CO2balance in Sierra Leone

CO2balance has been exploring the options for launching projects in Sierra Leone for a long time. Following on from extensive nationwide feasibility studies, we finally decided recently to launch an initial borehole rehabilitation and maintenance programme in partnership with the NGO CODE-SL. Having lived in Sierra Leone back in 2016 and been captivated by the country’s natural beauty and generous people, I was very excited to return to meet our new partners and to explore Kono, the remote district in the East of the country where we are conducting the pilot phase of our project.

The need is immense in Sierra Leone for projects that ensure access to safe water and promote improved sanitation practices. Official figures state that 53% of the country’s rural population lack access to an improved water source, but in reality this figure is likely to be much higher. Whilst many rural communities have had access to safe water from a hand pump powered borehole at some point, a vast proportion of these have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of training or resources for them to be maintained locally. The situation is even starker regarding improved sanitation, with just 6.9% or rural communities having access to improved sanitation facilities. The impacts of these trends can be seen in the shocking figure that over 90% of rural water sources in Sierra Leone are infected with E-Coli.

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A broken-down handpump in Old Kissy Town, Kono district

My visit had 2 main purposes: to travel with CODE-SL to visit some of the communities in Kono where we will be working to repair and maintain boreholes and to attend the Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting, which introduces the project to local authorities in the target area and solicits their feedback.

The visits in Kono district were fascinating. We travelled to some of the most remote corners of the district, reaching the village of Kaadu where we looked across the Mel river into the Republic of Guinea. In Kaadu, we saw the broken down handpump which will shortly be repaired and visited the current water source, which is a murky and mossy pool in the forest about a 20 minute walk away from the village. We met Sita Sandi there, a local woman with 4 children who usually has to travel to the water source about 3 times per day. She reported that although they boil the water they collect, waterborne illnesses remain a major problem and that her son had just missed several days of school through diarrhoea. She looks forward to the completion of the borehole rehabilitation, as she hopes that it will save her the best part of 2 hours every day to have fresh water available in the village. Crucially, it will also reduce the scourge of waterborne disease which has greatly disrupted her children’s education.

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Sita Sandi collects water outside Kaadu

Having visited the communities, we conducted the local stakeholder consultation meeting in the city of Koidu, which was attended by several councillors from Kono district in addition to representatives of local NGOs and leaders of communities to be targeted in the project. The meeting was a fantastic meeting of minds of the key stakeholders with whom CODE-SL and CO2balance will be working in the coming years, and the feedback for the project was overwhelmingly positive. Stakeholders praised the concept of the project, particularly its focus on long-term maintenance of water points due to the high risk that water points can break down if they are not regularly serviced. It was also discussed that there is a great need for the project to reach beyond the initial 30 communities, with stakeholders assured that if all goes well in the initial phase of the project, we hope to significantly expand the reach in the coming years.

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The CODE-SL/CO2balance team gather before the LSC meeting

I’d like to thank our partners, CODE-SL, for their welcome and for their hard work on the feasibility phase of the project. This marks not only our first project in Sierra Leone, but our very first project in West Africa. It’s very exciting to expand into this new region and we hope that it will be a gateway to further projects in West Africa in the coming years. The first borehole rehabilitations will be conducted in the next couple of months – watch this space for more updates from Sierra Leone!

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Impacting Lives in Maungu

In the Coastal region of Kenya in Shimba hills Carbon zero has distributed over 10,000 energy efficient cook stoves. The stove beneficiaries highly appreciate the many social, health and economic impact that the stoves have had in their lives. The stoves have also led to the protection of the Shimba hills forest that was under threat before due to anthropogenic activities i.e. cutting down trees for firewood. Majority of the stove users are happy with the stoves performance some even calling it a hero. This has been evidenced through the many success stories that have been shared by the stove owners.

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In Maungu one of the project areas under the larger Shimba region we meet Patricia Mwikali who is also a social worker in this community. Aged fifty eight, she shares her home with her husband, daughter in-law and grandson. This has been her sixth year since she benefited from the stove. She says she uses the carbon zero stove at least three times a day and this has brought great improvement to her family’s health and finance. Her daughter in-law doesn’t have to walk for long distances in search of firewood as a few branches of trees pruned and dried from the shamba meet the family’s daily fuel consumption needs thanks to the low fuel consumption CZK stove. Attending women group meetings has never been easier where she mingles with other women who have the same efficient cook stove story to share. She adds that she rears poultry from which she gets her daily income from. At first getting capital to start her project seemed out of reach but as soon as she got the stove, she started saving the money which she used to spend on paraffin and charcoal; and up till now she owns at least three hundred broiler chicken.

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The Carbon Zero stoves beneficiaries within Shimba hills are so happy with fuel use reduction giving them ample time do to engage in other economic activities i.e. Domestic farming which generates surplus income. They are also enjoying health improvements especially the big percentage reduction of smoke related infections. It’s a fact that people need forests and that’s where all human beings come in. When you acquire and use an energy efficient cook stove you save a lot on wood fuel which transforms into saving of forests thus helping create a healthier, more prosperous, more productive planet, for you and for everyone

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.

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