Rehabilitation of Omoro Sub-county Solar Powered Water Pump Scheme

In a continued drive to expand access to water in Northern Uganda, CO2balance recently repaired a solar powered borehole in Omoro sub-county that had been broken down for over 10 years. This borehole broke down at the peak of the insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in Northern Uganda. This solar pump was estimated to be serving over 2,500 people at the time of its breakdown which caused a major water crisis in the sub-region.

A solar-powered pump runs on electricity generated by photo-voltaic panels or the radiated thermal energy available from collected sunlight as opposed to grid electricity or diesel-run water pumps. A submersible pump is used and this pushes water to the surface by converting rotary energy into kinetic energy then into pressure. Solar pumps are an energy efficient, environmentally friendly way to pump water for various uses from domestic consumption to supporting agriculture activities.

The community at Omoro sub-county have been heavily relying on unsafe water sources as a result of the high population putting great pressure on a limited supply of boreholes which have not been well maintained and have therefore broken down. They further suffered a big water crisis early this year as a result of drought in the region. A growing population, including families moving in from neighboring districts, has heightened the pressure on water resources in the area.

With this new safe water source, access to clean safe water has been increased and many households will benefit from it. The solar powered pump scheme has storage pump tanks of up to 32,000 litres of water, feeding 5 distribution points which will ensure constant supply of water to the people of Omoro. The pioneering technology will ensure that water from a single borehole reaches 5 distribution points throughout Omoro, limiting the distance that users have to travel to access safe water.

This is the first time that we at CO2balance have incorporated a solar borehole into our project activities, having always previously focused on hand-powered boreholes. We are very excited at the potential of introducing a technology that, using the power of the sun, will extend clean, safe water to 5 times as many individuals as would be possible with a hand pump. Watch this space for updates on this project and we hope to repair many more solar boreholes in years to come!

Part of the community at Omoro

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Costly Smoke

According to WHO indoor smoke from coal, wood or dung – used as cooking fuel by more than 3 billion people worldwide – ranks ahead of unsafe water as a cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. Almost 2 million deaths a year are caused by cooking smoke, which is linked to pneumonia in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birth weight babies and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families. Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire annually kills 1.6 million adults and children annually.

In Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has worked with local community members distributing rocket stoves to help reduce effects of three stone fires. The rocket stoves have been praised by various users in local communities because they save precious wood while reducing cutting of forests, reduces the risk of children injured by fire, and not least the flex oven create less smoke indoors, which is vital for health. Many say the rocket stoves have simplified cleaned their kitchens by sending away smoke.

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Recently in one of our community cook stove projects in Western Kenya in Kisumu we visited Mary Akeyo one of our rocket stove beneficiaries who shared her experience having used the Carbon Zero Kenya rocket stove for the last five years. Mary explained that prior to getting the rocket stove she used to have a traditional three stone stove, which would emit a lot of smoke that affected her and her family. The stove would emit smoke that made her and her three kids cough a lot forcing them to seek medical attention many times, at least thrice a month where they were charged about Kes 300 per checkup per person. This saw her family spent at least KES 1500 per month.

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Also she explained that during this period she had issues with her eyes, shedding tears while cooking even her husband couldn’t support her with the cooking chores as he feared the smoke. Her kids could not even read while at home as the smoke would not provide a conducive environment for them to study. But today she is happy to cook anytime as the smoke is a gone case, her kids can study freely, the many visits she used to go to hospital for treatment of coughs are no longer there, she is happy. Even her husband can afford to cook a meal or two for his family as the kitchen is clean. She further explains that her cooking pots are clean too unlike before when they were all infested with smoke.

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Mary explains that smoke is really dangerous and without one noticing it has effects that can even cause death. She explains the difficulty in breaking her youngest child used to have and how scared she would be at times thinking her kid would collapse and die, she even feared living her kids at home alone. But to her excitement all these are no longer part of her worries. She even says that part of the money she has managed to save from going to hospital for medical checkups she has used to it to feed her family. She is really excited about the rocket stove. As we finalize our chat with Mary she reminds us that smoke is dangerous!

 

Irrigation and Food Security in Malawi

The climatic extremes of prolonged drought and frequent flooding are major challenges Malawi. A large part of the population relies on agriculture and is prone to be directly affected by the natural environment.

One major environmental and economic issue is energy scarcity: In the absence of electricity and alternative fuel sources, trees are commonly used as biomass, causing widespread deforestation. This in turn reduces the water absorption capacity of the soil, facilitates erosion and further aggravates flooding. Flooding and droughts have been estimated to cost Malawi 1.7% of its GDP annually. [1]

Other issues are water and food security, both of which affect the livelihoods and wellbeing of the poorest populations. While 46% of Malawi’s land is arable, only 2% is irrigated. Farmers rely heavenly on rainfall and hence mostly grow crops during the rainy season. Hence, they sell their crops to the market at times when supply is abundant and prices are low.

Small scale irrigation agriculture can augment and change this production cycle and enable the production of crops during the dry season. Low-cost and durable irrigation products include pedal-powered or solar irrigation pumps that transport water from an open well, rover or lake to the field via a spray hose. They enable to spread the harvest of crops throughout the year and provide an opportunity to raise farmer’s income, as less produce is lost and prices in the dry season are higher.

Irrigation has been shown to have a positive impact on farmer’s food security by increasing both calorific intake and income, thus playing an important role in alleviating poverty. These benefits are shared by marginalised groups such as youth headed or female headed households [2]

CO2balance and its partners have been working in Malawi since 2013 and are expanding their activities in the central region to address needs on a community and district level. We are currently exploring effective options of supporting the adoption of solar-powered irrigation technologies. Get in touch, if you are interested in this area.

[1] Pauw and Thurlow 2009

[2] Nkhata 2014