International Day of the Tropics

We are ready to celebrate International Day of the Tropics on the 29th June, raising awareness of the diverse challenges that vulnerable nations here face. The Tropics are the geographical regions between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which experience little seasonal change in temperature and increasing rain seasonality with distance from the equator.

The geographical distribution of the Tropical Zone highlighted in red. (https://content.meteoblue.com/en/meteoscool/general-climate-zones)

Levels of poverty here are consistently higher and more extreme than the rest of the world. According to the United Nations most of the world’s most vulnerable communities are in the Tropics. It is predicted that by 2050, the Tropics region will host most of the world’s population, and approximately two-thirds of its children.

A CO2balance rehabilitated borehole in Kayonza, Rwanda.

Amongst the diverse challenges to tropical regions are climate change and deforestation. The Tropics are one of the geographical zones experiencing the impacts of climate change most severely, appearing especially sensitive to increasing temperatures and unpredictable weather. Tropical forests play an important role in global climate change, providing the essential service of carbon sequestration, storing approximately 25% of the world’s carbon. However, the rate of deforestation within tropical nations is severe. Deforestation, along with land use change in the tropics is contributing to global warming up to 20% of global carbon emissions according to the IPCCC.

Rural communities contribute greatly to deforestation, reliant on firewood as their main energy source.

Almost all of the tropical countries remained underdeveloped at the start of the 21st century. Reasons for such range from population explosion exceeding the capacity of food security, local services such as education and healthcare and natural resources, to governance, the threat of natural disasters and fragile ecosystems. Despite home to over half of the world’s renewable water resources, almost half of their population is considered vulnerable to water stress.

Rural communities without a working safe water source rely on unsafe, unclean and often polluted sources to collect their water, which then requires purifying.

Our projects are located within the tropics, helping reduce carbon emissions and improve socio-economic situations within rural communities often isolated from developmental progress.

We focus on offsetting emissions through the distribution of improved, energy-efficient cookstoves into rural communities, which use significantly lower volumes of firewood, and by rehabilitating broken safe water sources to remove the need to boil unclean water for purification. They deliver environmental impacts in the form of emission reductions which are certified by the verification body the Gold Standard; as well as socio-economic impacts through empowering women within the local communities, delivering health improvements by reducing indoor air pollution and providing safe water in the respective projects.

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Update from Mozambique in the aftermath of Cyclone

Considered one of the most severe tropical cyclones to hit the Southern Hemisphere, tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall at the port city of Mozambique on 14th March, devastating everything in its path.

With our local partner Village Water, we were in the process of rehabilitating broken boreholes as part of a Safe Water Project within Manica Province when the cyclone hit, which washed away or damaged some of the fixed boreholes.

A fixed borehole broken during Cyclone Idai.

Now 3 months on, Village Water have been working endlessly to tackle relief and emergency efforts whilst continuing to fix boreholes for the supply of safe water to communities that were in the cyclones path.

Chiruca Community collecting water from the newly rehabilitated community borehole

Such communities, including Chiruca (pictured), now have a safe water source close to their homes which is safe for their families to drink, giving them a reason to smile in the aftermath of disaster.

The impacts of climate change are being felt worldwide, with weather patterns becoming more extreme and unpredictable, resulting in an increase of the risk of disastrous environmental events.

If you are interested in offsetting your carbon footprint and minimizing your environmental impact, contact us at enquiries@co2balance.com.

Turning the tide in Africa’s 5000-year fight against desertification

Did you know that the Sahara Desert used to be green?

The vast expanse of dusty desert and blistering sand was, 9000 years ago, a lush green savannah. This period was known as the ‘Neolithic Subpluvial’, a time of mega-lakes surrounded by grasslands and wildebeest and early human settlements[1].

Then, about 5000 years ago, the rains stopped. The climate shifted and the sands rolled in. And it didn’t stop there. Ever since that time the people of the Sahel have been fighting an endless fight to save their crops and land and livelihoods against the ever-encroaching sand. In short, the fight against desertification.

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Artist’s impression of the Neolithic Subpluvial, or ‘Green Sahara’, circa 9000 years ago (Source: http://www.deviantart.com/9weegee).

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Satellite photo of the Sahara today (Source: http://www.nasa.gov)

 

UNEP has estimated that 35% of the earth’s land surface is under threat from desertification. That’s an area the size of North and South America combined. And threatening 850 million people. Every year, some 21 million hectares are reduced to a state of near or complete uselessness – exacerbated by human activity and deforestation[2].

