Celebrating gender equality on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day 2019 comes at a very exciting time for CO2balance. Over the past couple of years, we have been working towards registering our borehole projects in Lango sub-region in Uganda under the Gold Standard’s Gender Equality methodology. The projects have now completed the process of registration under this methodology, making them the first projects to do so.

This process feels like a natural progression. It has been observed for several years that our borehole projects have very positive impacts on gender equality in target communities. In Uganda as in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of collecting crucial household resources like firewood and water falls disproportionately on women. Where water access is difficult due to the lack of a functioning borehole, the burden of water collection on women can become particularly intense, often taking up to 6 hours per day which leaves very little time for rest, education and income-generating activities. We have known anecdotally that the rehabilitation of boreholes in the centre of communities greatly alleviates these challenges by reducing the distance travelled for collection, but with the adoption of the Gender Equality methodology, we are now gathering and collating firm quantitative data to back this up.

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Women in Lango sub-region collecting water

Working under the Gender Equality methodology has required some additional steps to enhance the existing positive impacts of making safe water available in the heart of communities. A particularly important step was the conducting of a sensitisation campaign in November and December 2018, where almost 250 members of the target communities received training on key concepts for gender equality, including the promotion of sharing domestic responsibilities between men and women, advocacy against gender based violence and encouraging women to adopt leadership roles in their communities.

The impacts of this campaign are now beginning to be felt, with recent monitoring in communities in Lango showing quantifiable improvements in gender equality on a range of indicators. Not only are women saving vast amounts of time on water collection, but awareness has increased on the importance of this responsibility being shared between men and women. Crucially, women are also gaining equal representation on water resource committees, the community groups responsible for maintaining the boreholes and informing water users about sanitation and hygiene. To have women on these committees serves as a great medium to share the positive messages of the project on gender equality in the wider community.

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Community members in Lango attending a meeting as part of the sensitisation campaign

In a few months time, we will be issuing the first round of carbon credits from the Lango projects which have the Gender Equality stamp. We are very proud to be the first company to make such credits available on the market, and hope that this will serve as a watershed moment to instil gender equality in carbon projects globally.

Watch this space for further updates on this exciting project in the coming months. From all of us at CO2balance, have a very happy International Women’s Day!

Eritreans have a new name for cookstoves: the ‘Saviour stove’

Desey Tsehaye and her grandson with their brand new ‘Saviour’ cookstove, complete with smoke funnel.

Desey is a 47-year-old grandmother who lives out in the Eritrean desert, south of the capital city Asmara. It is a forbidding landscape of rock and mountain, which has been almost completely deforested.

Desey and her family were forced to buy firewood everyday, simply to cook and feed herself and her family, spending a lot of money in the process. The traditional stove also produced a lot of smoke, causing eye problems and headaches from the fumes.

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Local women helping to construct the stoves.

Then an improved cook stove was installed in her house through Vita and CO2balance’s fuel efficient cook stove project. The stove used much less firewood, saving the women and girls time, money and drudgery collecting firewood.

As such, they have taken to calling it the ‘Saviour stove’ (Adhenet in the Tigrinya local language).

Despite this success however, when Desey was invited to participate in the project she was initially reluctant: When I was invited to have a stove my mother had just died and I told Vita that I was grieving and not in the frame of mind to have this new kind of stove.”

But thankfully she came round: “They offered to construct it for me. Once it was built I really blessed them. Now I see that this stove is a precious item that everyone should have. I’m telling all my friends and neighbours about the benefits of it of this stove.”

Now she has no need to need to buy firewood – twigs and leaves are enough fuel for her improved stove. Her family has saved money, which they spend on a buying a wider variety of food for their family and making improvements to their home. Their former smoke problems are also a thing of the past, as the improved cook stove uses a handy chimney so there is no smoke indoors.

 

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Local women enjoying their training in stove maintenance.

CO2balance and Vita worked closely with the local women’s association in the village to engage women in the project and train them in stove maintenance.

This has proved very successful and helped build grassroots support and interest in the Saviour stoves, ensuring that they remain in good condition and reap the rewards for many years to come.

Updates from Rwanda

In September I had the chance to travel to Rwanda to spend time with our partners and visit the communities benefitting from our projects. Having made a brief previous visit to Rwanda, this was a great opportunity to spend more quality time with the team at FAPDR, who implement the improved cookstove projects, and Rwandans4Water who are responsible for the borehole maintenance programme.

