Counting the cost

Human life requires cooking, which means having access to fuel. Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families.

For anyone who relies on an open fire to cook daily meals, the need for fuel rivals that for food itself. It’s common knowledge that almost everywhere on earth people cook, but that is not all, the question is yes you cook; but how do you do it? Are you using the traditional three stone stoves or an energy efficient stove? And do you know that the stove you use for cooking has an effect on your health, the environment and even beyond? According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, up to 1.6 million women and children die every year from breathing polluted air in their homes. Respiratory and vision problems occur in mostly women and children because they spend significant time indoors tending to cooking fires.

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Another critique with traditional wood fires is the 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. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.

Even worse is the fact that the burden of accessing firewood  always fall on women and girls, as they are responsible for cooking family meals in most rural communities. This compels them to walk for long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families. Firewood collection is at times incredibly dangerous, exposing them to the risk of physical and sexual violence. Sadly, every day, millions of women and children risk being raped, attacked either my human beings with ulterior motives or even animals as they collect firewood.

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From the above photo Carbon Zero as one of the main environmental companies in Kenya is tackling these issues 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 their 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.

Forests Matter, they do!

Gathering from studies done by FAO, Forest Resource Assessment 1990, Kenya is classified among the countries with low forest cover of less than 2% of the total land area. Forests are a vital resource supporting the livelihoods of rural communities in Kenya. In spite of this significant role, human activities have put increased pressure on this resource, leading to continued forest-cover decline.

Kenya’s forests are rapidly declining due to pressure from increased population and other land uses. With a substantial size of the country being arid and semi-arid, there is a lot of strain on the rest of the land since the economy is natural resource based. The dwindling forest cover has a severe effect on the climate, wildlife, streams and human population in general.

From one generation to the other Kenyans have been munching away the environmental resource through firewood harvesting and charcoal burning without regard for their future.  For instance Shimba Hills Forest in the coastal region of Kenya  is a National Reserve that lies approximately 33km south of Mombasa town, in Kwale district of coast province. Due to the insatiable need for wood fuel many trees have been cut as people seek fuel for cooking their meals at home on the wood extravagant traditional three stone. These uncontrolled anthropogenic activities endangered the existence of this very vital forest.shimba forest - 2

Carbon Zero Kenya with the understanding that logging forests for wood fuel contributes to global warming through removing significant sources of sequestered carbon started working with local communities within Shimba Hills forest to salvage the forest through the distribution of energy efficient cook stoves.

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Carbon Zero stoves saw the facing out of the “wood extravagant” traditional three stone stoves within the area as a greater way in cutting down wood use and thus saving the forest. This has indeed resulted in immense savings in terms of the wood being used for cooking ultimately reducing pressure on the forest giving it a chance to restore itself for the past four years.

Speaking to Anindo one of the Carbon Zero improved cook stove beneficiaries in the area she says that having had no other alternative but to use the three stone stove her family and the whole community at large watched the forest cover in their vicinity shrink alarmingly without being replenished. Like millions of other rural households in Kenya, Anindo’s family before getting the Carbon Zero improved cook stove used an average of 12 kilogrammes of dry wood a day to cook on their three stone stove – the equivalent of a three-year fast growing tree, according to a recent study by FAO.

When Carbon Zero visited her community in Shimba Hills six years ago, the wanton destruction of trees in the area was evident in the bundles of stacked firewood besides various houses in the community for use during the rainy season. Anindo explains that normally they used to cut down trees during the dry spell for use as firewood when the rain sets in. That was their tradition since she was born. And sadly this led to massive forest destruction.

However she points with some hope that ever since the community received improved cook stoves from Carbon Zero their wood usage has significantly gone down. This has led to reduced cutting down of trees and thus the revamping of the Shimba Hills forest.

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Anindo regrets the harsh realities of climate change attributed to failure to responsibly manage Mother Nature in a sustainable way.  While most parts of the country experience heavy rains, Shimba Hills, which has suffered wanton destruction of trees, hasn’t received any meaningful rainfall in several seasons. She says that prior to the coming of Carbon Zero to the community she never used to plant any tree, everyone was cutting down trees minus thinking of re-planting. But since the coming of Carbon Zero to the area apart from distributing improved cook stoves Carbon Zero staff have been on the frontline creating  awareness on tree planning which has seen many fruits.

