Protecting Forests is Vital; without them, Kenya would be little more than a desert

Forests influence climate, landform and soil composition and they exist in a wide variety. Each forest type has its own uniqueness and together these forests complement one another and perform the various socio-economic, ecological, environmental, cultural and spiritual functions. Forests remain vital sources livelihood and water to many people across the globe.

East Africa’s forests are rapidly declining due to pressure from population increase and other land uses. In Kenya the case is not different, destruction of forests has occurred at an alarming rate. This puts so much strain to forests that are supposed to support over many people depending on the natural resources emanating from them.

Following the alarming dwindling speed of Kenya’s forest cover the Minister of Environment Judy Wakhungu on 8th September 2016 pronounced governments plan to actively promote tree planting to regain our lost glory.  She explained that these re-a forestation efforts would provide Kenyans “with the opportunity to reduce poverty, to improve food security, to address climate change and to conserve our valued biodiversity.”

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Forests are destroyed due to many different reasons and wanton and deliberate destruction of forest for fuel wood remains one of the main reasons resulting to virtual depletion of forest vegetation cover. In the long run this has in return resulted to drying of rivers, soil erosion, scorching sun, human-wildlife conflict etc. Local communities have due to the negative climatic changes become even more dependent on the forest for their livelihoods, causing a vicious cycle of poverty. Women and girls move longer distances in search of fuel wood and water, exposing them to danger of attacks and sexual assaults. With the loss of flora and fauna, tourism income is dwindled, bringing the curio business down with it.

Having critically examined effects of climate change Carbon Zero Kenya understood clearly that the challenges facing Kenya’s forests required several approaches and efforts to plant more trees alone would not help if more trees were still being cut at high speed for firewood. To this effect Carbon Zero introduced energy efficient cook stoves in various communities in Kenya that came to replace traditional three stone stoves. This has indeed resulted in immense savings in terms of the wood being used for cooking ultimately reducing pressure on the forests giving them a chance to restore themselves for the past four years.

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Traditional three stone stoves are criticized for their 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 – this leads to high levels of deforestation. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.

Carbon Zero Kenya has been on the fore-front of fighting climate change in Kenya and beyond 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 people’s 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.

Not just about cooking!!!!

Cooking on a three stone stove is the cheapest way to prepare food in many parts of the world. This is because to assemble a three stone stove you only require three suitable stones of the same height on which a cooking pot is balanced over a fire. That’s how cheap the stove is. This make many families across the word especially in Africa fall for them.

Ok cheap is expensive, many say so and indeed even in the cooking sector this turns out to be true. The seemingly cheap stove on the contrary has many problems:

  • 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.
  • Smoke is vented into the home, instead of outdoors, causing health problems.
  • Only one cooking pot can be used at a time.
  • The use of an open fire creates a risk of burns and scalds. Especially when the stove is used indoors, cramped conditions make adults and particularly children susceptible to falling or stepping into the fire and receiving burns.

The World Health Organization has documented a significant number of deaths caused by smoke from home fires. The negative impacts of such a process of cooking can be reduced by using improved cook stoves.

 In Kaptagat in the vast Rift Valley Region of Kenya we visit one of the Co2balance improved cook stove beneficiaries Alice Kiplimo who tells us  “Tangu nipewe hii jiko nimefurahia sana kwa sababu inafanya kazi harakana inatumia kuni chache(since I was given this stove five years ago it cooks faster and also consumes less wood”. She adds that because of its efficiency on wood usage it saves her time and in that she is able to do other activities that are incomes generating promoting the living standards of her family. For instance the time she would use going to collect firewood in the forest she tends her small piece of land with passion fruits that when ripe gives her up to 200/- per kilo, and she makes up to 15 – 20 kilos per week.

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In her explanation she manages to clearly exhibit how the improved Co2balance stove has not only helped her change her cooking conditions but how the stove has changed her life as a whole. She says that before receiving the improved cook stove from Co2balance she used to use a three stove which consumed excess wood not allowing her have any extra time for any other activity; she basically would spend all her free time in the forest looking for firewood. However after getting the Co2balance improved cook stove which uses less fuel she has had many benefits; reduce wood fuel consumption by almost a half, improved health – more coughing like before, less time spent searching for wood etc. She explains how the improved stove has freed her allowing her function fully being her family’s bread-winner being able to invest in her farm planting passion fruits and having time to manage the fruits well. And as a single mother of two this has helped get earn an income which is helping her sustain her family.