A key aim of the trip was to follow up on the CSR project that concluded earlier this year in Gatsibo district. CO2balance conducts bespoke CSR projects throughout our target countries, whereby investors in carbon credits fund supplementary projects that benefit the livelihoods of communities beyond the core carbon offset projects. The recently

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Pupils at Gorora Primary School wash their hands at the tippy tap

concluded project in Rwanda involved installing solar lighting and charging systems in 4 primary schools which had previously had no electricity access at all. The schools were also equipped with handwashing stations and had their toilet facilities rehabilitated, and a comprehensive programme of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training was conducted.

During my time in Rwanda, I had the chance to visit Kiramuruzi and Gorora Primary Schools and to chat to teachers and pupils about the lasting impacts of the CSR project. All schools have chosen to ensure ongoing WASH awareness by creating WASH clubs of particularly engaged pupils who are responsible for sharing messages about sanitation and hygiene with their peers and the wider community. Espérance Murereyimana is the teacher responsible for convening the WASH club at Kiramuruzi and she described the strong engagement in the WASH club, which currently has 50 members. The club meets every Friday to discuss WASH issues and to practice singing awareness raising songs which are then shared with the whole school during assembly. Espérance highlighted the greatly improved WASH practices noted throughout the school, with all pupils now washing their hands several times throughout the day and passing on information to their families and neighbours.

Staff in both schools also praised the impact of the solar charging and lighting systems. In both schools visited, the systems have been working without fault up to the present time, almost one year and a half after their installation. As well as enabling a laptop to be used to fulfil school administration tasks, the key impact has been the introduction of lighting in several classrooms. In communities where there is no electricity and children have no light at home by which to do homework, having light at school after sunset at 6pm has an immense impact. Staff at both schools reported that high numbers of pupils remain after school to study on most weekdays, and that this was particularly useful at the end of the last academic for pupils in Primary 6 who were preparing for their final exams.

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‘End User Training’ on optimum usage of the fuel-efficient stoves in Bugesera district

Other than following up on the CSR projects, I also had the opportunity to visit users of the improved cookstoves in Bugesera district and to see the boreholes in action in Kayonza and Gatsibo districts. The ongoing high levels of use of these technologies and good condition of the project infrastructure are a credit to FAPDR and Rwandans4Water for the strong engagement and maintenance activities that they continue to implement on a monthly basis.

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Meeting with the borehole committee and wider community in Kinunza village, Gatsibo district

The visit was also tinged with sadness as it was the first CO2balance visit to Rwanda since the death of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana, the founder and president of FAPDR, who passed away in March 2018. The past few months have been a very difficult period for FAPDR, particularly for Patrice Ndatimana, the FAPDR Projects Coordinator who had worked closely with Jean-Baptiste for many years. Jean-Baptiste is greatly missed on a personal level and we’re immensely grateful to him for his work on the projects over many years. Patrice has worked tirelessly to keep the projects working over these last difficult months. We’re delighted to have recently welcomed on board Clarisse Ingabire, who joined FAPDR in August to support Patrice and who is already doing a great job of coordinating awareness campaigns and monitoring in the cookstove projects. It was also a pleasure during my visit to meet Marthe Mukamuramutsa, Jean-Baptiste’s wife who took over as FAPDR president after his passing and who continues to take a keen interest in the organisation’s work.

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Clarisse, Marthe, Tom and Patrice at the FAPDR office in Kigali

Many thanks to FAPDR, Rwandans4Water and the many community members that we met during my trip. Watch this space for more Rwanda updates in the coming months!

A new beginning in Zimbabwe

Since Summer 2017, CO2balance has been exploring the possibility of starting a programme of borehole rehabilitation and maintenance in Zimbabwe. Almost a year after this research began, the idea is finally coming to fruition, with a partnership having been struck up with Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP). DOMCCP is an experienced local NGO with a strong track record of delivering poverty alleviation and HIV awareness projects in Manicaland, the easternmost province of Zimbabwe. As I write, the DOMCCP team are in the field in Manicaland making final preparations for the rehabilitation of 34 boreholes, an intervention that will bring safe water and alleviate the burden of waterborne disease for 2,500 households in the province.

I was recently privileged to be the first CO2balance staff member to travel to Zimbabwe to meet the DOMCCP team and visit the communities to be targeted through the programme. I was given a warm welcome by the DOMCCP team in Mutare city, where their head office is based, and then had the chance to spend a few days visiting rural districts of Manicaland including Mutare Rural, Nyanga and Chipinge. In all of these districts, the vast majority of boreholes which have been installed in recent decades are now not functioning, with Zimbabwe’s well-documented economic problems in recent years having contributed to the drying up of funding to maintain water infrastructure.

