Opening Ceremony and Warm Welcome for CO2balance!

The 20th May marked the start of our second Micro-Scale Improved Cook Stove project in the Bugesera District, Rwanda. As the factory loaded up the truck in Kigali, I travelled to the Sector of Mareba, where both the local administration and the communities were ready to receive the first stoves.

When we arrived, the Executive Secretary welcomed us to his Sector, and we were then invited to join the Ceremony to mark the beginning of the project in this area. Behind the Sector Office, a group of local people had gathered, ready to receive their new stoves. The Ceremony began with traditional singing and dancing to welcome us, and the Project was then officially opened by the Executive Secretary.

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After the introductions and explanations about the project and its benefits, the first stoves arrived from Kigali, and the local Community Project Officers began to fill out the beneficiaries details and give them their stoves.

The stoves are very heavy to transport, weighing approximately 23Kg each, and we saw some very interesting means of transportation by those taking their new stove home. . .

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In addition to the Sector representatives, journalists from National and Local Rwandan radio arrived, to carry out interviews and report on the project.

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 It was great to have such a warm welcome and to see how happy the communities are to be receiving the stoves! We’re looking forward to continuing our stove distribution in many more Sectors in the coming months. . .

Goodbye, CO2balance!

I’ve been at CO2balance for two years and am now moving on. Despite computers notorious (and frustrating) ability to cease functioning for no clear reason I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time and would like to thank everyone I’ve worked with over the two years.

Despite the fact I was initially employed as IT support it didn’t take long for us to realise it’d take more than a few computer issues to keep me busy and as a result I quickly started working on web development projects to occupy my time.

One of the projects I was able to work on was the Challenge Africa project sponsoredby SCC. The project allowed 5 employees from SCC to travel to Kenya to build a fence around a school to help benefit the local community. I built a website to allow the employees to raise money through events and publish them through an events feed. The trip was a great success with the participants raising £5,636 in just a few months.

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In addition to creating websites, some of my time at CO2balance was spent streamlining day to day tasks of others. One nifty system I created allows the projects team to tag photos from their trips to countries and events, then upload them to the server to be globally accessed throughout the office by simply searching for the tags, thus allowing us to vastly increase our image library for the future – keep an eye out for some new photos in the future!Image

After spending two years in such a great office with such great people there’s a great many things I’ll miss. Here’s just a few:

  • Listening to Richard’s music – from 15 meters away (despite his use of headphones).
  • Matt and his need for help with the simplest of IT matters.
  • The grubs up van and their fancy horn to reminding me it’s almost lunch time!
  • Everyone in the offices ability to forget every password, no matter how simple.
  • The projects teams stories of the outside world (I will continue to argue it’s overrated).
  • Being with people who think I know what I’m doing (Although I think you’re all well aware by now that my standard procedure is click buttons for a minute or two then turn the computer off and on again).
  • Paul’s quick cooking tips.
  • The Shop of Doom and their delicious Southern Fried Chicken baguettes
  • Pretending I understand what CO2balance does.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone at CO2balance. I’ve been given brilliant opportunities in my time here and the experience I’ve gained has been invaluable. I’d like to say an extra big thank you to Martin (if he reads this) for teaching me everything I know about programming, Dan for keeping me company for the last few months and Matt for frequently interrupting my workload and giving me a quick chuckle.

Good Bye CO2balance!

It’s been a pleasure to work with all of you and wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavours. I hope CO2balance can continue its great work in Africa and the rest of the world.

Risi Cheshire

Tsalani Bwino

At short notice I flew out to Malawi last Tuesday and have spent the week here in Lilongwe with our partners Concern Universal. The objective was to identify how we can increase access to carbon finance for organisations in the country. We were kindly invited to a meeting with Irish Aid who are interested in the role carbon finance can play in development; especially if the revenues it generates are channelled back through the value chain. After a series of productive meetings we are closing in on an innovative model that incorporates the best of carbon finance and development. However it is time for me to return to the UK and say tsalani bwino to Malawi until the next time!

