Forest conservation, has for the longest time challenged policymakers, environmentalists and environmental educators and in order to tackle problems caused by loss of forests, a wide range of strategies has been developed to tackle the deforestation menace in many parts of the world. One of the key solutions is environmental education. Poor community participation in protecting the forest is still one reason for inefficiency in forest management and conservation, therefore participation of the local communities in environmental education is considered to be an important part in indicating the connection between people’s activities and their impacts on the environment, as well as persuading people living adjacently near the forests to participate in the protection of conservation areas. In more liberated terms, it is an ongoing process to promote people’s dialogue, consciousness-raising, sharing experiences, and non-hierarchical relationships with others to improve their quality of life.
The needs and knowledge of local forest-dependent communities is essential in facilitating participation by local people to any conservation effort. The outcome of participatory processes often depends on additional factors such as institutional or legal frameworks.
Carbon Zero Kenya has got 13 improved cook stove projects country wide. The projects have been influential in the conservation of several forests in the country that sustain livelihood, i.e. Mt Kenya forest and National park, Shimba Hills national reserve, Kaptagat forest and Kereita Forest in the south of Aberdares ranges . Due to the agricultural expansion, illegal logging, as well as the unsustainable resources use, the natural forest cover has been on the decline in these regions in the recent past. The first reason is the uninhibited and irresponsible activities in the forest areas that often result in the land degradation which pose high risks of flooding, the loss of biodiversity, and potential threat to the security of rural livelihoods as well as deteriorating of girl child education and other social and economic interests of local people and other stakeholders.
For a long time now the communities around Kaptagat project area located near Kaptagat forest, have used traditional cook stoves i.e. the famous ‘chepkube’and3 -stone fire for cooking. These traditional cooking habits have come with negative impacts on environment and health. However, after the introduction of Carbon Zero stoves project 4 years ago, the state of Kaptagat forest has significantly improved. This is also attributed to the immense community environment education forums conducted with the aim of sensitizing the community members on sustainable forest use.
Community participatory education on the importance of embracing the use of the carbon zero cook stoves has seen great improvement in firewood management techniques and an overall improved vegetation cover in the nearby forest. A series of meetings and demonstrations on the use of the stoves has a better part in improving the cook stove use. Involvement of the local leaders e.g. chiefs the village heads and local forest officers has also helped a lot in this whole process. As Carbon Zero Kenya team interacts with stove beneficiaries in the education meetings, there is a sense of enormous appreciation from testimonies on improved health derived from significant reduction in smoke related complications.
At the end of it all these community education meetings have proved to be very constructive as beneficiaries interact with each other and share their experiences about the stoves. Co2balance prides in participatory community education which has now seen a restored green beauty, wildlife habitat and progressive improvement in water bodies among other direct social economic benefits to the community.
Compiled by Samuel Kiplimo, Virginia Njata and Moses Maina