Colonized unknowingly!

Mama Angel lives in Kisumu County, Kajulu sub location along Kisumu Miwani road, where she is married with two children. Initially she was a house wife and depended entirely on her husband for financial support, which was kind of hectic since the husband works as a nursery school teacher at a nearby school. She narrates that previously she was using a tradition three stone stove for cooking and this stove literally colonized her unknowingly to the extent that she could spend close to three to four hours daily in the bushes looking for firewood. She adds that the three stone was very expensive as it used to consume a lot of wood fuel. I did not have time to do other activities that would increase our income. “As a mother I did not have time to do other things to benefit my family rather than looking for firewood and spend the rest of the time struggling to cook, the three stone stove simply halted my other life, it just made me a slave minus my knowledge.”

She further narrates that besides wasting too much time looking for firewood the three stone stove had other devastating disadvantages. “I used to cough a lot; the smoke was unbearable always having a running nose while in the kitchen. But ever since I got the artisan cook stove, my life has never been the same again, No more tears while cooking as there is no smoke in the kitchen any more, soot on the cooking pot, No soot on the wall, the coughing is unheard off. This stove is also mobile I can move with it and still cook. It’s sad that I took long before realizing that the three stone stove was a really pulling me down, but now am happy.’’
She adds “this artisanal stove is very efficient and uses little fuel. Look at the amount of fuel being used now; I use less than a quarter of what I used to while with the three stone. The artisanal stove has really seen my life change a lot; I wish I bought it earlier.”

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She further narrates that currently she is able to save time and engage in other economic activities to raise more income for their family. She says that now she is involved with other women in a women group that has enabled her engaged in economic development activities unlike before.
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Compiled by; Christine Atira and Moses Maina

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The Art of Farming with Trees

Meru South district lies at the foothills of Mount Kenya. Within Meru more than 70% of the population lives below the poverty line with more than 90% of rural families using wood fuel for cooking which is done largely on traditional three stone stove. The cost of wood fuel has been on the rise due to high levels of deforestation and the ever increasing demand for the rare commodity. Consequently, families spend a big percentage of their income purchasing wood fuel. Besides the high cost of wood fuel, cooking on open fires causes health problems brought that results from smoke i.e. s lung and eye ailments.

For over three years now Carbon Zero Kenya has worked round the clock to implement an energy efficient cook stove project in Meru South that has seen high reductions in wood consumption promoting conservation of forests within the area. Agro forestry and use of improved cook stoves have been on top agenda in the campaign to reduce pressure on the existing natural forests. Carbon Zero Kenya prides in contributing in saving one of Kenya’s natural water towers (Mt. Kenya) through 8000 energy efficient cook stoves distributed to the local community in Meru South. For the past 3years there is a traceable impact chain in wood harvest trends in this region, locals have alternatively used Gravillea robusta branches for firewood. Forest trees are now able to mass branches due to less pruning.

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The use of Carbon Zero Stoves has greatly contributed to reduced wood harvest intervals therefore giving Mt Kenya forest vegetation a chance to flourish. In addition economic and social benefits are realized as wood expenses are considerably reduced, not forgetting other risks that come with wood collecting like rape and violence on women and young girls.

Compiled by; Michael Njihia, Virginia Njata and Moses Maina

The Carbon In Infrastructure

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a business breakfast organised by Low Carbon South West to discuss the importance of carbon in infrastructure projects.  It was held in a location befitting a discussion on infrastructure, that being the Engine Shed of Brunel’s masterpiece Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station – standing as it does as a proud monument to the phenomenal achievements of our forebears.  Will the generations to come think the same of us?

The UK Government is trying to make some positive changes it seems, as the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Government’s most recent reviews on our infrastructure.  The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) and Infrastructure Carbon Review, both released in 2013, highlighted how the Government is keen to consider the impact of carbon in large infrastructure projects and move towards a lower carbon approach.  Over the next 30 years, around 70% of our large infrastructure projects will be low carbon (these were mostly wind turbines), but we will still have to keep building bridges, water pipes and roads.  We discussed some of the ways organisations are trying to include carbon accounting in their procurement strategies for such works (which some enlightened organisations already do e.g. Anglian Water) and how they are reaping the benefits in their bottom line.  Reducing carbon can reduce your costs, thats for sure, but it requires careful thought and an assessment of the risks of trying new processes and technology – which tends to make business nervous, which is perhaps why many are reluctant to make the switch.

In reality the risk of trying new things now is certain to be less risky than operating in an unpredictable climate, so we applaud the forward thinking organisations who have already made this link and hope many more will follow.

Counting the Benefits

Today Carbon Zero Kenya prides in more than 60,000 stoves across the country benefitting the local communities. Among the many stove beneficiaries is Hannah Njoki Ndung’u a 57 year’s old woman who lives in Aberdares project area of Kimende village in Lari Sub-county in Kenya. Hannah is a wife and a happy mother of four. Hannah narrates that since the acquisition of Carbon Zero stove, her cooking habits have changed therefore contributing to tremendous change in her health and finances as explained in her own words.

