Zoba Anseba Cookstoves: Tekea and her Award Winning Eritrean Stove

Tekea Tsefagherghesh keeps her home spotlessly clean – not an easy task in Eritrea, a hot and dusty sub-Saharan country.  Tekea’s village, Adi Tekelezan, is 2,500 metres above sea level and about 40 minutes’ drive north of Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Within the low walls is the mid-sized hut that contains Tekea’s most proud possession; her self-built improved cook stove.

The traditional stove with its open flame and voracious appetite for fuel is very detrimental for the health of families and their living environments.  One familiar image of Africa is of women and children carrying heavy bundles of sticks, sometimes for many miles. Tekea was one such woman, gathering sticks three or four times a week and carrying them many miles back to her home, or spending her little amount of cash buying them instead.

Tekea’s new stove is quite substantial, at over two metres in length.  It has various doors and openings to regulate the temperature as well as large, round hotplates so that she can cook Injera, the traditional bread eaten all over East Africa.  The design is simple but very innovative, and has won many awards for it’s inventor, local man Debesai Ghebrehiwet such as The Green Apple Award and the Tech Museum award. Each stove saves at least three tonnes of CO2 per year.

Tekea has decorated her stove with hand painted flowers and leaves.  The huge advantage of the stove is that it uses nearly 60% less fuel that the traditional stove and any harmful fumes are funneled out of the small, enclosed kitchen hut. All of the materials used to build the stove are sourced locally.

In this community-led programme, Vita supplies the moulds and the knowledge, but the women themselves contribute towards the cost, as well as building each stove with the help of the other village women. Involving the whole community ensures that no individual family is left out. Tekea is now a trainer, and works with Vita’s home economists to bring the programme to the wider community. Vita has an integrated approach to enabling farm families achieve sustainable livelihoods, involving not just stoves but clean water pumps, solar lights latrines and trees. This creates ‘green zones’ that not only benefit the families but have a hugely positive impact on the environment.

For Tekea, the drudgery of gathering sticks is dramatically reduced, and this has given her far more time to spend working to better her future and that of her children. Tekea, like more than 40% of women in Eritrea, rears her family of seven children alone. The extra income she can now earn is used to buy milk and help pay for her children’s education.



Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba

Tekea and her family

Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan

Zoba Maekel, Eritrea – Completion of Borehole Repairs

After three months of enormous efforts our project partners Vita have successfully completed the repair and maintenance of 48 bore holes in the central region administration of Eritrea (or Zoba Maekel) This repair programme has received mass support and satisfaction from the beneficiaries that will now benefit from access to clean water across the entire district.

It is with enormous pleasure and pride on behalf of CO2balance that we have been able to be part of these projects which truly alter the lives of the most deserving people on the planet. I have seen first hand how illness from drinking dirty water and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures while cascading them onto a cycle of poverty which makes Eritrea one of the most under-developed countries in the world.

CO2balance and Vita are seeking to address extreme poverty in Eritrea going forward over the next number of years. Zoba Maekel is just one part of the programme being implemented which is seeking to break the cycle of poverty in Eritrea and long may it continue to thrive and develop going forward.  All our work is done in conjunction with the communities and people of Eritrea. Eritreans are proud of their country. Proud of what they have achieved in such a short time since becoming independent. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people.

It was Robert Unger (philosopher and politician) who famously articulated that “At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different”. CO2balance together with Vita do not lack any clarity or imagination on a vision for Eritrea. Ultimately, their programme has the dream of repairing all the broken boreholes in the country and providing clean water for thousands of people. Watch the space for this dream becoming a reality.

See a montage of photos from the borehole repair programme in the beautiful country of Eritrea through 2016.



So much from so Little

It is estimated that globally more than three billion people currently rely on solid fuels. A significant percentage out of these use biomass fuels, sub-Saharan Africa taking 80% of population exposed to indoor air pollution from this use.

Over time studies gathering evidence of impact of intervention through available technologies such as improved cook stoves has born favorable impact on the health, especially to women and children .Women and young children in developing countries are at greatest risk because of their gender roles and household responsibilities such as cooking and spending lots of time indoors and keeping children with them while cooking resulting in high exposure to indoor air pollution. In addition, children are particularly vulnerable to indoor air pollution because their metabolic pathways are underdeveloped and immature and they are not able to completely get rid of the Indoor air pollution compounds from their body. Therefore, controlling indoor air pollution health hazards requires energy conservation and environment management players to introduce fuel efficient methods of cooking such as improved cook stoves.

In the effort to mitigate Climate change and indoor air pollution in Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has continued promoting the use of clean energy and improving community livelihoods. In the Mathira east project, the company continues to advocate and champion adoption of clean and energy efficient cook stoves not only to campaign against green house gas emissions but also improving the lives of the community both economically and socially. Notable features of the Carbon Zero stove is in its state- of –the- art construction technology which highly contributes to over 50 % energy saving by use of lesser fuel as well as lesser smoke emissions due a longer combustion chamber which allows for complete combustion of gases.

