Cutting down the Future

Currently, over two billion people globally depend on forest goods such as fruits, game meat, fibers and fuel wood to meet their basic needs (FAO, 2011 and May-Tobin, 2011). Fuel wood harvesting in developing countries is so important especially to the rural poor. In Africa a great supply of the energy comes from fuel wood and this cannot be neglected as a potential source of ecosystem disturbance. Environmental damage from fuel wood harvesting can be significant if too many people depend on few forested areas. In Kenya many forests where numerous human populations rely on are steadily vanishing, as people pile pressure on them to meet their demand for fuel wood among many other anthropogenic activities. Although environmental impacts of fuel wood consumption are somewhat neglected by both authorities and conservationists as they view them as less injurious. One thing the need to understand is that the more forests are destroyed in search for fuel wood the more the involved people destroy their and the whole world’s future.

One third of the world’s population uses biomass fuels, mainly firewood, to cook and to heat their homes. Firewood collection is one of the largest but a neglected driver of forest degradation in Africa, together linked to about 48% of total degradation. Together with population growth and rapid urban expansion, this can have a devastating effect on forests in Kenya.

Noteworthy, over half of the world’s forests have been destroyed in the last 10,000 or so years. This has occurred at the same time with population increase in many parts of the world. The massive loss has led to significant changes throughout many parts of the world i.e. flooding, climate change, disease outbreaks, famine etc

In my recent visit to rural parts of Nakuru County where Co2balance in conjunction with World Vision a humanitarian organization in Kenya are implementing an energy efficient cook stove project aiming to distribute over 7000 ICS, I observed that most of people still using the traditional three stone stove collect a lot of wood fuel from the few remaining forests in the vicinity for daily cooking. This is a big threat to the current forest cover within the area and this assured me that our ICS project with World Vision could have never come at better time than this, for its now or never. See below young girls with huge loads of firewood cut from the forest, they are indeed cutting down their future unaware.

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In this region we envisage to replace the remaining traditional stoves that are high consumers of firewood thus threatening forest covers within the area and beyond. This would immensely cut down on wood use hence go a long way in contributing to forest cover conservation because improved cook stoves that we are distributing are energy efficient and consume less firewood.

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Accessing wood fuel………

Despite certain shortcomings, boiling water is still the most common means of treating water in the home and the benchmark against which alternative household-based disinfection and filtration methods must be measured. Much as it is a dependable method, it has posed a threat to the environment as a lot of wood is cut to be used as fuel to boil drinking water and prepare meals.

The burden of accessing firewood – almost always fall on women and girls, as they are responsible for cooking family meals in most rural communities. Without nearby, safely accessible natural resources, women and girls often travel long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families. Firewood collection is incredibly dangerous, exposing them to the risk of physical and sexual violence. Sadly, every day, millions of women and children risk being raped, beaten, or killed as they collect firewood. They must often traverse rugged terrain harboring thieves, wild animals, and threats of all kinds while carrying the heavy loads on their backs or heads as they trek back home.

In my recent visit to Kabarole district that is characterized by Tea growing farms, I observed that most of the shade trees planted to shelter the tea plantations had been cut down by neighboring communities to be used for wood fuel as they were planted in more secure and easy to access to areas.

Also traversing the sub-counties in Kabarole district, I couldn’t help but notice people still fetching water from polluted and unprotected sources that were easily accessed by animals. All this is because nearby safe water sources like piped water, boreholes, shallow wells are costly and non functional. This water is then taken home and boiled for consumption.

Introduction of improved cook stoves and repair and maintenance of clean water sources can go along way in saving deforestation.There is still a gap that needs to be filled in the access of clean safe water; this in-turn will reduce the pressure being put on trees.

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Eritrea: Programme Report

Recently I had the opportunity to accompany our project partners Vita on an in country visit to Eritrea to report on the great work currently going on in country. The collaboration between Vita and co2balance continues to go from strength to strength and it impacts on the lives of Eritrean people is profound. I have seen this first hand.

The overall programme now consists of 2 cookstove VPAs in Zoba Anseba and 4 boreholes VPAs in Zoba Maekel with planned expansion of more borehole VPAs in Zoba Debub through 2016. Borehole repairs are moving at an excellent pace thanks the careful coordination of the Vita team in Eritrea.

