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.”
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.
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.
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:
View from escarpment
Original water source
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!
Our initial baseline findings before starting off the improved cook stove project in Kisumu East indicated that people are more than willing to shift from using traditional cook stoves to using improved cook stoves only if they perceive a genuine utility value in adopting the improved cook stove. The success of improved cook stoves depends much on its design. The design ought to be well adapted to people’s needs keeping in mind the general design principles of efficiency, emission reduction and ergonomics characteristics that the carbon zero stove exhibit.
The recently concluded Monitoring Kitchen Survey conducted in Kisumu East in August 2016 led us to a household where Masela Odero, a 73 year old widow who lives with her daughter in law in Simboi village that is about 12kms from Kisumu town recounted her story.
Masela noted that “…..The three stone stove wasn’t working for me, because the stones were not stable enough to hold a cooking pot firmly. I kept struggling to adjust the stove size according to the cooking pot size and also regulating the amount of fuel was chaotic .As a result I had to bend in order to cook therefore by the time the meal was ready I was too tired to eat hence I had to look for a quick alternative source of stove .I had to pay a neighbor who was demanding 500/- ksh to build me a none portable stove, little did I know that it was the beginning of my problems.”
She continued to narrate that “First the stove consumed a lot of wood fuel since not all the heat was channeled to the cooking pot also the stove had no liner a whole log would fit in it. The smoke emitted was a major concern because there was blackening of the wall from soot and coughing was inevitable. Cooking wasn’t pleasant because the too much heat would make me stay far away from the stove, to avoid this I told my daughter in law to cook all the time, of course it made her dodge by pretending to go to the river in order to avoid cooking. In addition to all this I had to pay for repairs and maintenance of stove, the clay used was poor quality. Cooking was a chore I enjoyed but now I was made to think twice”.
Further she stated that “Just as I was about to give up on cooking carbon zero distributed improved stoves at no fee and I was a lucky beneficiary. It is fixed thus it eliminates the possibility of it toppling over when the food is being cooked or when children are around. Less firewood is used, which means that the wood burns more efficiently in the improved stove as compared to traditional cook stove. The liner minimizes the smoke emitted outside this reduces Blackening of the walls from the soot. This contributes to a great extent to the comfort of cooking making it enjoyable therefore no more dodging for Selina. For the health benefits my back does not hurt because I sit next to the stove where the heat is easily regulated. The best part about of the stove is that we have contact information of the field officers in case of issues like damages the stove is repaired free of charge hence making it affordable and sustainable for me”.
The above photo shows a different household a woman cooking using traditional stove.
Look at the wall full of soot and the whole log that had to be used. The cracks on the edge clearly show the stove is not stable. The smoke emitted is also very wanting.
The above photo shows Mrs. Odero cooking on a carbon Zero Improved cook stove.
With a smile she says that ….‘‘No trace of smoke is evident, costs on wood is friendly due to low fuel consumption. Sitting next to the stove is easy since it is fixed .the wall is clean and I love cooking all over again. My sincere thanks to Carbon Zero for the great job they do in the rural communities in Kenya and beyond.”
Before the last four years moving most if not all households in Shimba Hills (Maungu, Kasighau, Golini and Muhaka) in Taita Taveta and Kwale Counties were using traditional three-stone fireplace for cooking. During that period women used to spend an average of 15 hours per week collecting fuel wood from local forests in the larger Shimba Hills area for home use. Poverty rate around Shimba Hills is above 50 percent and unemployment above 25 percent. This called for a simple and affordable efficient stove technology to reduce wood consumption and preserve unique vegetation and biodiversity within the region. And that’s how Carbon Zero came into the area and with the support of local leaders in consultation with local community members implemented an energy efficient cook stove project. The project therefore identified the efficient CZK cook stove as an appropriate technology for this region.
The CZK stove is 50 – 60 percent more efficient than the three-stone stove. The project has been lauded by local community members as a life changer and a great step in the right direction. Some of the impacts and benefits of the projects so far include;
A majority of households in Shimba Hills area have benefitted from better air and from having to spend less time for collecting firewood
Over 8,000 efficient cook stoves were installed in the area
Most women have been able to create time to engage in other economic activities raising their income and living standard of their families
A large percentage of beneficiaries say that indoor air quality has improved
Each stove avoids about 3,2 t CO2 and 2 tons wood per year
The project has so far saved massive tonnes of firewood
After four years since the stoves were distributed and optimally being used some started developing cracks and this led to the need to plan and repair and maintain them. The local community members having enjoyed the benefits of the stoves through Carbon Zero field staff send their requests which were positively received and a decision to repair all the damaged stoves made.
One of the stove beneficiaries was quoted saying “…I have been so happy for the last four years I have had my improved CZK stove. And now that it’s cracked I request for it to be fixed as my life seems to be hitting a wall. I can’t imagine using a three stone stove a gain. Before I got the CZK stove I had to go to the forest every day, which is a 15-20km walk with all the heavy wood on my head. Now I only have to go to the forest twice a week. Who wouldn’t want that? That’s the life every woman would want to live.’’
Early this month we took time and assessed all stoves in the region- over 8000 stoves and identified about 300 stoves that needed quick action, of which we repaired and ensured that the owners are able to continue enjoying their services.
