Gorillas in the Mist

In the North of Rwanda, bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, lays the Virunga Volcanic Mountain Range. The Virunga Range is made up of three National Parks; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

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These parks are unique in that they are one of only two places in the world that the Mountain Gorilla can be found. The other is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

The Mountain Gorillas have been attracting tourists to Rwanda for many years, and this has now been turned into a very successful means of conservation. After a dramatic decline in numbers since their discovery, gorilla numbers have now slowly increased, however they are still classed as an endangered species.

During my recent trip to Rwanda, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take part in the world famous Gorilla Trekking. Our journey started from the town of Ruhengeri (Musanze), approximately 2 hours drive from Kigali in North-West Rwanda. We began the day with a very early briefing at the National Park headquarters in Kinigi. After meeting our guide, we were assigned our Gorilla Family. There are several families available for tourists to visit, and the maximum number of tourists is 8 per group. We were assigned the Umubano Group, led by the dominant silverback “Charles.” After the briefing with our guide, we set off in our 4×4 along the increasingly steep tracks formed of volcanic rocks, to begin the journey in the foothills of the volcanoes, and the starting point of our trek.

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The walk begins with a gentle pathway through the fields of crops, thriving in the fertile volcanic soil, passing by the local farmers and excited children. We then reached the boundary of the National Park, marked by a stone wall. As we climbed over the wall, the landscape immediately changed to that of thick jungle, and we were joined by the trackers, who had been out in the jungle several hours before to locate our gorilla family.

We climbed through the thick jungle, up and down steep slopes, and through the undergrowth. It didn’t take long before we heard the noises and rustling from the gorillas. . .

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Once we reached the family, we were able to spend an hour with the gorillas, watching as they lazed around having their afternoon rest, the younger members playing together, and a 6 month old baby clambering and playing with his mother. Some were lying quietly, others eating, and some climbing and swinging in the trees. The gentle gorillas were unphased by our close proximity, carrying on as usual.

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An unforgettable experience in a beautiful part of the world!

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Carbon Expo

Our Managing Director, Mark Simpson and Sales Manager, Paul Chiplen are  currently attending Carbon Expo – the largest annual gathering of the global carbon market, held in Germany this year. This international trade fair and conference brings together all major policy and market players – including keynote speakers Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry.  Starting from the 28th of May, the 3-day event hosts the world’s leading experts on sustainability, energy and finance with an agenda focusing on three key areas this year: Policy and Markets, Climate Finance and Sustainable Energy.  We are hoping that meeting will drive new opportunities and partnerships and soon we can blog about promising new carbon projects too….

Touching Lives in Likoni

Talk of impacting young lives and you will be talking about co2balance CSR project in Likoni; Shikaadabu primary school. This is a public mixed primary school in the Coastal region of Kenya.

In February this year co2balance through its CSR initiatives helped the school put up a fence and agate as a way of giving back to the community with the understanding that kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.

And guess what! The results are tremendous already. While speaking to the school head teacher Madam Khadija she categorically states that the project has been so helpful as it has effectively curbed truancy thus they are able to keep pupils in school. This is so because they are able to monitor anybody getting out of school and coming in. Initially lack of a fence led to high levels of truancy thus affected performance. The school had very poor results even in national exams since truancy levels were so high. Pupils could sneak out of school any time.

The head teacher says ‘…. as a school we are very happy and we thank carbon zero so much, the community and parents are very happy and we are sure that even our performance will change since the school environment supports learning at least unlike before’.

Further she states that because of the fence we can now do some farming on the school compound something we couldn’t do previously. People would come in and steal our vegetables and other crops but now we plant our vegetables and other crops with ease. Currently we get our vegetables from the school farm. This is so good and we are happy.

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She adds that ‘….co2balance helped us plant some trees around the school and this has improved the aesthetic value of our school. With this as a school we hope to plant more trees thus be part of the global campaign against climate change.’

 

Bursting the banks

This week, we completed our protocol for mobile water testing, a procedure we plan to implement in the near future. Periodically we shall be getting into the field and routinely testing water sources for all the parameters that meet with the national standards for safe water as required by the Directorate of Water Resources Management. Their staff will guide us and work with us to further improve our protocol and for all our water sources, including the recently selected new sites in Kaliro, we shall ensure without a doubt that the communities receive safe water. The hall mark of a successful project is that lessons are learnt at each stage and it is modified to improve at each successive stage. Eventually at an “equillibrium” it reaches a stage where further improvement means a lot more than correction and more of innovation to improve performance. We pride in efficiency of our products as well as the performance of our projects and are glad to be contributing to the improvement of environmental quality for even more citizens of Africa’s pearl.

