The Joy of Cooking Together….

Carbon Zero Kenya Limited though not so pronounced remains a huge player in environmental conservation initiatives in Africa for instance  considering its efforts to combat effects of climate change in Kenya. Over the past few years Carbon Zero has helped install over 65,000 cook stoves in the country which have gone a long way in reducing wood use and thus emission reductions. Among the many beneficiaries of Carbon Zero improved energy efficient cook stoves in Kenya are members of Kasighau location in Taita-Taveta district of Coast province. Kasigau location is a semi-arid land with magnificent Kasighau hills.

Since the installation of Carbon Zero stoves many benefits have been realized by the stove beneficiaries and the general community at large. Before the distribution of Carbon Zero stoves locals here used the three stone fires. As a result their kitchens were marred with smoke. These smoke kept men from these kitchens leaving women to “die” alone. Kids would occasionally come in either to help with a few kitchen chores or to get a share of their meals. The male partner (husbands) completely avoided the place and their share of the meal could be taken and consumed away from the kitchen. This was because the kitchen was always filled with irritating smoke and ash.

The smoky, ash filled kitchen could not be tolerated by the African man (husband) who is, according to the traditional and cultural perspective, superior in the family and his role in the family, being equated with that of a king. In Kasighau location we meet Mzee Muinde’s family and listened to their story before and after getting the carbon zero stoves, what has changed and how, what has been their experience etc.

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After installation of Carbon Zero stoves the situation has drastically changed. There has been an increase in the involvement of male family members in kitchen cooking chores. This is because cooking has become easy and convenient for them.  A smokeless kitchen is a major factor for the male family members to be involved. This has made the female members proud and happy as their male counterparts help in the cooking chores as demonstrated by Mrs. Muinde’s story.

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Below; Mzee Muinde helping his wife prepare chapatis: An increase in male family members participation on cooking chores has been realized in the area since inception of Carbon Zero stoves.     muk-1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Below; Mzee Muinde, 3rd from left, in the baraza meeting where he is the baraza’s secretary: unlike in the past, male members in the community can now help in the kitchen chores and still hold their positions in the society.

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Based on this encounter, not only is The Carbon Zero Company providing beneficiaries with energy efficient and clean cooking stoves but also impacting their social lives positively. By involvement of the male partners in routine kitchen chores, there is reduction in the kitchen work load which was primarily for women alone. Women have more time to rest and also engage themselves in developmental issues that affect the society. The family harmony and unity is enhanced when the male and female partners co-operate in the kitchen chores. What used to be a social unit in theory is now a social unit practically.

 

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Offsetting Companies = Greener Companies?

A new survey is out at the moment, run by the UNFCCC and the International Carbon Reduction & Offset Alliance (or ICROA for short), to look into the drivers behind corporates voluntarily offsetting their carbon footprint.  Imperial College London are running the survey and I’d recommend that you have your say.

For me it is quite clear – it’s about taking responsibly for your own carbon footprint.  If we all did that then climate change would be a lot easier to deal with.  While many companies that do offset do have this as their central reason, many use offsetting as a business driver, with green marketing and staff engagement all sound reasons.  As far as the planet is concerned, as long as action is taken, emissions reduced and resources use prudently then other drivers are secondary.

The favourite bit of mud to throw at carbon offsetting is that it gives companies licence to carry on polluting, pretty damming statement hey? Er, no.  The irony is that this is exactly the opposite.  The report by Ecosystems Marketplace “The Bottom Line: Taking Stock of the Role of Offsets in Corporate Carbon Strategies” showed that companies that take action and offset their emissions are more likely to take action on reducing emissions and energy usage compared on non offsetters.

  • offset buyers slashed their direct emissions by almost 17%, while non-buyers only reduced emissions by less than 5%.
  • offset buyers were more engaged in direct emission reduction activities compared to non-offset buyers.

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It would be too simplistic to say all offsetting companies are green companies; but from the look of it, they are a lot greener than those that do not….

Cooking with a Difference

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”.

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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.

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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.”

By Christine Nabutete and Moses Maina

Doing Firewood Maths

In our daily work at Carbon Zero we interact with community members using our improved cook stoves. And last week was no different. Our field staffs in Kisumu East were out in the community creating awareness on the usage of the improved stove. While in the field they met a lady by the name Emma Anyango one of the many Carbon Zero improved cook stoves beneficiaries in the area.  Speaking to her; she noted that that she is 33 years of age, married with three children.