In this locality, wood fuel is a scarce commodity and the cost has risen as more and more forests are cleared for different reasons such as farming fields’ expansion and charcoal burning among many others. Many families have in the past sought to alleviate firewood shortage but seemingly could not get salvage until Carbon Zero Kenya came into the picture with an energy conservation program through fuel efficient cook stoves distribution and awareness creation.

In one of the many success stories in the area, one afternoon we meet Miss Catherine Gathoni in her home. Going about her chores, she narrates to us the story of her journey before and after CZ stove. The significance of Carbon Zero stove is immeasurably depicted in her carefully selected words below:
‘’I longed for the day when I would be able to share my gratitude with Carbon Zero Staff ’’ she says. As she explains how her health and that of her children had been a stumbling block to her daily activities, she indicates frequent visits to hospital due to a terminal illness whose symptoms had been aggravated by inhalation of smoke from traditional stove. “ The three stones stove emitted lot of smoke in my kitchen; my daughters and I were always coughing .One of my daughters also complained of headaches quite often. It was until we started to use my knew CZK stove that I noted change in my family .My daughters are no longer coughing and I am able to attend to my daily duties.


Miss Gathoni now collects firewood from her farm saving money and time too. In addition she can attend casual work without straining as her health has improved. Money used for medical expenses and firewood purchase is nowadays saved for her other developments. For example out of her savings, she has bought goats which provide the family with milk which she used to purchase before.

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Her last words were “ the CZ stove has made me realize so many benefits as it consumption of firewood. It has surely brought peace in our lives.’’

Compiled by Purity Wanjiku, Virginia Njeri and Moses Maina




World Water Day

One day after the International Day of Forest, the World Water Day also points out attention to an equally important natural resource. Basically in each language we can find a saying similar to the Rwandan proverb “water is life”, showing its universal importance all over the world. In the context of climate change, climate variability is manifested through, by and with water, as the World Water Council rightly emphasise.

Despite the fact that water has a key and evident role in any strategies which aim to tackle climate change, it did not figure in the official COP21 agenda in an adequate way. Just before the Paris events, the Guardian also noted that although COP discussions have been held for the past 20 years, the issue of fresh water has not been part of the official agenda. The absence of a comprehensive water strategy in the negotiations may have mayor impact on carbon emissions reduction targets, too. In his article Ger Bergkamp, the Executive Director of the International Water Association (IWA) explains that water companies are typically energy intensive, between 10% and 35% of operational costs are on energy consumption. The water sector contributes between 2-5% of global carbon emissions, as well as contributing towards other greenhouse gas emissions, including nitrogen oxides and methane, that have much larger multiplier effects on global warming. From our own experience in Malawi, Uganda and Rwanda we also know that boiling water for purification also emits significant amount of co2 which is preventable by providing clean water sources locally which are widely and freely available to people.

Luckily, Paris climate summit saw some attention turn to water launching several new initiatives under the umbrella of the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation, which has already secured $1bn for its operation. From our side, we are also in the planning phase of new projects in order to expand our operation in the field of borehole rehabilitations in several East-African countries. Stay tuned for more news and until then happy World Water Day!DSC_0639

International Day of Forests 2016

Today is the International Day of Forests 2016 and a good time to take note of the importance of forested land (the ‘lungs of the planet’) that covers almost one third of land area of our planet. In our projects and many others, a strong focus is put on the role of forests as a form of carbon storage to counter the increasing anthropogenic carbon emissions, however forest ecosystems provide a variety of other ‘services’ that often go unobserved or unaccounted for.

It is estimated that forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. As well as being important themselves in creating biologically diverse plant ecosystems, they provide a vital habitat to a vast array of animals, many of which are not yet known to science. For humans, this can provide food, medicinal resources and raw wood/plant products for fuel and building materials. Additionally, grazing occurs within forests and local populations often grow rotational crops on temporary plots of land with the forest providing cover and protection.

Forests also play a key role in the hydrological cycle. By stabilising the soil with root structures, slowing the percolation and reducing the total water flow, forests lessen the impact of flooding and erosion, benefitting people far beyond the forest margins. This process greatly increases the water purity through filtration and preserves soil quality across the landscape; improving crop yields and the health of populations that rely on surface water for drinking and washing.

One ‘service’ that is often less considered is the cultural importance. Forests often come to define landscapes and, though it may contribute to the tourism industry, the aesthetics and beauty that they offer is something that cannot be quantified. Places where nature is untainted often carries a spiritual importance, not least for indigenous populations, therefore any destruction of these areas undermines this historical knowledge.