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Crossing Fences

Last week was very busy and full of fieldwork for Carbon Zero team. We were out in the field doing verification for our two CDM projects in Kenya that is in Mathira in Nyeri and Kaptagat in Eldoret. Glad that all went well during the verification process.

The field work was characterized by tough walking, climbing hilly terrains, climbing and crossing fences to access the required households.

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It was a nice experience meeting Carbon Zero cook stove beneficiaries and listen to them share their testimonies regarding the stove. All the visited beneficiaries were glad and praised the stove especially on its high level of efficiency and fuel consumption. Many indicated that Carbon Zero stoves use less wood thus loggers have less demand so less trees are being logged. And over time this has increased vegetation cover.

They also noted that most families pay to purchase wood as cooking fuel and now with a less need for wood, family income have increased. Some families indicated that typical stoves (three stone cook stoves) release clouds of toxic smoke into the home as there is no ‘chimney’ or exhaust tube something that Carbon Zero stoves have been of great help as they have drastically reduced particulates, which means that the families using them have better health than otherwise. Many also pointed at the fact Carbon Zero stoves cook faster thus allowing women to venture into other income generating activities while at the same time giving women time to take care of their families.

                                                                                                                                   

Australian Aid Project in West Kisumu Progressing Well

The West Kisumu Women’s Cookstove Project sponsored by Australian Aid is now in full swing. Last Thursday the first batch of stove components were transported from our base in Nairobi to the Carbon Zero Kenya stove workshop in West Kisumu, ready to be assembled and sold by the Umeme Women’s Group. The Group consists of 10 members all of whom rely on farming to earn a living. One of the key aims of this project is to provide the Group with a new vocation which will allow them to supplement their income particularly during the dry season when agricultural production is low.

On Monday the Carbon Zero Manufacturing and Logistics Officer, Charles Ruto, travelled to the project area to conduct a hands-on stove assembly training session and to oversee the production of the first stoves in order to ensure that their build quality is consistent with the required standards. During the training all aspects of stove build were explained to the women from design right through to finish.

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In the meantime, other areas of the project are also being advanced including a promotion campaign led by the Carbon Zero Regional Coordinator Wycliffe Odumo. Over the next two months the Umeme Women’s Group aims to build and sell 900 improved cookstoves, so bringing the local community on board and educating them on the benefits of the stove will be pivotal to the success of the project. Stove sales will primarily be the responsibility of the Umeme Women’s Group, however, Carbon Zero Kenya will provide support in establishing market linkages and sales networks to facilitate the volumes required.

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As for the future sustainability of the project, the cookstoves sold under this project will  be included in CO2balance’s small scale Gold Standard project in West Kisumu which will generate additional carbon finance allowing for the future subsidisation of stoves in the region.

 

Farewell to CO2balance!

The time has come to say good bye to CO2balance after 3 and a half years. Despite the frustrations inherent in the carbon finance sector I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have had and all the amazing people that I have met on this journey. So thank you to everyone at CO2Balance UK & Uganda and Carbon Zero Kenya!

So here is a brief recap of my time at CO2balance (formerly known as co2balance!)

Anyone who has met Suzanne will know that she doesn’t like to hang about and the start of my CO2balance tenure was no different! So after agreeing to marry my girlfriend if she would quit her good job and move with me to the South West, I packed my bags and moved into a house in Taunton at 2 weeks notice. This would have been great but I was missing a few key items to make my house comfortable – namely furniture! All was not lost however as I had my trusty tent and an old plastic chair set up in the bedroom – I even splashed out on some fairy lights as it was Christmas after all!

Back then the projects team consisted of Owen, Mark, Liz, Richard and Myself.

Within a few weeks both Mark Howard and Liz had moved on leaving Richard and I in a bewildering world of cook stoves and acronyms. I can’t say we missed Mark’s breakfast humus but Runako definitely missed Liz’s free lifts to work. Runako’s loss was A1 Taxi’s gain!

