Women and Water- a lifetime struggle

The empowerment of women and girls is not only important for an equitable society, it is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed-upon development goals, and improve the quality of life of women, men, families, and communities.

The situation of access to clean water and sanitation in rural Africa is even more dismal than the previous statistics imply. The WHO (2006) stated that, in 2004, only 16% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to drinking water. Not only is there poor access to readily accessible drinking water, even when water is available in there are risks of contamination. When water boreholes are built and water sanitation facilities are developed, they are improperly maintained due to limited financial resources. Water quality testing is not performed as often as is necessary, and lack of education among the people utilizing the water source leads them to believe that as long as they are getting water from a borehole, it is safe. In many communities once a source of water has been provided, quantity of water is often given more attention than quality of water.

The grim reality of the global water crisis is that it disproportionately impacts on women. Throughout Africa women and girls are the main providers of household water supply and sanitation, and also have the primary responsibility for maintaining a clean home environment. The lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities therefore affects women and girls most acutely. The implications of lack of clean water and access to adequate sanitation are widespread. Young children die from dehydration and malnutrition; results of suffering from diarrheal illnesses that could be prevented by clean water and good hygiene are always rampant with the scarcity of this vital commodity.

According to the World Health Organization about 157 million people in the Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR) are not connected to a clean and safe water distribution system, and thus need to use external water sources. Around 247 million people have no access to improved sanitation. In countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, well over half of the population has to practise open defecation. Poor water and sanitation, as well as unsafe hygiene practices are the main causes of diarrhoea, one of the main child killers in the region. Each year more than 250,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoeal diseases.
girls with water
The burden of fetching drinking water from outdoor sources falls disproportionately on girls and women. When water is scarce, women and girls may have to travel longer distances to obtain water, which can expose them to danger. Collecting water consumes a reasonable amount of time thus considerably reducing the time women and girls have available for other activities such as childcare, income generation and school attendance. This work is also extremely physically demanding with women carrying weights of approximately 20kg. In fact the the total number of kilometres walked each day by the female population, in the course of gathering water for their families, is the equivalent of several times to the moon and back.

Girls often have to walk long distances to fetch water early in the morning affecting their schooling. After such an arduous chore, they may arrive late and tired at school. Being ‘needed at home’ is a major reason why children, especially girls from poor families, drop out of school. Providing water closer to homes increases girls’ free time and boosts their school attendance.

Faced with broken boreholes and limited resources communities are often presented with a dilemma, drink potentially harmful water from unprotected sources or boil it as a means of purification. In many cases individuals may not even be aware of the risks of drinking dirty water and even if they are they may be so energy poor that boiling water as a treatment method may not be an option; and when it is, it is expensive and time consuming.

Carbon Zero is working on an initiative to help rural communities have access to clean and safe drinking water in Kenya through seeking to develop borehole rehabilitation projects in the country. This will ensure that that women and the community at large are directly involved in the planning and management of water supply and sanitation programmes, and that hygiene promotion interventions are specifically designed to reach them. In addition – the work load for women and girls will be greatly reduced by improving access to potable and safe water from protected water sources.


Sierra Leone Boreholes

CO2balance are proud to announce their first ever carbon project in Sierra Leone has been listed today on the Gold Standard Registry. The Gold Standard Micro-Scale Borehole Project in Sierra Leone involves the rehabilitation and maintenance of hand-pumped boreholes owned by communities in Bombali District, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. The CO2balance borehole project will create a network of functioning boreholes throughout the country. In addition to supplying clean, safe water and mitigating climate change, this project will impact local peoples lives by:

  • Resulting in less wood used by households, which will reduce pressure on local ecosystems
  • Reduce time spent collecting wood to boil water
  • Reduce incidence of illness (and therefore less opportunity costs for families)
  • Reduce expenditure on wood fuel, leaving money free for other household expenses
  • Increase familiarity within the communities about the planned preventative maintenance of boreholes

Our partners on the ground Leone Resources are responsible for the borehole repair programme with work due to commence as soon as the terrible EBOLA outbreak enables the repair programme to move forward. CO2balance would like to take this opportunity to wish all our partners and indeed wider afield, anybody who has been effected by the EBOLA outbreak in Sierra Leone good health and every safety in this awful time.


Our team on the ground in Sierra Leone at the local stakeholder meeting.