She says “…..having used this Carbon Zero stove for 3 years now, I use less fuel than before and this has cut down on my expenses on wood. The stove also cooks faster since the fire burns straight to the pot thus am able to save time to do other economic activities and I am glad my kitchen is smokeless. I don’t suffer from chest congestion as a result of excessive smoke anymore and even my eyes don’t itch as they used to while using the three stone stove. I am happy that I got this stove as it has uniquely changed my life. As a family all of us are happy, my kids and husband are happy and that gives me a reason to smile too as a mother and a wife.”
Hannah continues to explain that within the larger Aberdares area there is acute wood shortage with dwindling forest cover and land divisions. Villagers especially those without the CZK energy efficient stove have to walk long distances into the risky Kereita forest to fetch firewood for domestic use. The forest is risky as several wild animals live there. The distance to the forest is more than 4km therefore Hannah prefers to purchase firewood. To her relief, her wood expenses have been reduced by more than a half since the acquisition of the carbon Zero Kenya Ltd stove.
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With a smile she gladly does the math and says,” Three years ago, I used to spend kshs 600 to buy a bundle of wood which I used for 2 days only. Nowadays, I spend only kshs300 for a bundle which serves me for 4 days. You see, there is a whole 300kshs for myself to use for other things; I can pay for my kids school fees, buy food and even invest some and that’s why am happy. Saving money is not easy so once you get somewhere to save you thank God.”
Wittily she adds, “One bundle of wood lasted two days since 3-stone is an open fire and more heat is wasted but this new stove is enclosed that is why the wood goes for four days.”
At Carbon Zero we understand that building positive relationships with communities is paramount to the success of our work. As a result in order to ensure that maximum stove benefits are realized, our Community Officers train and demonstrate proper stove use and maintenance .This has enabled the beneficiaries to get the best use of fuel efficient stove. Some of the practices advocated for in the trainings include, stove maintenance, wood storage for better stove performance, and stove lighting which makes it easy for the beneficiaries to get a stove ready for cooking.

Compiled by; Lilian Kinya, Virginia Njata and Moses Maina.

First year of ACREST-CO2balance partnership

Since the local stakeholder meeting held in January last year, a significant progress was achieved in the jointly implemented “West Cameroon Improved Cookstove” Project. The Gold Standard Foundation listed our project, endorsing this unique partnership whereby local knowledge and skills are matched with international support and know-how. The improved cookstoves made at the ACREST Headquarter in Mbouda has been subsidised though the carbon market and was made affordable for hundreds of families, providing access to cleaner and healthier cooking environment.

One of the stove users is Madame Yontu Solange. She is very happy with the stove mainly because it cooks faster and uses twice less wood than the three-stone fire she used before. She also pointed out that the stove is safe and does not require constant supervision like the three-stone fire, this way she can carry out other household tasks or even go to the market while the food is being cooked. Given that the stove retains heat efficiently, it keeps the food warm even after the fire extinguished, which is also a great advantage as the family is big and everyone arrives home at different time to eat.

We are looking forward for another successful year with ACREST in Cameroon!DSC_0832

Supporting self-reliance

The hallmark of projects implemented by co2balance partners in Uganda over the past two years has been a strong partnership with communities. Water as a resource requires that the communities who consume it have to get involved in management of the boreholes lest they get back to their original state of ruin.

Last week, I got a chance to visit a local community of mainly farmers in Mbale district to distribute solar lamps as part of CSR with a local partner Peros coffee. Without a doubt the impact on the lives of the communities that the lamps will make only shows on their faces alone and the expected improvement in the study conditions of their children seems to be what excited them most.

The history of this school speaks of great commitment  from the community as well as community members. It is not uncommon to find a local school in Uganda with students seated under a tree but the residents of the surrounding village would not wait to sit back. They burnt bricks and from one grass thatched mud brick building they now have 3 classroom blocks with a total of around ten classrooms to serve their student population of 845, an average of about 121 from each class.The  school project is still ongoing and there were indeed some bricks buring in the background for their newly planned toilet facilities.

Communities like these are not uncommon in Uganda. Often the levels of service delivery have been poor so communities get together to do something that would benefit them long term. One of the communities we work with in Kaliro District in Saaka once showed us a hall that they had built from money gathered locally. This hall may act as a meeting place for students to do holiday study, for nursery school students to attend class and indeed for the community councils to hold their meetings.

We always encourage communities to be vigilant and that is why we are able to grow our projects. All the communities where we work were in the process of looking for money to repair their water sources. Unfortunately in some cases these processes had dragged to beyond two years and they had given up. However, the gaps bridged by carbon finance go a long way to restoring the basic human dignity offered by access to safe water and improved water and sanitation.