Moving on a couple of months I will never forget my first trip to Africa with CO2balance. Having taken over the development of our Uganda CDM PoA (currently still pending registration!) I undertook a site visit to Kanungu. ‘Where’s Kanungu?’ my mother asked ‘Uganda’ I replied. What I should have said is, ‘as far away from Kampala as you can get.’ I will always remember the scene that greeted me as we flew into Entebbe over Lake Victoria at sunrise, it was truly stunning but that was only the start of the adventure. As I emerged from Entebbe airport bleary eyed and over tired I was greeted by Andrew Ocama (like Obama!) at least I think it was Andrew as I had never seen him before in my life it could have been anyone! In we jumped to a minivan with a ‘minor’ cooling problem to commence the ten hour drive to Kanungu. Although I was exhausted I felt alive at the sensory overload that I experienced on that journey… after 10hours of driving down ‘roads’ the alive feeling had left me but the memories never will. The ‘short’ route home via the Queen Elizabeth National Park was another stunning experience of total beauty interspersed with minivan cooling issues but we made it back to Kampala in one piece.

Back in Kampala I met up with our Stove Engineer Jonny who at the time had the best job going at CO2balance. He was based in Diani Beach and travelled Africa building stoves at the company’s expense. We hit it off and decided to go out for a few drinks – following Jonny’s guidance the chosen venue was Kabalagala – lets just say it was an experience! As was every time we met where ever we were!

Over the years I have been lucky to travel a lot and I have had several ‘I can’t believe I’m being paid to be here’ moments – The trip to the Parc des Volcans being another standout.

Exciting as visiting Africa has been I have spent 90% of my time behind a desk in Taunton and I think I will miss this too – well maybe not all of it!

Here’s a brief list of what I will miss from the office:

  • My Ti Plant – please don’t kill it!
  • Any story that started with ‘When I worked at the council…’
  • Richard’s life admin phone calls
  • Anything to do with Runako
  • Ellie’s strange injuries
  • Lloyd’s passion for gin
  • All the lovely emails from our contacts in Africa
  • Any combination of the IT chuckle brothers in the corner
  • The strange obsession with Barry Manilow’s greatest hit ‘Bermuda Triangle’
  • The Ministry of Cake
  • ‘Postman Packet’
  • The Chinese chip shop & the shop of doom (actually I am glad never to see these places again!)
  • Friday afternoon donuts!

I love Mani Low

Looking back what am I most proud of? Well apart from the stand out achievement of my fantastic Ti Plant (please don’t kill it!). I think I am most proud of 3 simple things:

  1. Developing a structure and clear processes (dull yes but very useful!)
  2. Recruiting some brilliant, capable staff and growing an amazing projects team
  3. Being able to see the difference we have made to peoples’ lives when we have got things right

I hope I am remembered as an enthusiastic, positive influence that made the occasional round of tea. I will never forget working with you all.

A big thanks goes out to the team in Africa, Paul Kier, Moses, Charles & Catherine in Kenya and Andrew in Uganda.

A huge thank you goes out to the UK Head Office staff of Richard, Lloyd, Ellie, Eszter, Lucas, Paul, Sue, Dan & Risi.

So to wrap up this blog I extend my gratitude to Mark, Suzanne, Huw and Robin for giving me the opportunity to work at CO2balance and I am thankful for all the support I have received.

I wish CO2balance every success in the future and I hope the ethos of being a friendly, approachable, transparent organisation remains.

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Uganda trip

As Ellie already pointed out in one of the previous blog posts, travelling to the project sites and seeing our projects in action is definitely the most exciting part of our jobs. At the moment I am preparing for my trip to Uganda, where I will have the chance to meet with the communities in Alebtong and Dokolo where two of the CO2balance borehole projects are implemented. In the first half of the week we will go up-country and visit each borehole one by one while in the second half of the week we are heading to Kaliro to meet with our new project partner and to finalise the details of the upcoming stakeholder meeting. It will also give me and Andrew, our in-country coordinator the opportunity to discuss the ways we can improve the sanitation and hygiene component of the projects. As we received plenty of  feedbacks from both local and international stakeholders on our boreholes in the past months, we are looking for the ways to incorporate their suggestions, best practices into our on-going projects, hoping to make the boreholes even more useful for the local communities. Busy and very exciting days to come; stay tuned for the next updates from Uganda!