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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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!

CSR Project in Rwanda – Update on Impacts

In 2017, CO2balance has been building on its successful carbon offset projects in Rwanda by conducting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project. Building on CO2balance’s work to provide communities with clean water in Gatsibo district, the CSR project has ensured that 4 primary schools have the facilities to make the best possible use of their water supply. This has involved the provision of handwashing facilities to schools where previously none existed, as well as rehabilitation of school toilet facilities to ensure that they are hygienic, lockable and private.

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A handwashing point in use at Kiramuruzi Primary School

This work has been complemented by building the capacity of schools to promote hygiene and sanitation. This began in early 2017, with the training by Rwandans 4 Water of teachers and groups of pupils on approaches to hygiene and sanitation. This led to the creation of WASH clubs in all 4 schools, which now meet on a weekly basis during term time and give presentations in school assemblies on the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene.

Ruth Muhorakeye, who is Deputy Head Teacher at Gorora Primary School which has been participating in the project, has given very positive feedback on the impact of these WASH activities. She notes that prior to the project, the remoteness of the school meant that having access to WASH information and facilities was a major challenge, but that she has seen major changes in recent months: “Making the toilet facilities private and enclosed was very important for the dignity of the pupils here, especially for the girls who suffered great shame at having nowhere to privately relieve themselves. We are very happy that pupils don’t have to worry about this anymore. We now see pupils washing their hands every time they use the latrine, and following the WASH training, teachers report that children are now engaging much more enthusiastically in keeping the classrooms and school clean.”

The CSR project’s other main activity has been the installation at each school of solar panels for lighting and charging points. This has been a major development, bringing electricity and light to the schools for the first time, as they are all located in areas which are not year linked to the national grid. This has been a tipping point, opening up major new opportunities for the schools. For example, Ntete Primary School had previously been provided with a laptop but had no way in which to charge it. However, the installation of a solar charging point has allowed this to be kept charged up, enabling teachers to download recent curriculum materials via mobile internet and present to pupils on subject matter to which they had previously had no access.

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A classroom lit up by a solar-powered light

Another impact reported by all primary schools has been that having light in classrooms for the first time has enabled them to keep the doors open in the evening, allowing pupils to study after hours. This is a major development, as the majority of pupils did not previously have lights in their homes, making it very difficult to complete homework. The benefits of this have been most keenly felt by pupils in class P6, the top year of primary school, who have been able to study in the evenings in preparation for their final exams, which are essential for gaining entry to secondary school.

The project has now passed its mid-point and will run until April 2018, when Rwandans 4 Water will hand over the continuation of the activities to the headteachers of the schools involved. Watch this space for more updates in the coming months!

Toshiba CarbonZero scheme: towards the SDGs in Kenya and Uganda

2017 has been a historic year so far in the Toshiba CarbonZero scheme, which is based on a partnership between CO2balance and Toshiba TEC going back to 2009. Through this scheme, Toshiba TEC offsets the emissions caused by producing and distributing Multi-Function Printers. It does so by purchasing credits generated through CO2balance’s projects to promote fuel-efficient cookstoves in Kenya and to provide clean, safe drinking water to rural communities in Uganda. As we reported a few months ago, as of January 2017 the scheme is now officially supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Whilst measurable indicators have been submitted to the UN to demonstrate quantitatively how the scheme is advancing the SDGs, the progress at a human level has been best demonstrated by the case studies that have been published in each month of 2017. Two case studies have been released through the Toshiba website each month of the year so far. These real life stories show the profound human impacts of the scheme, with tangible improvements on the lives of individuals that go well beyond reducing CO2 emissions.

A particular highlight is the story of Christina Mashala in Kenya, who describes how receiving a fuel-efficient stove has greatly improved her family’s health by reducing their smoke inhalation. This prevents them from suffering constant respiratory illnesses and saves them large amounts of money that they previously spent on medicines. This story shows the contribution the Toshiba CarbonZero scheme has made towards achieving SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing).

Elsewhere, the story of Alex Ongora’s family in Uganda shows how access to safe water from the borehole in their community has saved them countless hours spent travelling far to collect water and saved them large amounts of money that they used to spend on medicine to treat diarrhoea. With the time and money saved, the family is now operating a successful business of growing and selling hot chillies, demonstrating the strides that have been taken in the scheme towards SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

These stories provide an inspirational insight into the many co-benefits of this pioneering scheme. You can see the full range of stories through the Toshiba website, and we’ll look forward to bringing you more stories in October, November and December – watch this space!