Progress in Eritrea

Since the beginning of our work in Eritrea, working together with our project partner we have moved quickly to develop a number of fantastic community-led projects across the country.

Early this year, the team completed their work guiding local communities in building sustainable improved cook stoves. More than 3600 stoves have been constructed in less than two years – a fantastic achievement – and the knowledge and experience that has been passed on is invaluable.

 eritrea_stove

Late last year work began on borehole projects based in Zoba Debub, the southern region in Eritrea. There are plans to rehabilitate broken down boreholes in more than 100 villages with many already fixed, and work together with the communities to maintain the boreholes and ensure access to clean, safe water for many years to come.

 eritrea_borehole

Both of these projects have huge impacts on the prosperity of local communities as their health improves and they reduce the money spent and time collecting both firewood and water. We will continue with our work this year to ensure as many people as possible benefit.

Eritrea site visit

This month I was lucky enough to be able to visit the fantastic projects that are being implemented in partnership with Vita, an Irish NGO. Vita are working with communities across the country to build capacity and work towards sustainable livelihoods, building efficient cook stoves and rehabilitating non-functioning boreholes.

Below are a selection of photos from my visit:

 

Witnessing some of the harsh climatic conditions first-hand highlighted the need for the efficient use of resources and these projects make a huge contribution to support rural communities.

I am incredibly grateful to the team in Eritrea for hosting me and showing me the ongoing work in a fascinating country during my time there. Yikenyelna!

 

Project Visit

Last month, I returned from a trip to Ethiopia and Kenya where I was able to see projects that are in their infancy but also some of our well-established projects. It was great to see people’s enthusiasm for the projects with the expectation that the projects would make a measurable difference in their lives but also be able to talk to people that have experienced a change and who express their appreciation.

In Ethiopia I attended stakeholder meetings for 5 new projects that are being established together with one of our project partners. It was fantastic to see how professional and thorough the team were in organising the meetings but also how engaged the local communities and also local government were in the work that is planned for the area.

In Kenya, I visited our projects in Meru and close to the coast around Shimba Hills. The contrast in the landscapes and experience from the two different parts of the country was striking, from the fertile soils around Mount Kenya to the vast plains around Kasigau, near Shimba Hills, both were incredible! As always I was impressed by the relationship that our field staff have built with the communities since the project was established and their knowledge of the local area.

I want to say a big thank you, ameseginalehu and asante to both teams for the trip; it is one I will remember!

2016 Site Visit

Last month I returned from a site visit to four of our Kenyan cook stove projects; Aberdares, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mathira. During my time I saw Kenya’s beautiful scenery, saw the country’s passion and entrepreneurship and met some fantastic people. During the conversations I had with the beneficiaries of our projects, they expressed how the stoves had made tangible changes to their lives with sentiments that I will remember for many years. Below is a small selection of pictures from my trip:

Asante sana to all of the Kenya team!

Issuance of Msambweni, Kenya ICS project

CO2balance celebrated another milestone last week as we issued another of our Kenyan Improved Cook Stove projects under the Gold Standard. Situated in the coastal region of Kenya, the beautiful beaches are a popular tourist destination but local populations are still reliant on wood fuel and traditional three-stone fires for cooking. Over the past years we have monitored how our stoves have been helping to reduce the use of firewood leading to economic and health benefits for local people as well as lowering carbon emissions.

Since 1990 Kenya has lost on average 0.32% forest cover per year and though that does not sound very significant, it equates to more than 250,000 ha. This burden has fallen disproportionately on the coastal region of Kenya where fewer tree cover gains have been observed and our project is one that is helping to combat this decline. Biomass energy has hovered around 70% of total energy requirements for Kenya and seen little reduction in 40 years. 90% of this demand comes from the domestic sector and by providing more efficient cooking stoves, we can help to reduce the total demand for energy and therefore, wood, leading to multiple benefits for local people and the local environment.

Paris in Focus

Next week, on April 22nd, the environment will come under focus as the world celebrates another annual ‘Earth Day’; this one bears more significance than most as world leaders gather at the United Nations in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. As the Paris Agreement will no doubt gain extra media attention next week, we look at the ‘need-to-knows’ of this historic accord.

Haven’t they already agreed?

The signing is the second of three steps before the Paris Agreement takes effect with the first being the adoption of the text by negotiators at COP21. The final stage will be the ratification by individual nations at a later date.

What’s the big deal?

This is set to be the largest single-day signing of an international agreement and represents a monumental diplomatic feat as almost every nation reaches a consensus on the need for concerted efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Didn’t we know that already?

For years there has been overwhelming scientific consensus on the dangers of climate change under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario however political logjams have marred any significant international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The innovative approach to discussions in Paris were widely regarded as being key to achieving successful negotiations.

So what did they actually agree?

The text of the agreement centred around a few key numbers:

  • Limit global warming to 2°C (while aiming for 1.5°C)
  • 189 countries submitted targets in the form of Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) accounting for 99% of global emissions
  • Countries must re-assess their targets every 5 years (from 2023); they cannot lower them and are encouraged to set more ambitious targets over time

The final question is when will it take effect? The agreement needs to be ratified at a national level by 55 countries representing 55% of emissions.  It is possible that enough countries will move it through the approval process for that to happen this year however given the varying domestic approval timelines, 2017 is more likely.

In the meantime, there are constant and growing efforts from businesses, organisations and individuals around the world to reduce their own impact. Progress has been slow to get to where we are now but the pace is accelerating; the more we do, the more we abate the negative impacts of climate change and next Friday will be one step further along the path.

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.