There has always been an argument for incentives for companies promoting sustainable development. Indeed, the government of Uganda promotes renewable energy by waiving import taxes on equipment for generation. This has had a massive impact on the solar industry. By reducing the cost of procuring implements, it has eventually brought down the cost of solar power, now a major source of power in the offgrid areas. For many a carbon company, most of the income will come in through carbon finance and through consultancy work. Everybody who has registered a carbon project understands the rigorous and long process we have to go through to be able to certify the carbon credits produced. There have been attempts to ease the process but it still involves a high amount of money which is a limitation for many especially in sub-saharan Africa. The companies that have been successful like co2balance are still faced with a long period before returns on investment. In this regard, carbon management is still a business risk that brings grounded benefits to many and should be promoted. It is my sincere hope that in #MyAfrica, our governments will offer greater incentives to enable greater participation in carbon finance and the carbon offset initiatives available.

When I started to write this article, my mind was firmly on an area I recently grew fond of. It is a homely place that my friends and I made our “retreat”. In Western Uganda is a small community in an area called Kilembe. This was once a bustling mining town that even hosted an office for the defunct Uganda Airlines, our old national carrier. It is (was) a self sufficient town with its own water supply and electricity off the national grid. As recently as early 2012, we would go there on weekends, off social media and away from good communications and just listen to the calming sound of the river that flowed through, the River Nyamwamba. Due to the recent excessive rain spells, a clear sign of climate change, this river has burst its banks twice in the last two years. Our little paradise though still a haven has been destroyed by mother nature’s anger.  

I hope the next time I talk of burst banks, it will be green business, innovation and a spirit of compassion bursting the banks of conventional business and supporting sustainable development the 21st century way.

International Day of Biodiversity

The connection between improved cookstoves and biodiversity is straightforward and very important as reducing reliance on wood resources protects the natural habitat of two-third of the world’s plant and animal species living in forests. Since today marks the International Day of Biodiversity, it is a good opportunity to take look at the big picture and remember that we need to value more our ecosystem. We are hoping that via our cookstove projects throughout Africa we can contribute our fair share to protect wildlife by keeping their habitat safe for the coming years.

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Photo by UN-REDD

Kisumu West project gets moving

It has taken a while since Carbon Zero Kenya created a small-scale improved cook stove manufacturing enterprise in the district of West Kisumu in Kenya. Just to offer an overview of the project, the project will take place over the course of six months, during which time, local female artisans will be trained by CZK to build and sell 900 energy-efficient bucket stoves. Carbon Zero will provide all the necessary training, materials and advertising to create a self sustaining stove enterprise in addition to ongoing logistical support. The artisans will sell the stoves at a highly subsidized rate directly from their workshop and via monthly stove distribution trips. Baseline assessments of local cooking practices as well as a stakeholder consultation were already carried out by our local field staff, confirming a high demand for improved cook stoves in the area.

Its good news to confirm that the project implementation is now on and last week on Friday Co2balance staff were in Kisumu West to have an introductory meeting with the women group that will be working on this project. The women were taken through the project and were very happy to be part of this process.

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 In addition to creating a self sustaining micro business run by women, the project will address the negative social, environmental and economic impacts caused by the combustion of unsustainably harvested biomass, (wood), through the distribution of 900 improved cook stoves to families at a highly subsidized cost. The stoves will help reduce pressure on local fuel supplies and eliminate indoor pollutants – providing families with an improved standard of living and a cleaner, easier and healthier way of cooking.

When the grant funding period ends, the artisans will be able to reinvest the money from stove sales in new stove materials. As the distributed stoves will be included under a Gold Standard Certified Emissions project run by our UK based project partner, Co2balance, the stoves are guaranteed to earn carbon credits, thus ensuring the long-term subsidization and sustainability of the project. After the successful roll-out of 900 stoves, both CZK and co2balance UK Ltd remain committed to monitoring and further expanding the project.

 

 

Local Stakeholder Consutation; Bugesera, Rwanda

On Friday, we held a Local Stakeholder Consultation in the Bugesera District, Rwanda. Bugesera is a District in the Eastern Province, and will be the location for approximately 12 of our Micro-Scale Improved Cook Stove Projects.

We have already successfully implemented the first of these projects, and are now moving on to the next four projects. Once the initial five projects are complete, we will move to new areas in the District. In view of this planned expansion, we held a meeting to invite stakeholders from several new areas in the District, where we plan to distribute stoves in the near future.

The meeting was arranged in conjunction with our local NGO partner; FAPDR. Attendance was very good, and feedback was very positive. Also in attendance were representatives from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), who were impressed that the CO2balance stove is manufactured locally in Rwanda, and also spoke of the need for such a project, especially in Bugesera where wood stock is continually diminishing.

With stakeholders views and feedback now gathered from across the District, we are on track to continue with implementation in all 12 of the planned projects.

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