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Desertification vulnerability in Africa (Source: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov)

We at CO2balance have unfortunately witnessed this firsthand. In previous posts on this blog, Project Coordinator Moses has shared his experiences of deforestation in Africa. In Kenya he says, without forests the country would be little more than a desert.

Nowhere is this more apparent than along the edge of the Sahara. Since 1920 the desert has expanded by about 10% – 800,000 km² of agricultural land swallowed up by the desert, forcing millions to migrate[3]. If nothing is done, this will only get worse.

Thankfully, we ARE doing something – communities and organisations are taking big strides to combat this threat. Dozens of programmes have sprung up; from local-scale “Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration” (in which rural farmers lead the fight), to national action programmes like Kenyan Minister of Environment Judy Wakhungu’s plan to reforest the country, to (a personal favourite) the plan for the ‘Great Green Wall of Africa’ – the seemingly outlandish plan to grow an 8,000km-long line of trees, 48km deep, across the entire Saharan border, from the Atlantic coast of Senegal to the Red Sea coast of Djibouti as a monumental ‘natural’ defence. Sounds incredible (as in, not-credible), but it was launched by the UNCCD and African Union and planting has already begun – in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger and Ethiopia. As of March 2019, 15% of the wall has been completed[4]. (I would go on about this further but frankly it deserves a blog all by itself! For now, go check it out: https://www.greatgreenwall.org/).

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The Great Green Wall of Africa (highlighted in yellow) and the plan to stop the Sahara in its tracks (Source: http://www.nationalgeographic.org)

 

We at CO2balance are doing what we can to aid this fight. Our projects, whether safe water or clean cookstoves, all have the upshot that they drastically reduce the amount of firewood that rural people are burning in their everyday lives. This drastically cuts levels of deforestation in the area. Without deforestation, shrubs and trees are not felled, which means that the midday sun will not dry and desiccate the soil, nor will organic matter and organisms be lost, thus retaining agricultural productivity, biodiversity, supporting human health and livestock and eco-tourism[1].

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We are proud to say that, since 2013, our projects have helped save over 2.5 million tonnes of wood (about 73km2 of forest) across Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Not to blow our own trumpet too much though. At the end of the day, whilst these are successes, they constitute a drop in the ocean of sand that is desertification. Real, large scale change requires international cooperation and mass public awareness.

In 17th June 1994, the UN launched the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), to meet this challenge. Today, 25 years on, we celebrate the Silver Anniversary of the “World Day to Combat Desertification” (#2019WDCD), celebrating all that we’ve achieved, but recognising how much further we have to go.

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The theme of this Silver Anniversary celebration: “Let’s Grow the Future Together” (Source: http://www.un.org)

The arid and semi-arid lands of Africa, under greatest threat, are home to about 400 million Africans[5]. Their plight will surely intensify with climate change. But, with international action like the ‘Great Green Wall’, and mass small-scale resistances like CO2balance’s projects, we can hope to turn the tide.

For now then, take a look at a few of the special 25th Anniversary projects taking place today and share these stories to raise awareness of the fight against desertification: https://www.unccd.int/actions17-june-world-day-combat-desertification/2019wdcd-events-around-world

Economic Development and Opportunities for Entrepreneurialism Through Safe Water: The Story of Jaspher and Susan in Lango sub region, Uganda

Jaspher Opio is a proud beneficiary of the CO2balance Safe Water project in Lango sub region, Northern Uganda. Jaspher lives in a village called Agengi in Dokolo District. He and his wife Susan have two children and 5 dependents. Susan and the family collect water from Aminalucu Borehole which is 250 meters away from their household.

According to Jaspher, before CO2balance intervention, people around his village used to collect water from very unsafe source. Villagers would spend lot time collecting water and fuel for purification. The main source at that time was an open well which had become a health hazard due to poor water quality. Also, children risked drowning in the well.

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Aminalucu Borehole (for domestic use) in Dokolo District, Uganda

‘I am a proud owner of a nursery tree seedling business which I started two years ago and this has increased my household income from 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 Uganda Shillings per season. I grow different tree species like Malaina, Clone Eucalyptus, Pines, and Ashock’ says Japher.

He adds that the initial investment cost for the nursery bed was 2,470,000 UGX (around £500), which he acquired as a loan from a village savings group.

According to Opio, his nursery bed employs 5 workers: two males and three females who are also water users of Aminalucu borehole.

‘the 3 female employees who work for me also live close to the borehole and say that they are now able to work at the tree seedling nursery because they no longer spend long hours in search of water’ added Japher.