Anindo indicates that considering the value they have as a community received for using energy efficient cook stoves from Carbon Zero and for the country to be saved from forest destruction Kenyans must adopt energy saving technologies to stem the tide while they are encouraged to grow more trees because the current conservation efforts are not enough to replenish what is getting lost every day. She finalizes saying that as  a country we  must use all means available to create awareness and entice Kenyans to join hands in planting trees to save this country from the adverse effects of climate change.

Costly Smoke

According to WHO indoor smoke from coal, wood or dung – used as cooking fuel by more than 3 billion people worldwide – ranks ahead of unsafe water as a cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. Almost 2 million deaths a year are caused by cooking smoke, which is linked to pneumonia in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birth weight babies and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families. Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire annually kills 1.6 million adults and children annually.

In Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has worked with local community members distributing rocket stoves to help reduce effects of three stone fires. The rocket stoves have been praised by various users in local communities because they save precious wood while reducing cutting of forests, reduces the risk of children injured by fire, and not least the flex oven create less smoke indoors, which is vital for health. Many say the rocket stoves have simplified cleaned their kitchens by sending away smoke.

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Recently in one of our community cook stove projects in Western Kenya in Kisumu we visited Mary Akeyo one of our rocket stove beneficiaries who shared her experience having used the Carbon Zero Kenya rocket stove for the last five years. Mary explained that prior to getting the rocket stove she used to have a traditional three stone stove, which would emit a lot of smoke that affected her and her family. The stove would emit smoke that made her and her three kids cough a lot forcing them to seek medical attention many times, at least thrice a month where they were charged about Kes 300 per checkup per person. This saw her family spent at least KES 1500 per month.

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Also she explained that during this period she had issues with her eyes, shedding tears while cooking even her husband couldn’t support her with the cooking chores as he feared the smoke. Her kids could not even read while at home as the smoke would not provide a conducive environment for them to study. But today she is happy to cook anytime as the smoke is a gone case, her kids can study freely, the many visits she used to go to hospital for treatment of coughs are no longer there, she is happy. Even her husband can afford to cook a meal or two for his family as the kitchen is clean. She further explains that her cooking pots are clean too unlike before when they were all infested with smoke.

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Mary explains that smoke is really dangerous and without one noticing it has effects that can even cause death. She explains the difficulty in breaking her youngest child used to have and how scared she would be at times thinking her kid would collapse and die, she even feared living her kids at home alone. But to her excitement all these are no longer part of her worries. She even says that part of the money she has managed to save from going to hospital for medical checkups she has used to it to feed her family. She is really excited about the rocket stove. As we finalize our chat with Mary she reminds us that smoke is dangerous!

 

Not just about cooking!!!!

Cooking on a three stone stove is the cheapest way to prepare food in many parts of the world. This is because to assemble a three stone stove you only require three suitable stones of the same height on which a cooking pot is balanced over a fire. That’s how cheap the stove is. This make many families across the word especially in Africa fall for them.

Ok cheap is expensive, many say so and indeed even in the cooking sector this turns out to be true. The seemingly cheap stove on the contrary has many problems:

  • The inefficient transfer of energy requires the user to use more wood fuel, increasing the amount of wood harvested from the surrounding environment. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.
  • Smoke is vented into the home, instead of outdoors, causing health problems.
  • Only one cooking pot can be used at a time.
  • The use of an open fire creates a risk of burns and scalds. Especially when the stove is used indoors, cramped conditions make adults and particularly children susceptible to falling or stepping into the fire and receiving burns.

The World Health Organization has documented a significant number of deaths caused by smoke from home fires. The negative impacts of such a process of cooking can be reduced by using improved cook stoves.

 In Kaptagat in the vast Rift Valley Region of Kenya we visit one of the Co2balance improved cook stove beneficiaries Alice Kiplimo who tells us  “Tangu nipewe hii jiko nimefurahia sana kwa sababu inafanya kazi harakana inatumia kuni chache(since I was given this stove five years ago it cooks faster and also consumes less wood”. She adds that because of its efficiency on wood usage it saves her time and in that she is able to do other activities that are incomes generating promoting the living standards of her family. For instance the time she would use going to collect firewood in the forest she tends her small piece of land with passion fruits that when ripe gives her up to 200/- per kilo, and she makes up to 15 – 20 kilos per week.