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As we sort to understand from her if the CZK stove has had any impact on her life Emma narrated that ….”Initially, being a house wife, made me depend on my husband who is a water vendor, for financial support. The money he provided was not sufficient to cater for all our needs. He could hardly afford getting us basic needs.  Before receiving the improved cook stove from carbon zero Kenya, I used to use the three stone stove which used to consume a lot of fuel. The traditional stove was so wasteful, consuming a lot of fuel.’’

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She continued saying……’’ Our village is approximately 7kms from the nearest forest; hence the only way to get fuel is through purchasing in the market. The fuel prices are high and worst they also fluctuate during the rainy season making it difficult to save. I would buy 5 bundles a week which cost me ksh 1000/- and still add some more in the middle of the week and the amount of smoke emitted made me cough and my eyes watery making cooking a pitiable affair. I would spend a lot more taking my three kids to hospital as they were always coughing – respiratory diseases were just too much. Hospital bills were making me and my husband even more poor as time went by.’’

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Emma further stated that….’’being a beneficiary of the CZK stove changed my life completely. First, I got to interact with Christine Atira, a regional CZK staff in this area, she held my hand and taught me how to use the stove. She emphasized on climate change issues and the need to protect the environment by proper wood management. The CZK stove uses less fuel wood while retaining heat. Now I buy 2 bundles of wood which cost me kshs 400/= in a week thus saving KES 600/-, money I managed to save overtime and opened up a small shop selling general household items. This has helped us as a family increase our income. Now I no longer depend on my husband for everything, I support him in paying fees for our kids plus catering for other basic needs for our family. With the shop I can afford a decent meal for my kids who are now healthier and even perfuming better in school. All I can say is that let Carbon Zero continue with this initiative to reach out to many more families that are equally suffering. Cooking may sound like a non-issue in a household but it plays a key role in the overall survival of a family. To be sincere Carbon Zero made me a proud African woman. Now my kitchen is very clean and cooking has been made a wonderful experience.’’

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Beyond carbon offsetting – the additional benefits of impact carbon

Offsetting one tonne of carbon dioxide brings an additional $664 in benefits to the communities where carbon reduction projects are based, according to research published today.

The research, carried out by Imperial College London in partnership with the International Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Alliance (ICROA), demonstrates how purchasing carbon credits creates economic development opportunities, aids environmental conservation and helps improve people’s lives by delivering household savings, health benefits and improving water resources, among other social benefits.

The amount of carbon reduced by such projects has been rigorously measured and independently verified for many years, but to date there has not been academic research conducted to measure and value the impact of investing in carbon offset programmes beyond reducing emissions. This research finds that each tonne of carbon reduced has additional benefits – such as poverty alleviation, infrastructure development and nature conservation – worth  $664, meaning that businesses which are voluntarily offsetting their emissions are having a bigger impact than perceived.

Projects such as CO2balance's Improved Cook Stoves, provide social and health benefits as well as carbon saving.

Projects such as CO2balance’s Improved Cook Stoves in Kenya and Rwanda, provide social and health benefits as well as carbon saving.

The findings of the study also demonstrate that businesses with offsetting programmes report corporate benefits such as enhanced brand image, engaged employees and market differentiation.

“The voluntary carbon market is a smart opportunity for businesses to consider as part of their sustainability strategies,” says ICROA Programme Director, Sophy Greenhalgh. “This research demonstrates offset programmes deliver numerous business objectives, such as employee engagement and resource efficiency savings, and make a positive contribution to local communities in addition to reducing emissions.”

“By utilising latest natural capital accounting methodologies, we have been able to demonstrate the impact offset projects are delivering on the ground,” says Yiannis Kountouris, an environmental economist at Imperial College.

Better identification and measurement of the extra social benefits of buying carbon credits could encourage more governments, companies and individuals to invest in projects that make a real difference to communities around the world, whilst reducing dangerous carbon emissions, finds the report.   To download a copy of the report please follow this link on the ICROA website

The stove and borehole projects that we run in Africa are a perfect example of going beyond carbon saving, providing quantifiable impacts to the community – please contact us for more information about how you and your company can make these impacts.