The Carbon Bubble: A barrier to curbing fossil fuel use

Here is some analysis (though not an exhaustive list) of the “carbon bubble” and of why it is so difficult to curb fossil fuel use in our 21st century world economy. For reference, 81% or 12,150 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) of world primary energy demand was met by fossil fuels in 2013, with this figure predicted to stay above 80% as far ahead as 2035, primarily driven by increasing demand in the BRIC economies, particularly India and China (IEA, 2013).  The diagram below and four numbers produced by Bill Mckibben and Carbon Tracker in 2010 can go a long way towards explaining the “carbon bubble” and its impact on curbing fossil fuel use:


  1. 2° Celsius

167 countries responsible for 90% of global carbon emissions have signed the Copenhagen Accord (2009), which states 2°C warming as an international legally binding target for curtailing climate change. Any worldwide average global temperature rise above this target has been deemed as “dangerous”. Moreover given the grave situation we have (knowingly) got ourselves into, we need to be honest and clear as to the implications of 2°C warming. The repercussions of 2°C warming reach deeper than we tend to imagine. 2°C is a death sentence for many of tomorrow’s most vulnerable communities. Again for reference it is important to remember that all the data on our current warming trajectory is perfectly in line with temperature rises in the region of 4-6°C. It is fair to say, based on many (and ongoing) discussions in the climate change discourse that there is a widespread view that a 4-6°C future is incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organised, equitable and civilised global community.

  1. 565 Billion tonnes CO2e

An estimate of the amount of CO2e humans can emit from fossil fuels into the atmosphere by 2050 in order to have a 50:50 chance of staying below the 2°C target. This has also been termed the “coin-flip” scenario.

  1. 37.4 Billion tonnes CO2e

This figure represents anthropogenic carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in 2013. At this rate the 40 year carbon budget would be used up in less than 15-20 years.

  1. 2,795 Billion tonnes CO2e (The Carbon Bubble)

This number describes the amount of carbon already on the books of the world’s fossil fuel companies, or the proven fossil fuel reserves. This does not include $674billion invested in 2013 to find and develop new potentially stranded assets e.g. offshore Brazil, Artic, Venezuela and UK unconventional gas. Doing the math there are 5 times as much fossil fuel reserves as is internationally recognised as safe to burn. This has been coined the “carbon bubble”. Although the reserves are still technically in the ground, economically they are already aboveground. Reserves are embedded in share prices, companies are borrowing money against them, and nations are basing their budgets on expected returns of their reserves. Altogether fossil fuel reserves are worth $72 trillion. This is approximately in line with worldwide GDP of $74 trillion in 2013. Essentially this means that fossil fuel reserves equal to the value of all economic activity in the entire globe in an entire year will have to be written off in order to avoid 2°C warming. Clearly this will become a contentious issue.  How will investors be compensated for their stranded assets? The short answer is nobody knows. The long answer is also nobody knows. Some investors may thrive but there are likely to be more losers than winners.

The numbers aren’t exact of course, but the carbon bubble makes the housing bubble and subsequent crash in 2008 look insignificant by comparison. It also may not necessarily burst. All fossil fuels may yet be burned in which case investors will do fine, assuming they write letters of apology to their grandchildren. All in all there is a clear future incompatibility between healthy fossil fuel balance sheets and a healthy planet.


Carbon Tracker: Unburnable Carbon 2013

International Energy Agency: 2013 World Energy Outlook

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is among the finalists for the P3 Impact Award!

We congratulate The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) to be announced as one of the 5 finalists for the P3 Impact Award, selected by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, and the University of Virginia. The prestigious award recognizing the most high-impact public-private partnerships will be given to the winner at the 2014 Concordia Summit on September 29th in New York City.

GACC is a model public-private partnership hosted by the United Nations Foundation with an aim to “foster the adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in 100 million households by 2020”. With over 1,000 partners worldwide across various sectors, the Alliance is creating a global market for clean and efficient cookstoves, which improve livelihoods and protect the environment at the same time.

Co2balance is proud to be a partner of this excellent organisation and to be listed with several of our projects in the Alliance’s catalog. For more information about GACC and the catalog of their supported carbon projects please see the link: http://www.cleancookstoves.org/resources_files/carbon-credit-offsets-catalog.pdf

Reducing Carbon Emissions through Improved Cook Stoves in Kenya

At the end of September the 2nd Verification for the Meru South improved cook stoves project will take place. Meru South is one of thirteen districts located in the Eastern Province of Kenya, northeast of Mt Kenya with a population of approximately 250,000 people.  In 2000, 72% of the population in Meru South lived below the poverty line.

CO2balance installed the first stove of the project activity on 14/03/2011. During last year, 994 cook stoves were distributed and a total of 8129 stoves since the project’s start in 2011.  The local people have received stoves free of charge and have been directed in correct use of the stove by local community groups engaging with the project developers. In Meru South the improved cook stoves significantly reduce fuel consumption, by approximately 49%, resulting in an improved living environment for local people and reduced pressure on local forests, with approximately 17690 tonnes of wood saved only the last year. In addition, new employment opportunities have emerged related to the different phases and scopes of the project.

