Sustainable communities in Eritrea

Both the cook stove and water projects continue to move forward in Eritrea as last month we initiated our stakeholder consultation for a new community safe water programme in Zoba Anseba. The meeting, held in the local hall, was well attended by representatives from all the surrounding villages and the feedback received truly showed that the importance of water resources is highly valued. The project will identify communities that don’t currently have access to improved water sources because of broken boreholes and rehabilitate them to good working order.

Though the meeting was led by our project partners to give details of the project and take feedback, we were pleased to see active discussion between village members about how to best preserve the pumps once they have been fixed. The importance of borehole maintenance and awareness of water resource management were both raised and will be part of project over its lifetime.

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The success of the cook stove project in Zoba Anseba has continued and recently completed its second verification under Gold Standard. The project funded the training and construction of more than 3,600 ‘Adhanet’ stoves in the district. Hugely popular in the region, the stoves have shown reductions in wood use of as much as 70% and over; a huge improvement making a significant impact on rural families.

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By embedding training on stove construction and borehole maintenance in to the programme, it strengthens the sustainability of the projects and furthers the sustainable livelihoods and sustainable communities across Eritrea.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

6 New Borehole Projects Listed in Eritrea

In Eritrea Co2balance and Vita are expanding in developing borehole rehabilitation offset projects. Adding to existing activities in the Maekel and Anseba District, 6 projects in the Southern District of Debub have just been listed with the Gold Standard. The projects will deliver access to clean drinking water for several dozen villages over a minimum of 7 years.

The local stakeholder meeting was held in Mendefera in May, bringing together 70 representatives of local and regional administration, water departments, WASH Committees and community members.

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Responses to the project were overwhelmingly positive, exhibiting a strong desire to get started as soon as possible. The communities engaged in the consultation showed a strong desire for the rehabilitation of their boreholes and a real interest in contributing to ensure long-term maintenance.

“Water is Life”, is a common saying among the stakeholders. Currently, however, access to this valuable resource is limited by inadequate water quality, requiring people to live with the negative health consequences or to boil their water. Using wood fuel is common practice, but deforestation and soil erosion have become significant problems in many areas.

Vita and co2balance will be identifying and start repairing boreholes this month in order to ensure access to clean water as soon as possible and to reduce the need for wood fuel use within the largely rural district.

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Zoba Anseba Cookstoves: Tekea and her Award Winning Eritrean Stove

Tekea Tsefagherghesh keeps her home spotlessly clean – not an easy task in Eritrea, a hot and dusty sub-Saharan country.  Tekea’s village, Adi Tekelezan, is 2,500 metres above sea level and about 40 minutes’ drive north of Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Within the low walls is the mid-sized hut that contains Tekea’s most proud possession; her self-built improved cook stove.

The traditional stove with its open flame and voracious appetite for fuel is very detrimental for the health of families and their living environments.  One familiar image of Africa is of women and children carrying heavy bundles of sticks, sometimes for many miles. Tekea was one such woman, gathering sticks three or four times a week and carrying them many miles back to her home, or spending her little amount of cash buying them instead.

Tekea’s new stove is quite substantial, at over two metres in length.  It has various doors and openings to regulate the temperature as well as large, round hotplates so that she can cook Injera, the traditional bread eaten all over East Africa.  The design is simple but very innovative, and has won many awards for it’s inventor, local man Debesai Ghebrehiwet such as The Green Apple Award and the Tech Museum award. Each stove saves at least three tonnes of CO2 per year.

Tekea has decorated her stove with hand painted flowers and leaves.  The huge advantage of the stove is that it uses nearly 60% less fuel that the traditional stove and any harmful fumes are funneled out of the small, enclosed kitchen hut. All of the materials used to build the stove are sourced locally.

In this community-led programme, Vita supplies the moulds and the knowledge, but the women themselves contribute towards the cost, as well as building each stove with the help of the other village women. Involving the whole community ensures that no individual family is left out. Tekea is now a trainer, and works with Vita’s home economists to bring the programme to the wider community. Vita has an integrated approach to enabling farm families achieve sustainable livelihoods, involving not just stoves but clean water pumps, solar lights latrines and trees. This creates ‘green zones’ that not only benefit the families but have a hugely positive impact on the environment.

For Tekea, the drudgery of gathering sticks is dramatically reduced, and this has given her far more time to spend working to better her future and that of her children. Tekea, like more than 40% of women in Eritrea, rears her family of seven children alone. The extra income she can now earn is used to buy milk and help pay for her children’s education.

 

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Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba

Tekea and her family

Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan

Zoba Maekel, Eritrea – Completion of Borehole Repairs

After three months of enormous efforts our project partners Vita have successfully completed the repair and maintenance of 48 bore holes in the central region administration of Eritrea (or Zoba Maekel) This repair programme has received mass support and satisfaction from the beneficiaries that will now benefit from access to clean water across the entire district.

It is with enormous pleasure and pride on behalf of CO2balance that we have been able to be part of these projects which truly alter the lives of the most deserving people on the planet. I have seen first hand how illness from drinking dirty water and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures while cascading them onto a cycle of poverty which makes Eritrea one of the most under-developed countries in the world.

CO2balance and Vita are seeking to address extreme poverty in Eritrea going forward over the next number of years. Zoba Maekel is just one part of the programme being implemented which is seeking to break the cycle of poverty in Eritrea and long may it continue to thrive and develop going forward.  All our work is done in conjunction with the communities and people of Eritrea. Eritreans are proud of their country. Proud of what they have achieved in such a short time since becoming independent. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people.

It was Robert Unger (philosopher and politician) who famously articulated that “At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different”. CO2balance together with Vita do not lack any clarity or imagination on a vision for Eritrea. Ultimately, their programme has the dream of repairing all the broken boreholes in the country and providing clean water for thousands of people. Watch the space for this dream becoming a reality.

See a montage of photos from the borehole repair programme in the beautiful country of Eritrea through 2016.

 

 

Eritrea: Programme Report

Recently I had the opportunity to accompany our project partners Vita on an in country visit to Eritrea to report on the great work currently going on in country. The collaboration between Vita and co2balance continues to go from strength to strength and it impacts on the lives of Eritrean people is profound. I have seen this first hand.

The overall programme now consists of 2 cookstove VPAs in Zoba Anseba and 4 boreholes VPAs in Zoba Maekel with planned expansion of more borehole VPAs in Zoba Debub through 2016. Borehole repairs are moving at an excellent pace thanks the careful coordination of the Vita team in Eritrea.

I was humbled to have discussions with villagers about the extraordinary improvements that the cookstoves and borehole rehabilitations have made to their lives. To see the look of joy on the faces of women and children as the first jerrycans are filled from new boreholes, some of whom have had to travel for miles to collect water from unsafe sources is something that will live long in my memory.

These are some of the poorest people on earth but the welcome they extended, their unwillingness to let us leave there village without sampling their finest Injera (local bread) and yogurt was truly inspiring. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people. To understand the foundation for this resilience we must consider the history of the African continent. Four hundred years of slave trade. One hundred years of colonialism. This equates to five centuries of external domination. Now Eritrea has a chance to forge its own path. In respect of this, it is a young country (formally becoming independent in 1993) on a young continent.

At co2balance we are determined on improving the lives of Eritrean people. We look forward to expanding our work there. Watch this space for high quality HD footage of the work in Eritrea coming soon.