I was humbled to have discussions with villagers about the extraordinary improvements that the cookstoves and borehole rehabilitations have made to their lives. To see the look of joy on the faces of women and children as the first jerrycans are filled from new boreholes, some of whom have had to travel for miles to collect water from unsafe sources is something that will live long in my memory.

These are some of the poorest people on earth but the welcome they extended, their unwillingness to let us leave there village without sampling their finest Injera (local bread) and yogurt was truly inspiring. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people. To understand the foundation for this resilience we must consider the history of the African continent. Four hundred years of slave trade. One hundred years of colonialism. This equates to five centuries of external domination. Now Eritrea has a chance to forge its own path. In respect of this, it is a young country (formally becoming independent in 1993) on a young continent.

At co2balance we are determined on improving the lives of Eritrean people. We look forward to expanding our work there. Watch this space for high quality HD footage of the work in Eritrea coming soon.

 

Empowering Rural women!

Globally energy is the lifeblood of human society and economics. It cooks the food we eat. It lights our homes. It keeps us warm. In Africa most poor families still cook food in the traditional way, a pot perched on three stones over a fire.

In the countryside the usual fuel is wood, in town’s charcoal. Felling trees for fuel contributes to deforestation, and the loss of forest cover is a severe problem. In the towns, the fuel has to be purchased, a big item of expense for poor families.
The first energy priority of people living in poverty is how to meet their household energy needs. Poor people spend up to a third of their income on energy, mostly to cook food. Due to poverty and a lack of appropriate alternatives, many will continue to rely on biomass as their primary energy source for cooking in the foreseeable future.

Women, in particular, devote a considerable amount of time to collecting, processing and using traditional fuel for cooking, often spending up to three hours per day and walking up to ten kilometres to gather firewood – time which could be spent on child care, education or income generation activities. Reducing the amount of firewood used through simple affordable technology, such as more efficient stoves, is vital.

As a result Carbon Zero Kenya introduced energy efficient stoves in Kenya that burn wood more efficiently, creating a significant fuel saving. The stoves also produce far less carbon monoxide and particulate emissions. CZK stoves have eased the everyday workload on women, who are responsible for the time-consuming jobs of gathering fuel and cooking for the family.

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In one of our project areas in Kisumu East in Kenya, we meet Maureen Odero one of stove beneficiaries. Maureen says that ever since she received a CZK stove her life has changed a lot. She can now spend the longer time of the day in the farm but when she comes home, she doesn’t have to stress herself because the CZK stove uses less fuel.

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She saves a lot of time she used to spend in the fields collecting firewood; she now uses the time to engage in farming activities on her farm. She also appreciates carbon zero for the stove because the health of her children has drastically improved no more coughs and eye irritations.
Maureen narrates that at the moment she is able to concentrate on her farm and ensure good produce which she can sell and cater for her family needs. Previously this was not the case as the time she used to spend looking for firewood denied her the chance to farm and increase her income as she does today.

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Compiled by Nancy Machasio, Christine Atira and Moses Maina

 

 

Breaking the Chains!

Globally education is about far more than the certificates received thereafter. It’s about understanding right from wrong and having the knowledge you need to stay afloat in today’s society. It helps to develop your perspective on the world around. Education has a great social importance especially in the modern, complex industrialized societies. Philosophers of all periods, beginning with ancient stages, devoted to it a great deal of attention. However through the years there have been many social hindrances to education in Kenya. Student’s absenteeism in many rural areas in Kenya has greatly contributed to a lot of drop outs from school. Some factors attributed to this trend are; sickness, child labor, and lack of funds for school fees. Among one of these unfortunate cases is Lucy Muthoni from Chuka, Kiangondu area who for the last 2 decades has been a tea picking casual labourer in her neighborhood. Having dropped out of school for lack of school fees Lucy is not able to secure formal employment and has for long struggled to pay her children’s school fees.