This has not only left the stove beneficiaries happy but as ensured that the stoves will continuously be utilized fully for the domestic cooking roles. The benefits associated with the stove usage will continuously be enjoyed by the stove owners. New members in the community are thirsty for the day they will also own the Carbon Zero stove.
With new technology comes better ways of life. Human beings and energy are inseparable. How to sustainably utilize the various energy sources is still a 21st century challenge yet to be properly countered.
Among many rural households wood is the common energy source. It is utilized significantly for rural domestic cooking. In Kasighau division in Voi district this is not an exception. From the ancestors to the current occupants wood fuel as been greatly utilized for domestic cooking. Over the years there as been a rise of population in the division. This as been caused due to immigration in the area in for people to exploit the different precious stones found within the locality. The rise in population can also be attributed to natural increase in birth rate among the local residents. As a result of increase in population there as been over exploitation of wood fuel. All the house holds initially utilised the three stone traditional jiko. This stove is wood wasteful. During cooking a lot of wood was normally consumed with the stove. A lot of fire flames were normally lost since the jiko could not concentrate the flames to the cooking pot. This led to women spending a lot of time in cooking and collecting wood. Many are times when the children slept hungry because they could not wait for long hours while the dinner was being prepared. They could be out won by sleep during the cooking process with the three stone traditional jiko.
Their being a savior in every calamity the donation of fuel efficient Carbon Zero stove (shown in the above picture) to the locals was really timely. The stoves were like an antidote that neutralized the wood crisis which had started to set pace in the area. Now there is all smiles in the face of the women in the locality. With the Carbon Zero stove the women now utilize less time for cooking since the carbon Zero stove concentrates the fire flames to the cooking pot and retains heat within it for a long period. The amount of wood also utilized by the stove is far less compared with the traditional three stove jiko. Since they require little wood cooking with the modern Carbon Zero stove the women in the locality utilize significantly less time for collecting it.
Not only is the stove user friendly but it is also environmental friendly. Over the years that the stove as been in utilization the locals have realized an increase in tree cover in the area. Apart from community sensitization on the need for adopting afforestation programmes in the locality this can also be highly attributed to adoption of fuel efficient Carbon Zero stove for all day to day cooking. The area categorized as an ASAL area is now being endowed with a vast trees cover. Thanks to the conservation King, Carbon Zero stove.
Rains which were not common in the past now are occasionally experienced in Kasighau. This has greatly been influenced by an increase in tree cover in the locality making the environment a bit green something that was not there five years ago.
Compiled by Kenneth Mukuru, Moses Nyaga and Moses Maina
CO2balance celebrated another milestone last week as we issued another of our Kenyan Improved Cook Stove projects under the Gold Standard. Situated in the coastal region of Kenya, the beautiful beaches are a popular tourist destination but local populations are still reliant on wood fuel and traditional three-stone fires for cooking. Over the past years we have monitored how our stoves have been helping to reduce the use of firewood leading to economic and health benefits for local people as well as lowering carbon emissions.
Since 1990 Kenya has lost on average 0.32% forest cover per year and though that does not sound very significant, it equates to more than 250,000 ha. This burden has fallen disproportionately on the coastal region of Kenya where fewer tree cover gains have been observed and our project is one that is helping to combat this decline. Biomass energy has hovered around 70% of total energy requirements for Kenya and seen little reduction in 40 years. 90% of this demand comes from the domestic sector and by providing more efficient cooking stoves, we can help to reduce the total demand for energy and therefore, wood, leading to multiple benefits for local people and the local environment.
Today is the International Day of Forests 2016 and a good time to take note of the importance of forested land (the ‘lungs of the planet’) that covers almost one third of land area of our planet. In our projects and many others, a strong focus is put on the role of forests as a form of carbon storage to counter the increasing anthropogenic carbon emissions, however forest ecosystems provide a variety of other ‘services’ that often go unobserved or unaccounted for.
It is estimated that forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. As well as being important themselves in creating biologically diverse plant ecosystems, they provide a vital habitat to a vast array of animals, many of which are not yet known to science. For humans, this can provide food, medicinal resources and raw wood/plant products for fuel and building materials. Additionally, grazing occurs within forests and local populations often grow rotational crops on temporary plots of land with the forest providing cover and protection.
Forests also play a key role in the hydrological cycle. By stabilising the soil with root structures, slowing the percolation and reducing the total water flow, forests lessen the impact of flooding and erosion, benefitting people far beyond the forest margins. This process greatly increases the water purity through filtration and preserves soil quality across the landscape; improving crop yields and the health of populations that rely on surface water for drinking and washing.
One ‘service’ that is often less considered is the cultural importance. Forests often come to define landscapes and, though it may contribute to the tourism industry, the aesthetics and beauty that they offer is something that cannot be quantified. Places where nature is untainted often carries a spiritual importance, not least for indigenous populations, therefore any destruction of these areas undermines this historical knowledge.
The benefits that humans derive from forests should not be understated; as well as providing a home to hundreds of millions of people, almost a quarter of the global population depend on forests for their livelihood. When considering the vast array of ‘ecosystem services’ that forests provide for humans, the number is probably far greater than that. Every year an area of forest the size of England is lost but, more and more, these benefits are being recognised and celebrated. Today in particular we can try to raise this awareness and encourage the sustainable use of these resources so that they might provide the same benefits to future generations.