However, the most important fact is that by reducing fuel consumption, CO2 emissions from combustion of non-renewable biomass have been correspondingly reduced by 28,954 tCO2e the year 2013-2014. Moreover, CO2balance plans to distribute in total approximately 20,000 domestic wood-burning improved cook stoves in households within the project area in Meru South.

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Empowering Women in West Kisumu

In April 2014, Carbon Zero Kenya (CZK) received funding from the Australian High Commission to implement a women’s cook stove project in West Kisumu, Kenya. Over the last 5 months CZK have been busy laying the foundations of  a cookstove enterprise run by the Umeme Women’s Group. In total, ten members of group have been  trained to assemble and sell the efficient cookstoves, thus providing them with a new skill, which will allow them to supplement their income from farming and improve their quality of life. So far, the project has been progressing well and has demonstrated that it would indeed be viable to upscale local cookstove production models throughout the region. It is also important to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of  CZK’s staff  as well as the enthusiasm of the Umeme Women’s Group which has been crucial to ensuring a successful outcome.

With the stove construction phase coming to an end, all efforts have now shifted to sales and marketing. Although selling the stoves is primarily the responsibility of the Umeme Women’s Group, Carbon Zero Kenya is providing support in establishing market linkages and sales networks to facilitate the volumes required.Each member of the group stands to earn approximately $1000 from stove sales, which is more than the average national income in Kenya. Ensuring that the project has a long term effect on sustainable development, the fuel efficient jikos will be included under CO2balance’ Gold Standard carbon project, which means that the emission reductions generated through their use can be sold on the voluntary carbon market to raise additional finance for the Umeme Women’s Group.

The Silent Killer in the Kitchen

Today, 3 billion people, which is almost half of the world’s population, are still cooking on traditional stoves or open fires. This issue may seem less crucial but household air pollution leads to more deaths in the world than malaria and HIV. Part of the problem is actually that it’s an issue not being taken with the seriousness it deserves. The cooking habits have a strong influence not only on health and environment, but also on livelihoods, especially of women and children.

Kenya has a population of 41 million, with 78% living in rural areas and an annual growth rate of 2.5%. 82% of the total energy used nationally is derived from biomass with low grade biomass and agricultural residue used for cooking putting increasing pressure on natural resources. Three stone open fires and traditional stove use is widespread and the major source of Household Air Pollution (HAP) causing respiratory diseases and eye damage. Traditional cooking methods are a health risk, they cause deforestation and climate change, and they are unnecessarily expensive to some of the world’s poorest people. Actually, replacing the traditional 3-stone cook stove with an improved one can dramatically improve a family’s health.

The sad fact is that many people are not aware that the wood smoke emits toxins which cause eye problems, lung and heart diseases and an increase in the risk of strokes. Experts say, even when aware of the dangers, the “silent energy crisis” may be a deterrent to the use of energy-efficient wood stoves.
Smoke and particulate matter is a serious health risk, especially to women and children who spend the most time near the stove. When wood burns, it emits 26 hazardous air pollutants including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and methane as well as fine respirable particles of less than 2.5 microns (µ) that penetrate deep into the lungs.

These particulates compromise the body’s defence systems and its ability to filter and remove toxic particles. Smoke has also been thought to be a factor in the development of asthma, cataracts (the leading cause of blindness worldwide), low birth weight, and adverse pregnancies.

The traditional method of cooking on a three-stone cooking fire is the cheapest stove to produce, requiring only three suitable stones of the same height on which a cooking pot can be balanced over a fire but it’s the most expensive in the long run considering its adverse impacts both on health and environment.
Deforestation and erosion are often the end result of harvesting wood for cooking fuel. The main goal of Carbon Zero in its initiatives to ensure that many families across Kenya have access to an improved CZK cook stove is to reduce the pressure placed on local forests by reducing the amount of wood the traditional stoves consume. Additionally, the money a family spends on wood or charcoal translates into less money being available to be spent on food, education, and medical care; so Carbon Zero sees an improved cooking stove as a way of boosting a family’s income.

A Global Burden of Disease study published in Dec 2012 (Lim S.S. and others), reports that about 4 million premature deaths are attributable to Household Air Pollution. In 2000, WHO ranked indoor air pollution (IAP) as one of the top 10 health risks in the world. It reported that globally 1.5 million people (predominately women and children) die each year from respiratory infections, cardiovascular disease and cancer from indoor cooking stove smoke. Improved stoves are more efficient; meaning that the stove’s users spend less time gathering wood or other fuels, suffer less emphysema and other lung diseases prevalent in smoke-filled homes, while reducing deforestation and air pollution.