Farewell to CO2balance!

The time has come to say good bye to CO2balance after 3 and a half years. Despite the frustrations inherent in the carbon finance sector I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have had and all the amazing people that I have met on this journey. So thank you to everyone at CO2Balance UK & Uganda and Carbon Zero Kenya!

So here is a brief recap of my time at CO2balance (formerly known as co2balance!)

Anyone who has met Suzanne will know that she doesn’t like to hang about and the start of my CO2balance tenure was no different! So after agreeing to marry my girlfriend if she would quit her good job and move with me to the South West, I packed my bags and moved into a house in Taunton at 2 weeks notice. This would have been great but I was missing a few key items to make my house comfortable – namely furniture! All was not lost however as I had my trusty tent and an old plastic chair set up in the bedroom – I even splashed out on some fairy lights as it was Christmas after all!

Back then the projects team consisted of Owen, Mark, Liz, Richard and Myself.

Within a few weeks both Mark Howard and Liz had moved on leaving Richard and I in a bewildering world of cook stoves and acronyms. I can’t say we missed Mark’s breakfast humus but Runako definitely missed Liz’s free lifts to work. Runako’s loss was A1 Taxi’s gain!

Moving on a couple of months I will never forget my first trip to Africa with CO2balance. Having taken over the development of our Uganda CDM PoA (currently still pending registration!) I undertook a site visit to Kanungu. ‘Where’s Kanungu?’ my mother asked ‘Uganda’ I replied. What I should have said is, ‘as far away from Kampala as you can get.’ I will always remember the scene that greeted me as we flew into Entebbe over Lake Victoria at sunrise, it was truly stunning but that was only the start of the adventure. As I emerged from Entebbe airport bleary eyed and over tired I was greeted by Andrew Ocama (like Obama!) at least I think it was Andrew as I had never seen him before in my life it could have been anyone! In we jumped to a minivan with a ‘minor’ cooling problem to commence the ten hour drive to Kanungu. Although I was exhausted I felt alive at the sensory overload that I experienced on that journey… after 10hours of driving down ‘roads’ the alive feeling had left me but the memories never will. The ‘short’ route home via the Queen Elizabeth National Park was another stunning experience of total beauty interspersed with minivan cooling issues but we made it back to Kampala in one piece.

Back in Kampala I met up with our Stove Engineer Jonny who at the time had the best job going at CO2balance. He was based in Diani Beach and travelled Africa building stoves at the company’s expense. We hit it off and decided to go out for a few drinks – following Jonny’s guidance the chosen venue was Kabalagala – lets just say it was an experience! As was every time we met where ever we were!

Over the years I have been lucky to travel a lot and I have had several ‘I can’t believe I’m being paid to be here’ moments – The trip to the Parc des Volcans being another standout.

Exciting as visiting Africa has been I have spent 90% of my time behind a desk in Taunton and I think I will miss this too – well maybe not all of it!

Here’s a brief list of what I will miss from the office:

  • My Ti Plant – please don’t kill it!
  • Any story that started with ‘When I worked at the council…’
  • Richard’s life admin phone calls
  • Anything to do with Runako
  • Ellie’s strange injuries
  • Lloyd’s passion for gin
  • All the lovely emails from our contacts in Africa
  • Any combination of the IT chuckle brothers in the corner
  • The strange obsession with Barry Manilow’s greatest hit ‘Bermuda Triangle’
  • The Ministry of Cake
  • ‘Postman Packet’
  • The Chinese chip shop & the shop of doom (actually I am glad never to see these places again!)
  • Friday afternoon donuts!

I love Mani Low

Looking back what am I most proud of? Well apart from the stand out achievement of my fantastic Ti Plant (please don’t kill it!). I think I am most proud of 3 simple things:

  1. Developing a structure and clear processes (dull yes but very useful!)
  2. Recruiting some brilliant, capable staff and growing an amazing projects team
  3. Being able to see the difference we have made to peoples’ lives when we have got things right

I hope I am remembered as an enthusiastic, positive influence that made the occasional round of tea. I will never forget working with you all.

A big thanks goes out to the team in Africa, Paul Kier, Moses, Charles & Catherine in Kenya and Andrew in Uganda.

A huge thank you goes out to the UK Head Office staff of Richard, Lloyd, Ellie, Eszter, Lucas, Paul, Sue, Dan & Risi.

So to wrap up this blog I extend my gratitude to Mark, Suzanne, Huw and Robin for giving me the opportunity to work at CO2balance and I am thankful for all the support I have received.

I wish CO2balance every success in the future and I hope the ethos of being a friendly, approachable, transparent organisation remains.


Lion Alert pilot stove project a success

Dambwa Cookstove in Use

Zambia has seen rampant deforestation in the past decades and recent reports from the Food & Agriculture Organization (FOA) suggest the country now suffers the second highest deforestation per capita in the world.  The per capita annual consumption of firewood in Zambia is estimated at 1,025 Kg in rural areas.  The highest rates are found in the Southern province where deforestation has already impacted local climate, resulting in increased drought frequency and intensity, with negative effects on food crop production.

The rural communities surrounding Dambwa Forest, located in Southern province just outside the city of Livingstone, will be the beneficiaries of low carbon cook-stoves for every household, thanks to the efforts of the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (www.lionalert.org) with the generous support of the Woodspring Trust and the knowledge of improved cookstove technologies from CO2Balance.

Prior to implementation of this project a sample of households were assessed for current wood usage, having an average of 1,231 Kg per capita annual consumption.  Following a lengthy design process with the assistance of CO2balance, a stove design was created to make use of locally available resources, the majority of which come from sustainable sources.  As a pilot of the full scale project the first stoves created have been provided to households and their wood consumption reassessed to measure the efficiency of the design.  The results show a significant decline in wood usage to a per capita annual consumption rate of between 337 and 435 Kg – an average 69% fall from previous rates.  These results are within the expected range of efficiencies, although we are hoping to increase this through feedback from the families using the stoves, as well as from improvements in the manufacture process as we commence mass production.

Feedback from the families that are using the first stoves has been extremely favourable, reporting that they are able to cook all the foods they usually do on the stove, in the same time as on an open fire, and that smoke from the stove is less than from traditional cooking methods.