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In her explanation she manages to clearly exhibit how the improved Co2balance stove has not only helped her change her cooking conditions but how the stove has changed her life as a whole. She says that before receiving the improved cook stove from Co2balance she used to use a three stove which consumed excess wood not allowing her have any extra time for any other activity; she basically would spend all her free time in the forest looking for firewood. However after getting the Co2balance improved cook stove which uses less fuel she has had many benefits; reduce wood fuel consumption by almost a half, improved health – more coughing like before, less time spent searching for wood etc. She explains how the improved stove has freed her allowing her function fully being her family’s bread-winner being able to invest in her farm planting passion fruits and having time to manage the fruits well. And as a single mother of two this has helped get earn an income which is helping her sustain her family.

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With this living story it’s now possible to see the bigger picture and realize that improved cook stoves are not just for cooking.  They change lives beyond cooking.

Over the years Co2balance has been a front runner in improving access to affordable and reliable energy services for cooking in developing countries. And it’s on this basis that it has invested in over 67,000 improved cook stoves distributed across Kenya and still seeks to partner with like minded organizations to reach many more families which are still in dire need for an improved cook stove because it understands that it’s not just about cooking.

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.

Successful Issuance – Rwandan Cookstove Project

It is never late to share good news: we have issued over 30,000 credits from our Rwandan cookstove projects last December! It was the second issuance for the GS1267 which was the our first project to be implemented in Rwanda. The cookstoves in that specific VPA have been operational since early 2014 and are still in use in the stove beneficiaries households. Fortunately in the past three years there was no need for stove reparation, only the replacement of the wood grates at few households, confirming the durability of the in-house designed improved cookstove.

Below are few pictures about the improved cookstoves from the most recent trip to Rwanda. More pictures from the field will come soon, stay tuned!

Toshiba and CO2balance – partners for sustainable development

Since 2009, Toshiba TEC, a global leader in manufacturing printers and other electronic devices, has been partnering with CO2balance to deliver the Carbon Zero Scheme. Through this scheme, the company offsets the CO2 emissions caused by its production and distribution of Multi-Function Printers by supporting rural communities in Kenya to access fuel-efficient cookstoves and repairing boreholes in Uganda to ensure that communities can access safe water. The scheme has been remarkably successful, with over 430,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions prevented by the end of 2015, and we’re delighted to announce that in its current cycle, the scheme is now officially supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs were agreed in 2015 and set out an ambitious and expansive agenda to tackle the great challenges facing our planet and its people, plants and animals. Throughout 2017, case studies of people in Kenya and Uganda that are taking part in the scheme’s projects will be published on the Toshiba website, demonstrating the positive impacts for individuals in some of the poorest communities in the world. These case studies will also show how changes to the livelihoods individuals are a crucial part of the achievement of the SDGs. Several different SDGs are supported by the scheme, including:

SDG 1 (No Poverty): By supporting communities with fuel-efficient stoves or with a pure water supply that is drinkable straight from the source and does not require boiling to make it safe, the need for households to spend hours every day collecting firewood is reduced. This helps free up time for farmers like Vincent Ogwong, who can now focus on developing businesses to increase household income to invest in food and in educating his children.

SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing): Fuel-efficient stoves reduce the smoke inhalation suffered by families throughout sub-Saharan Africa by cooking on open fires in the home, thereby reducing exposure to respiratory problems.

SDG 13 (Climate Action): Introducing fuel-efficient stoves and removing the need to boil water to make it safe greatly reduces the volume of firewood burned by households, thereby reducing the resulting CO2 emissions. It is estimated that 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions will be prevented by the project activities in the current project cycle (April 2016-March 2018). The reduced dependence on firewood will also remove a cause of deforestation in the communities involved, ensuring that trees are preserved to sequester CO2.

We’re really excited to be involved in this scheme and to be making such a tangible contribution to these goals which are set to have such a positive impact in the coming years. You can check out the profile and details of the Toshiba Carbon Zero Scheme on the SDGs website and of course follow the CO2balance blog for regular updates!