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Community members gather round a broken borehole in  Chipinge district

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A muddy pool used as a drinking water source in Chipinge district

Throughout these visits, I was struck not only by the warm and generous welcome of the community members that we visited, but also by the great need for the upcoming programme. For example, I met Ramwidzai Musimbi in Nyangani village, where the borehole has not been functional since it broke down over 4 years ago. In the absence of any alternative water source, Ramwidzai has been forced to walk 2 kilometres each way to collect water from the Savé River, meaning that she will typically spend 3 hours per day getting water for her household’s needs. The incidence of waterborne disease from the river is also very high, meaning in turn that Ramwidzai has to spend a further 3 hours per day collecting sufficient firewood in order to boil the water to make it safe. For people like Ramwidzai, the impact of having a safe water source just 200 metres from her front door cannot be emphasised enough. She will save at least 5 hours per day, be saved the backbreaking work of collecting water and firewood and have the opportunity to pursue business opportunities and spend time with her family.

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Ramwidzai Musimbi and her son with the fireplace and pot where they usually boil water to purify it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Henry Nyapokoto of DOMCCP with Tom by the Savé River

The other main event during my trip was the Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting, where key people who will be involved in the project from the government and communities were brought together to discuss the project and give their feedback. It was fascinating to be part of the meeting and to hear first hand about the impacts that stakeholders expect to see from the project. One of the most interesting contributions came from Tendani Sanikiwe, the facilitator of a club supporting people living with HIV (PLWHIV) in Manicaland. She spoke for several minutes about how members of the club are often excluded from discussions about the importance of safe water, but how access to safe water is crucial to PLWHIV due to their increased susceptibility to disease and need for safe water to ensure the efficacy of drugs. This was a great example of how the project will impact on communities beyond the impacts on climate change and health that we address through our current monitoring, and has the potential to bring great benefit to groups often marginalised.

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Participants pose for a photo after the LSC meeting

Overall, it was a privilege to be in Zimbabwe and to spend time with DOMCCP’s dedicated team. Thank you to them for the warm welcome and for the work in getting this exciting new programme off the ground. Zimbabwe is a country going through momentous change in its national politics, but whilst that happens the need for sustainable management of water sources at the community level is greater than ever, and we’re very excited to be at the forefront with DOMCCP. Watch this space for updates in the next few months!

Corporate Climate Action

Last week, I received confirmation that I obtained a high pass in the GHG Management Institute’s course in Organisational Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Accounting; this is part of our constant efforts to upskill the team so that we can continue to work to the highest standards. All our business reports are produced in accordance with the internationally-recognised GHG Protocol as part of our 3 steps of carbon management; Measure, Reduce, Offset.

Carbon management

We encourage non-state actors to play a leading role in the global effort to limit Global Warming to below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C, following the Paris Agreement. This is in line with the Gold Standard’s ‘Best Practice Corporate Climate Action’ with the principal message being ‘reduce within, finance beyond’; the guidelines encourage corporates to mitigate their own emissions in line with science, while also supporting developing countries and the global economy to transition to a low-carbon future.

With so many new initiatives for businesses, it is easier than ever for a company to assess and recognise its impact, measure and target where to reduce internally, whilst also supporting communities and efforts to reduce the global impact. The benefits for companies go beyond energy saving and improving the bottom-line; businesses can gain recognition for their actions, and reduce exposure to carbon taxes or other future legislation.

CO2balance remain at the forefront of these efforts, helping to recognise carbon as a resource to be managed and leveraging the benefits of doing so.

Feasibility Assessment in Zambia

Many community members are very satisfied with the provision of clean and safe drinking water from our projects.  Following the repair of rural boreholes, we receive comments like this one: “We have no more stomach problems or frequent cases of typhoid” says one man months after the rehabilitation of his village borehole.

co2balance and Vita are currently  enabling clean water development in East African countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia. Wanting to expand the impact of their successful water projects, Vita and co2balance are now looking at starting further activities in Zambia.

To get a first  impression of the situation on the ground, co2balance Director Mark Simpson and Vita’s Head of Programmes John Gilliland recently visited the Southern African country.

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Meeting with potential partners as well as viewing broken and repaired boreholes, co2balance and Vita are building contacts and assessing the potential for new projects – capable of improving rural livelihoods and reducing carbon emissions.

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We will keep you posted…!

 

 

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!