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With this living story it’s now possible to see the bigger picture and realize that improved cook stoves are not just for cooking.  They change lives beyond cooking.

Over the years Co2balance has been a front runner in improving access to affordable and reliable energy services for cooking in developing countries. And it’s on this basis that it has invested in over 67,000 improved cook stoves distributed across Kenya and still seeks to partner with like minded organizations to reach many more families which are still in dire need for an improved cook stove because it understands that it’s not just about cooking.

Expansion of the Lango ‘Safe Water Project – Part 2: Rehabilitation of New Boreholes

Co2balance as a project developer started borehole rehabilitation in the Lango sub region located in the northern part of Uganda in 2013 with the repair of 41 boreholes spread out in the districts of Alebtong, Otuke, Kole and Dokolo in a bid to provide clean safe water to these communities.

By the end of 2016, in an expansion drive, the number of boreholes rehabilitated rose to 61 with an additional 40 boreholes added in 2016 alone. This has increased access to clean safe water for many households who before the rehabilitation were using unsafe water sources like ponds, open wells among others.

In addition to the borehole rehabilitation, a Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) sensitization was carried out to educate the community on the importance of keeping their environment clean by fencing the borehole, cleaning it, keeping animals and waste away from it and above all maintaining the safe water chain from borehole to domestic storage. These good hygiene practices coupled with the clean water from these boreholes help eradicate waterborne diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and dysentery and also reduces the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Water quality testing which is a standard procedure and requirement by the national water authorities was carried out in the rehabilitated boreholes since they have not been in use for a while. This was to ensure that the water from these boreholes meet the required standards, pass the set parameters and are suitable for human consumption. All the boreholes tested passed the tests and are therefore safe for the community.

 

Cooking Differently

Approximately three billion people across the globe cook every day using open, three-stone fires or rudimentary traditional stoves. Cooking with these traditional cook stoves is inefficient and grossly polluting, harming health and the environment, and contributing to global warming. In many places worldwide, women must walk for hours to collect firewood, risking their safety and sacrificing energy and time that could be used to earn a living. While often overlooked as a major contributor to the global burden of disease, cooking over open fires indoors is the largest environmental health risk in developing countries i.e. Kenya.

In Kenya the case is not different, many households can relate with the simple and accessible mode of cooking. For decades, women have been using this cooking style not knowing the danger that they expose themselves to.

To curb these menace Carbon Zero has developed various  improved cook stove models  that suit the needs of different local communities with higher efficiencies that have been able to cut down on the amount of fuel used and reducing the time spent cooking allowing women some free time to engage in other income generating activities. Carbon Zero stoves have enabled women to cook with less than a half of the wood they used to use on wasteful three stone fires and in much less time. This saves lives because less wood means less smoke and thus less disease.

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In the Western part of Kenya in Kisumu Carbon Zero has distributed over 10,000 improved cook stoves. Among the stove models distributed in the area was a brick rocket stove that locals have over time complimented for its good service. The rocket stove was the first cook stove to be built in Kisumu East region as part of the pilot project to be used in the rural settlement, where wood used for cooking had led to the immense deforestation of trees. The liner effect on the stove creates a highly efficient, largely smoke-free burn.

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Mrs. Abigael Awour who is 65 years old lives in Rapogi village in Kisumu county were she has been married for the past 35 years and stays with  her daughter and 2 grand children. She is a beneficiary of the rocket stove and we seek to get her opinion on the stove after using it for the last four or so years. With a smile she narrates that “Before receiving the brs cook stove, I had the traditional three stone open fire cook stove, which consumed a lot of fuel and I had to cut down most of the trees I planted so that I could sustain my family. I stay with my grand children who are very young which means I had to cook several meals a day and it was devastating because it was time consuming, very expensive, I also developed health complications, severe back pains and was on a lot of painkillers because I had to bend while cooking since the stove is practically on the ground and cannot be raised.