Japher’s wife Susan, together with the adult dependents in their household, also help him at the nursery business which initially was not possible because they spent hours travelling long distances in search of water before the borehole was rehabilitated.

Currently his nursery bed is having 1,700 root stocks capable of raising 30,000 to 40,000 seedling of Eucalyptus trees whose potential average total sales is 24,000,000 UGX per year (around £5,000). Japher intends to invest this income in expanding his boda boda (motor cycle transport) business and also start a free range poultry system which will be managed entirely by his wife.

Susan is so happy with the time saved in collecting water from far off sources because she’s able to use it to support their family businesses and contribute to the household income.

The Lango Safe Water Project reduces CO2 emissions by removing the need for households to boil water as a treatment method. As well as reducing CO2 emissions, the project provides safe drinking water and greatly reduces the time spend collecting water and firewood, and reduces the time spent boiling the water. As shown by the story of Jaspher and Susan, this time can be investing in businesses which benefit the household and the wider community through employment.

‘Sost Gulicha Free’ Communities – Adapting CLTS to cookstoves in Ethiopia

CO2balance are currently supporting the distribution of improved cookstoves throughout the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region in Southern Ethiopia with our partner, Vita

As part of an initiative between Vita and the CLTS Foundation, a pilot project is being implemented in 2 communities in Mirab Abaya and Arba Minch Zuria, focusing on adapting the core principles of the Community-Led Total Sanitation approach to mobilise communities to adopt clean cookstoves.

The target communities are located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region in Southern Ethiopia.

These principles are drawn from the recognition that merely introducing new technology into communities does not guarantee their use; and that for effective adoption, the community must lead the way on ensuring behavior change.

This pioneering project will explore and identify how this community led approach – which includes identifying triggering factors and developing localised roadmaps –  can be adapted to cookstoves to lead to an outcome where communities are sost gulicha (traditional cookstove) free.

A newly distributed improved cookstove

The project will focus on effective education and awareness raising of the severe health impacts associated from cooking on open, three-stone fires, and detailed training on how to use and maintain the improved cookstoves, hoping to support community-led behavior change and maximise use of the improved cookstoves and the benefits they deliver.

The projects actively contribute to helping achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We specifically target:

SDG3 Good Health and Wellbeing through reducing household pollution and the associated respiratory diseases

SDG 5 Gender Equality through reducing the burden of the domestic task of collecting firewood on women as the improved stoves require less fuel

SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy by increasing the distribution of improved technology to rural communities isolated from development

SDG 13 Climate Action by offsetting carbon emissions through the use of improved technology.

World Environment Day – Air Pollution Awareness

Today we are celebrating World Environment Day, an annual event created by the United Nations in 1974 to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Since its creation, the event has grown to become a global movement for public outreach for the need of environmental action. Each World Environment Day has a new theme and is hosted in a different country where the official celebrations take place – this years host is China, with the theme of air pollution.

Summarised from the World Environment Day website, the main source of household air pollution is the indoor burning of fossil fuels and biomass-based resources, such as firewood, to cook. Around 3.8 million premature deaths are caused by indoor air pollution annually, most in the developing world. Despite efforts to increase the prevalence of cleaner burning stoves and cleaner fuel, 3 billion continue to use solid fuels on open fires.

Across the areas we work in in developing countries, we typically come across households in rural communities using highly inefficient three-stone fires for their cooking and boiling of unsafe water for purification. These traditional fires require large amounts of firewood to do only a small amount of work due to their inefficient nature.

As a result of burning large quantities of firewood on these open fires, large volumes of carbon emissions are released contributing to climate change, as well as harmful pollutants causing significant health problems to those regularly exposed to them, such as the elderly, women and children.

Our improved cookstove carbon projects involve introducing improved technologies, such as improved cookstoves, into households through community buy-in schemes. With the help from our local partners, communities are trained how to use and maintain the stoves effectively and educated on the dangers of indoor air pollution and how the new stoves are helping tackle it. Our safe water projects involve rehabilitating safe water sources, to reduce the amount of firewood burned on three-stone fires by removing the need to purify unclean water.

Our projects directly contribute to tackling Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing. Through robust monitoring and calculations within our cookstove projects and certain water projects, we determine the reduction in household air pollution following the project implementation, which are certified by the verification body Gold Standard.

Millions of people are continuing to suffer from preventable diseases and many are dying prematurely – World Environment Day is helping raise awareness of this widespread problem and drive incentive for action. Through focused, community initiatives involving education and key training, the adoption of cleaner, more modern stoves and rehabilitation of broken safe water sources can reduce the risk of illnesses and save lives.