‘energy and humanitarianism’ space, including UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation.



The PhD studentship will be funded by the Grand Union DTP for an expected 3 years from October 2023. The award length offered may differ depending on the candidate’s prior training and how they meet ESRC training requirements.

Information about Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships and eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website.



12:00 midday UK time on Friday 20 January 2023



To apply for the studentship, you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in International Development at the University of Oxford. Details about applying can be found via

Your application should include a research proposal that indicates how your proposed research would engage with the core elements of this project if you were offered the studentship. Your proposal may draw on the description of the research detailed above.

In addition to completing your graduate application form, you must also complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form and upload it, by the deadline published above, together with your graduate application form. Please ensure you also select 'ESRC Grand Union DTP Studentships in Social Sciences' in the University of Oxford scholarships section of the University's graduate application form.

The admissions process is in two parts: applications will be assessed by the institution and the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.



Queries about the studentship should be addressed to: Professor Alex Betts ( and Dr Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen (