Counting the cost

Human life requires cooking, which means having access to fuel. 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.

For anyone who relies on an open fire to cook daily meals, the need for fuel rivals that for food itself. It’s common knowledge that almost everywhere on earth people cook, but that is not all, the question is yes you cook; but how do you do it? Are you using the traditional three stone stoves or an energy efficient stove? And do you know that the stove you use for cooking has an effect on your health, the environment and even beyond? According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, up to 1.6 million women and children die every year from breathing polluted air in their homes. Respiratory and vision problems occur in mostly women and children because they spend significant time indoors tending to cooking fires.

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Another critique with traditional wood fires is the inefficiency in fuel consumption. Traditional wood fires are inefficient at transferring the released energy into the cooking vessel. Most of the released energy in the wood is wasted heating the surrounding air rather than heating the cooking vessel. The inefficient transfer of energy requires the user to use more wood fuel, increasing the amount of wood harvested from the surrounding environment. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.

Even worse is the fact that the burden of accessing firewood  always fall on women and girls, as they are responsible for cooking family meals in most rural communities. This compels them to walk for long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families. Firewood collection is at times incredibly dangerous, exposing them to the risk of physical and sexual violence. Sadly, every day, millions of women and children risk being raped, attacked either my human beings with ulterior motives or even animals as they collect firewood.

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From the above photo Carbon Zero as one of the main environmental companies in Kenya is tackling these issues through the use of more fuel-efficient woodstoves, which are both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs. This further translates into improved health and time savings for households, in preservation of forests and associated ecosystem services, and in reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change.

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Forests Matter, they do!

Gathering from studies done by FAO, Forest Resource Assessment 1990, Kenya is classified among the countries with low forest cover of less than 2% of the total land area. Forests are a vital resource supporting the livelihoods of rural communities in Kenya. In spite of this significant role, human activities have put increased pressure on this resource, leading to continued forest-cover decline.

Kenya’s forests are rapidly declining due to pressure from increased population and other land uses. With a substantial size of the country being arid and semi-arid, there is a lot of strain on the rest of the land since the economy is natural resource based. The dwindling forest cover has a severe effect on the climate, wildlife, streams and human population in general.

From one generation to the other Kenyans have been munching away the environmental resource through firewood harvesting and charcoal burning without regard for their future.  For instance Shimba Hills Forest in the coastal region of Kenya  is a National Reserve that lies approximately 33km south of Mombasa town, in Kwale district of coast province. Due to the insatiable need for wood fuel many trees have been cut as people seek fuel for cooking their meals at home on the wood extravagant traditional three stone. These uncontrolled anthropogenic activities endangered the existence of this very vital forest.shimba forest - 2

Carbon Zero Kenya with the understanding that logging forests for wood fuel contributes to global warming through removing significant sources of sequestered carbon started working with local communities within Shimba Hills forest to salvage the forest through the distribution of energy efficient cook stoves.

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Carbon Zero stoves saw the facing out of the “wood extravagant” traditional three stone stoves within the area as a greater way in cutting down wood use and thus saving the forest. This has indeed resulted in immense savings in terms of the wood being used for cooking ultimately reducing pressure on the forest giving it a chance to restore itself for the past four years.

Speaking to Anindo one of the Carbon Zero improved cook stove beneficiaries in the area she says that having had no other alternative but to use the three stone stove her family and the whole community at large watched the forest cover in their vicinity shrink alarmingly without being replenished. Like millions of other rural households in Kenya, Anindo’s family before getting the Carbon Zero improved cook stove used an average of 12 kilogrammes of dry wood a day to cook on their three stone stove – the equivalent of a three-year fast growing tree, according to a recent study by FAO.

When Carbon Zero visited her community in Shimba Hills six years ago, the wanton destruction of trees in the area was evident in the bundles of stacked firewood besides various houses in the community for use during the rainy season. Anindo explains that normally they used to cut down trees during the dry spell for use as firewood when the rain sets in. That was their tradition since she was born. And sadly this led to massive forest destruction.

However she points with some hope that ever since the community received improved cook stoves from Carbon Zero their wood usage has significantly gone down. This has led to reduced cutting down of trees and thus the revamping of the Shimba Hills forest.

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Anindo regrets the harsh realities of climate change attributed to failure to responsibly manage Mother Nature in a sustainable way.  While most parts of the country experience heavy rains, Shimba Hills, which has suffered wanton destruction of trees, hasn’t received any meaningful rainfall in several seasons. She says that prior to the coming of Carbon Zero to the community she never used to plant any tree, everyone was cutting down trees minus thinking of re-planting. But since the coming of Carbon Zero to the area apart from distributing improved cook stoves Carbon Zero staff have been on the frontline creating  awareness on tree planning which has seen many fruits.

Anindo indicates that considering the value they have as a community received for using energy efficient cook stoves from Carbon Zero and for the country to be saved from forest destruction Kenyans must adopt energy saving technologies to stem the tide while they are encouraged to grow more trees because the current conservation efforts are not enough to replenish what is getting lost every day. She finalizes saying that as  a country we  must use all means available to create awareness and entice Kenyans to join hands in planting trees to save this country from the adverse effects of climate change.

People Power will ‘Trump’ the President

It is now official: Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. As the reactions flood in from across the globe, ranging from disappointment to outrage, it is important to recognise some of the positives:

 

  • America will most likely still reduce its emissions no matter what Trump does due to the low price of natural gas, rapidly falling cost of renewables and huge growth in electric vehicles
  • If a president committed to tackling climate change moves in to the Oval Office in 2020, there is chance that the US will still hit their original NDC
  • Donald Trump does not represent America: as I write, representatives from American businesses, cities and states are preparing to submit a plan to the UN pledging to meet the GHG emissions targets set out under the Paris accord

 

When considering the problem of a president who has surrounded himself with climate change sceptics, who is poised to row-back on environmental policy from the last administration, and undermine the global efforts on climate change, there seems to be one solution:

 

  • Ignore Donald Trump

 

The markets, the people and the world will leave him behind. The growth jobs in the US and across the world are in clean tech; the solar industry already employs more than twice the number of people than in the coal industry. Increasing numbers of businesses are being proactive, building sustainability in to their strategies through setting science-based carbon reduction targets and procuring renewable energy sources.

Government can play a powerful role in shaping the competitive landscape. In this case however, it will not be Washington that determines whether America contributes to the efforts to tackle climate change; every day and at every step, it is the people who will make the decisions that, in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, will “make our planet great again”.