Afraid that her children will follow the same path, Lucy works extra hours to ensure she has overtime pay for small school savings to pay fees for her kids. As we engage her in the interview we are quick to note that her story changed for the better in the last 4years. Curious to know the difference in the consistency of her savings, in a focused tone she smiles and explains, ”Faida za kuwa na jiko ambalo halitumii kuni nyingi ni kuwa, niko na wakati mwingi wa kufanya kazi na kupata mapato nyongeza.Hii inanisaidia kuweka akiba kwa chama na kupelekea kupata mikopo ya kulipa karo ya shule.”(The benefit of having a stove that does not use much fuel is, I have extra time to work and earn extra revenue. This helps me make small savings aiding me to obtain credit against my savings to pay school fees.

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Lucy believes that education is power and by ensuring her kids get better education she will be able to break the chains of poverty that seem so strong as of now.

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Further on, Lucy showers praises to advanced technology in energy saving sighting other benefits like having more time to attend to her children, less  trips to the forest and better health, reduced workload by carrying lesser firewood on her back as compared to large wood-loads for 3-stone stove use. She is also able to report at work early and earn more as she is able to exceed the target kilograms of tea picked per day.

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Compiled by Michael Njihia, Virginia Njeri and Moses Maina

Fairtrade Climate Standard Approved

A small but important announcement was made late last year as world leaders debated the way forward on climate legislation at COP 21 – the Fairtrade Climate Standard was released.  This new venture – in partnership with the Gold Standard Foundation – aims to further utilise carbon offset projects to increase skills, knowledge and financial flows to producer communities in countries in the Global South.  As one of the most trusted brands in Britain, Fairtrade have not taken their decision to enter a new market lightly and the key driver behind their involvement is the inherently unfair nature of climate change.

Hand on heart, most of us recognise that climate change is largely a problem caused by the developed world, however it is not common knowledge that a cruel climatic irony is at play.  The majority of people in developing countries are small scale producers or smallholders dependent on crops and livestock as both a means of subsistence and income.  These people are therefore the most vulnerable to weather extremes in a changing climate, but are also the people that have made little – if any – contribution to the cause of it.   A staggering 80% of the world’s food is produced on land less than 2 hectares in size – when you consider that most of this is vulnerable to a changing climate, the scale of the challenge makes Fairtrade’s intervention understandable and very welcome.

I have just returned from Bonn where I attended a workshop at Fairtrade’s HQ on the key operating procedures defined in the newly published standard.  Just like Fairtrade bananas and coffee, I learned that a key feature of a Fairtrade offset is that a so-called Fairtrade premium must be paid to the producers (not developers) of the carbon credit.  (In a cookstove project, this is the people who have swapped their 3 stone fire for an improved cookstove.)   This premium must then put to use for the collective good of the producers in the way that has been democratically decided by that group to be most appropriate for their needs.  In a traditional Fairtrade supply chain, this premium is typically used to invest in improved processing techniques, organic fertilisers or similar things that will add value or improve working practices.  A Fairtrade carbon offset is different; the premium must be invested in climate adaptation activities – thus enabling and empowering producers to prepare for a changing climate.  Project Facilitators, like co2balance, will assist producer groups by transferring knowledge about climate adaptation practices (such as improved irrigation practices or water storage) to deliver extra impact within the offset project.  Now that the Fairtrade standard has been approved after exhaustive revisions, the rest of 2016 will see it being trialled by around 20 projects, including one of our own.   We are very excited about what it can bring to the carbon market and shall continue to keep helping shape its development.

 

 

Project visit in Rwanda

As the Rwandan borehole and cookstove projects expanded exponentially in the past year, January was time to visit our local project partners and review the results of a fantastic progress our partnership achieved in 2015.

Together with the representatives of our Austrian partner organisation, Climate Corporation, we spent the last week travelling up-country to Gatsibo, Kayonza and Bugasera districts in order to interview the beneficiaries of our projects and to gain more insight in their everyday life. We also had the chance to meet with the mayors of Bugasera and Kayonza district and it was great to hear that our work is very much appreciated from the government’s side, too.  Working with multiple stakeholders and having continuous feedback of our work are key parts of the projects, but meeting our stakeholders regularly in person gives an additional value, a sort of closer attachment to these projects. Being invited to their homes, listening to their life stories and seeing smile on many faces thanks to the benefits cookstove and borehole projects can bring are memorable experiences that everyone of us in the team will remember.

All in all, the trip was very successful and I am especially grateful for Rwandas4Water and FAPDR for facilitating our visit. Instead of more words, I will let the photos speak of the wonderful country and people of Rwanda.