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She further adds that “After receiving the Rocket Stove I have seen a lot of changes especially in matters that deal with health because I no longer cough a lot due to the smoke reduction since I dry my wood completely and my back pain is no longer severe. The stove was done by professionals who considered all ages; I can now sit down and cook comfortably without straining, save money since I don’t need too much drugs for the back pain, now I have time to do farming and from the savings from firewood I buy maize seeds. Also the stoves retain heat so I only cook twice a day and leave the food warm on the stove for anyone to consume. Now it’s not necessary to cut down a tree to cook, all you need is a few small branches. Energy saving stoves are of great importance to our community, says Rhoda, one of the youth volunteers on the project. The stove saves a lot of energy and money because less firewood has to be collected or purchased. It also cooks faster so women have more time to engage in other income-generating activities and it is more hygienic than the traditional model. The stoves have greatly improved our living standards and for me the rocket stove form Carbon Zero is the best thing that ever happened to women in Rapogi.

Compiled by Christine Atira and Moses Maina

Their Stories…………….

Aminoleke“My name is Omara George aged 49 and I live in Dokolo District. I am a user of the Aminoleke borehole that was rehabilitated by co2balance in 2013. Before the borehole was fixed, my family used to walk long distances in search of water and would collect it from the swamps because the only alternative source was too far away. Having a large family meant we had to collect water twice a day to meet our needs. I was also afraid that my wife and daughters could be attacked or raped while they were collecting water especially during the evening hours since we still had rebel activities in our village. The water we drank was always dirty and I worried my children would become sick with typhoid or other water borne diseases that are common in this area. Our lives have improved so much since the borehole was repaired; the water yield is always good and clean, and most of all I am happy because my family are safe and have more time for going to school and the farm. We are very happy with the project and grateful for all the help you have provided us.”

IMG_1204“My name is Ogwang Paul, I am 11 years old and I fetch water from Atek B borehole. I am happy that we now have a borehole close to our house that provides clean water. We no longer have to go to the lake to fetch water like before. I used to wake up at 5am and go with my siblings to fetch water before going to school. This greatly affected my studies because we were always late for school and missed the first lessons. This greatly affected our performance in school. Now that we have a working borehole close to us, we can fetch water and get to school on time. I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”

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Purency Altero Okori aged 60 is a resident of Akwangi village and a user of Akwangi borehole which was rehabilitated and is being maintained by co2balance.

“I live a few meters away from the borehole and this has made my daily life easy. I am able to do my housework on time and still go to the market and attend to my stall where I sell vegetables to earn some extra income for my family. I no longer have to boil the water we drink as the water collected from the borehole is clean and safe since water treatment is done frequently. That means I no longer collect so much firewood for use at home.”

Fiona“My name is Adongo Fiona, I am 13 years old and I study in Telela Primary school. I am in level 3 and my best subject is science. I want to be a nurse when I finish school. I am happy for this borehole because I no longer have to travel long distances to collect water for our household. We no longer suffer from diseases like diarrhea and typhoid because the water is clean.

Thank you for this water.”

 

Routine Borehole Checks

The effective operation of boreholes is very much dependent on the communities that own the boreholes as they are seen as the very first custodians of these facilities. Co2balance contracts a project partner/officer to be an engagement representative within the community.  Each month our project representative is required to conduct basic checks on each borehole to see if they are in good condition.  They also continue to engage with the community to ensure that they are observing good hygiene practices and using the pumps in a sustainable manner.

Usually water fetched from a properly clean and maintained borehole is safe for human consumption without the need for boiling but if this water fails the safe water chain test, then it can cause lots of illnesses to people. If people fail to use clean containers for their drinking water, they face the threat of getting water borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid among others.

During the monthly routine visits, apart from checking on the mechanical conditions of the boreholes, our project partners/officers also check that the borehole surroundings are kept clean, no human activities are going on at/around the borehole, no animals are accessing the source, use of clean water collection containers by the community among others. This is to ensure that the community maintains a high level of sanitation and hygiene and that the water collected from the borehole is safe up to the very last drop used in the household.

Here are some photos from this month’s routine visits.

Maintaining clean, safe water remains one of our greatest national and global challenges and responsibilities……… Jerry Costello