The benefits that humans derive from forests should not be understated; as well as providing a home to hundreds of millions of people, almost a quarter of the global population depend on forests for their livelihood. When considering the vast array of ‘ecosystem services’ that forests provide for humans, the number is probably far greater than that. Every year an area of forest the size of England is lost but, more and more, these benefits are being recognised and celebrated. Today in particular we can try to raise this awareness and encourage the sustainable use of these resources so that they might provide the same benefits to future generations.

Feeling the Pinch!

Today in Kenya many people are complaining of increased temperatures. In Nairobi it’s hot especially at night. I wonder what the people at the Coast and the Northern part of the country are feeling. This is totally unusual! Media coverage both print and electronic for the last weeks have highlighted cases of people suffering as a result of the increased temperatures. Those in the Metrological department say that at the moment Kenya is experiencing one of the highest temperatures in history. Experts further have predicted that weather for rest of the year is going to be equally hot. This is worrying considering the effects as of now.

Doctors have indicated their fears noting that the old, children and people with chronic diseases are likely to suffer most during this period as they struggle to cope with the harsh weather. Many families especially with young children have been appearing on different TV stations sharing their fears; children are getting sickly with the expensive medical services services.

It’s apparent that these rising temperatures are driven by global warming combined with natural variability leading to a greater chance of extreme weather events. The same doctors have offered tips to the members of the public on how to cope with the harsh weather including people not going outside between 11 am – 3pm. But I wonder how we can drive the economy ahead when we stay indoors, how can we put food on the table while locking ourselves indoors; climate change seems to be slowly but steadily enslaving us. The metrological department of Kenya director was last week quoted saying that “… the current situation shows how global warming can combine with smaller, natural fluctuations to push our climate to levels of warmth which are unprecedented in the data records,”

It was sad watching news last evening on TV and seeing an old helpless woman note that for her she doesn’t know what climate change is but she is aware of the weather changes taking place. She noted that the seasons are gone and life is becoming harder by day, they can no longer depend on the unpredictable rains for farming and that is totally impoverishing them as they depend on farming for survival.

From all these it’s clear that something must be done soon to manage the effects of climate change. The impacts of a warming world are already being felt by people around the globe. If climate change continues unchecked, these impacts are almost certain to get worse. From sea level rise to heat waves, from extreme weather to disease outbreaks, each unique challenge requires locally-suitable solutions to prepare for and respond to the impacts of global warming. Unfortunately, those who will be hit hardest and first by the impacts of a changing climate are likely to be the poor and vulnerable, especially those in the least developed countries as the case is now in Kenya. To move forward developed countries must take  leadership  in providing financial and technical help for adaptation.

The glittering future for Basket Weavers in Kasighau

Kasighau basket weavers are mainly found in Rukanga sub location in Voi Sub County. The members are a registered women group whose ages range from 16 – 64 years. Initially before benefitting from Carbon zero energy efficient cook stoves the group had seven active members. Over the last five years that the stoves have been in existence, the group membership as steadily risen to 53 members. The members are involved in weaving mainly basketry. The group has grown from a local home based cottage industry to an export industry.

During the stove donation 5 years ago the women from the community wondered how Carbon Zero stove would impact on their lives. But over time the much needed room to engage in commercial weaving the baskets has been derived from the time saved on;
• Collecting cooking wood since Carbon Zero stove utilizes less wood as compared to the traditional 3 stone jiko.
• Less time spent cooking since Carbon Zero stove as a central core which concentrates the fire flame on the cooking pot hence faster cooking.

While doing our community checks visiting Carbon Zero energy efficient stove beneficiaries we met Chizi the chairperson for Kasighau basket weaver’s. The chair lady notes to us that …“Being the chair lady of Kasighau basket weavers, we have enjoyed real benefit from Carbon Zero stove utilization. Initially the group members did not have enough time to practice basketry. Many were the days that more than half of the group members were absent during the weaving sessions. The women who form the members of the group had been wholly enslaved on the bondage of daily household cooking. The traditional 3 stone jiko was very slow in cooking. This is because much of the fire flames would go to waste. It did not concentrate the flame to the pot like the Carbon Zero stove. Much of the time to be spent on basketry sessions was therefore spent either on cooking or collecting wood because of the wasteful nature of the 3 stone traditional jiko. Thanks to the Carbon Zero stove, the group members now have more time to do there baskets. This as seen a tremendous increase in the group members’’

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The photos above and below are some of the baskets from the group awaiting packaging for exportation.

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Speaking to Chizi it’s apparent that using Carbon Zero efficient cook stoves real has really positively impacted on the lives of these women, and this is the main reasons that we keep on doing more. The chairperson indicates to us that as a group they plan expanding their work to enhance their income as a group to be able to empower each other and take their kids to school. With this we envisage more empowered communities where women will not only be left to cook in the kitchen but also participate in other vital income generating activities. And with this the future can only be brighter.