Goodbye!

I’m sad to say that today marks the end of my journey with CO2balance. After 3 very enjoyable years, the time has come to say goodbye and thank you to a wonderful team, both here in the UK and across Africa.

During my time at CO2balance, I have had some amazing experiences, and looking back, I can’t believe some of the places I have been and the things I have done have been “work.” Three years ago, I had never been to Africa before. . . now I feel like Rwanda has become my second home, and I have fond memories from my time spent there, in Kenya and in Malawi.

Whilst our African adventures are obviously one of the highlights of our job, the time spent in our UK office has been that bit more enjoyable as a result of the fantastic team here! Not to forget the great team of staff we have in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda too- we couldn’t do our jobs without you, so thank you. I’d like to thank you all for the fun, laughter, and of course hard work that we’ve all put in, I will miss you all!

I will keep this goodbye short and sweet. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are just a few of my favourite memories from my time as a part of the CO2balance family. . .

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I wish CO2balance every success in the future and I will continue to follow the project stories with interest. Goodbye!

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Over 5,300 stoves distributed in Rwanda!

The CO2balance and Climate Corporation projects in Rwanda continue to make fantastic progress! We have currently distributed a total of 5,368 stoves since the project started, already reaching 3 different Sectors within the Bugesera District. This progress is set to continue, with the next delivery of stoves scheduled to reach the next communities on Tuesday. . .

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Opening Ceremony and Warm Welcome for CO2balance!

The 20th May marked the start of our second Micro-Scale Improved Cook Stove project in the Bugesera District, Rwanda. As the factory loaded up the truck in Kigali, I travelled to the Sector of Mareba, where both the local administration and the communities were ready to receive the first stoves.

When we arrived, the Executive Secretary welcomed us to his Sector, and we were then invited to join the Ceremony to mark the beginning of the project in this area. Behind the Sector Office, a group of local people had gathered, ready to receive their new stoves. The Ceremony began with traditional singing and dancing to welcome us, and the Project was then officially opened by the Executive Secretary.

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After the introductions and explanations about the project and its benefits, the first stoves arrived from Kigali, and the local Community Project Officers began to fill out the beneficiaries details and give them their stoves.

The stoves are very heavy to transport, weighing approximately 23Kg each, and we saw some very interesting means of transportation by those taking their new stove home. . .

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In addition to the Sector representatives, journalists from National and Local Rwandan radio arrived, to carry out interviews and report on the project.

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 It was great to have such a warm welcome and to see how happy the communities are to be receiving the stoves! We’re looking forward to continuing our stove distribution in many more Sectors in the coming months. . .

Gorillas in the Mist

In the North of Rwanda, bordering Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, lays the Virunga Volcanic Mountain Range. The Virunga Range is made up of three National Parks; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

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These parks are unique in that they are one of only two places in the world that the Mountain Gorilla can be found. The other is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

The Mountain Gorillas have been attracting tourists to Rwanda for many years, and this has now been turned into a very successful means of conservation. After a dramatic decline in numbers since their discovery, gorilla numbers have now slowly increased, however they are still classed as an endangered species.

During my recent trip to Rwanda, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take part in the world famous Gorilla Trekking. Our journey started from the town of Ruhengeri (Musanze), approximately 2 hours drive from Kigali in North-West Rwanda. We began the day with a very early briefing at the National Park headquarters in Kinigi. After meeting our guide, we were assigned our Gorilla Family. There are several families available for tourists to visit, and the maximum number of tourists is 8 per group. We were assigned the Umubano Group, led by the dominant silverback “Charles.” After the briefing with our guide, we set off in our 4×4 along the increasingly steep tracks formed of volcanic rocks, to begin the journey in the foothills of the volcanoes, and the starting point of our trek.

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The walk begins with a gentle pathway through the fields of crops, thriving in the fertile volcanic soil, passing by the local farmers and excited children. We then reached the boundary of the National Park, marked by a stone wall. As we climbed over the wall, the landscape immediately changed to that of thick jungle, and we were joined by the trackers, who had been out in the jungle several hours before to locate our gorilla family.

We climbed through the thick jungle, up and down steep slopes, and through the undergrowth. It didn’t take long before we heard the noises and rustling from the gorillas. . .

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Once we reached the family, we were able to spend an hour with the gorillas, watching as they lazed around having their afternoon rest, the younger members playing together, and a 6 month old baby clambering and playing with his mother. Some were lying quietly, others eating, and some climbing and swinging in the trees. The gentle gorillas were unphased by our close proximity, carrying on as usual.

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An unforgettable experience in a beautiful part of the world!

Local Stakeholder Consutation; Bugesera, Rwanda

On Friday, we held a Local Stakeholder Consultation in the Bugesera District, Rwanda. Bugesera is a District in the Eastern Province, and will be the location for approximately 12 of our Micro-Scale Improved Cook Stove Projects.

We have already successfully implemented the first of these projects, and are now moving on to the next four projects. Once the initial five projects are complete, we will move to new areas in the District. In view of this planned expansion, we held a meeting to invite stakeholders from several new areas in the District, where we plan to distribute stoves in the near future.

The meeting was arranged in conjunction with our local NGO partner; FAPDR. Attendance was very good, and feedback was very positive. Also in attendance were representatives from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), who were impressed that the CO2balance stove is manufactured locally in Rwanda, and also spoke of the need for such a project, especially in Bugesera where wood stock is continually diminishing.

With stakeholders views and feedback now gathered from across the District, we are on track to continue with implementation in all 12 of the planned projects.

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Under Construction!

Today I went to visit the factory in Kigali where our Rwandan Improved Cook Stoves are manufactured. The Ruliba Clays factory is better know in Kigali for manufacturing clay bricks and roofing tiles, but now they have a new product being manufactured- the CO2balance Cook Stove.

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With their existing expertise in the manufacturing of clay products, Ruliba have been able to diversify and put together a team of artisans to construct the CO2balance stove. With a strong clay component in the stove, Ruliba was able to construct the CO2balance stoves from a combination of machine extruded pieces, and hand finished parts.

Today I met some of the artisans working hard to complete the next batch of stoves, due to leave the factory next Tuesday. The stoves will be heading to our next two projects in the Bugesera District. Following on from the success of the initial project, the factory will be producing a large order to keep the deliveries to the villages running each week throughout the next couple of months.

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Travel Preparations

Nothing can beat getting out into the villages where our projects have been implemented, and seeing the projects in action first-hand!

Being based in the UK and implementing our projects, we often hear stories, see photos and receive reports about how successful the projects are from our local partners and in-country staff. . . but there is nothing quite like being there. We are extremely lucky to have the opportunity to visit the communities, being welcomed into the homes of the stove beneficiaries, getting to know them and sharing their experiences.

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I am currently making the final preparations for my next trip to Rwanda on Monday. With a busy schedule of meetings in Kigali, I will be sure to also spend plenty of time with the communities to find out how the CO2balance stove has impacted them, and if there are any ways we can improve the project as it continues to expand.

Next updates from Rwanda!