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.

Handwashing point

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.

Light in classroom

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!

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Sadly; Women are primary wood-fuel collectors

Cooking is a very simple art but with far reaching effects to millions of people under the sun. It is estimated that globally more than three billion people currently rely on solid fuels. Most of this wood is collected from forests.  Worst of all is that in Africa, burden of wood fuel collection still lies on women and girls who need to shoulder effects that come with it i.e. walking for long distances and exposure to many risks including; animal attacks, rape etc.

In the effort to liberate women and empower them while at the same mitigating Climate change and indoor air pollution in Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has continued promoting the use of clean energy and improving community livelihoods. In the Mathira east project, the company continues to advocate and champion adoption of clean and energy efficient cook stoves not only to campaign against green house gas emissions but also improving the lives of the community both economically and socially. Notable features of the Carbon Zero stove is in its state- of –the- art construction technology which highly contributes to over 50 % energy saving by use of lesser fuel as well as lesser smoke emissions due a longer combustion chamber which allows for complete combustion of gases.

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Margret Gathoni is an Elder in Thagana village in Mathira sub-county of the central region of Kenya, one of the Carbon Zero cook stove project areas. She has been with CZK team since the issuance of CZK ICS, through to education of beneficiaries .She liaised with other area leaders within her sub county and project officers to ensure the her community members take advantage of the project by getting rid of all three stone stoves in exchange of the improved cook stoves distributed in the area by Carbon Zero.  In this locality, wood fuel is a scarce commodity and the cost has risen as more and more forests were being cleared for wood fuel.

Gathoni has been a key role model in her community through active mobilizing women to form Self Help Groups under the umbrella of Carbon Zero project, Mathira. In these groups, women are educated on the benefits that come by use of carbon zero stoves, and the importance of conserving our forests.

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Gathini says that many women since acquiring the ICS have been freed, and rather than spend too much time in the forests looking for firewood they are now able to actively engage in income generating activities boosting their family’s revenues. She further says that most women have enough time to fully participate in other development activities and not just searchers of wood fuel as the case was before. And this has made women more productive.  She says that many women in the area are now doing mixed farming, while others are in small businesses. She adds that this  has empowered women as they are able to contribute towards the family needs as well unlike before when women could hardly do anything else since they would spend most of their time looking for wood fuel which wasted  a lot of time impoverishing them and their families.

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Projections for climate change indicate that it will increase the fuelwood-stress in the developing nations if not managed through technology i.e. increase adoption of ICS. With further reduction of forests for farming, urbanization and firewood the role for women as wood searchers is going to be more of an uphill battle. And for this reason Carbon Zero continues to work with rural communities in Kenya to help fight climate change and this social dimension challenge that affects engagement of women in development activities.

 

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.

 

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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The taste of clean water

When developing a borehole project, one might think that the hardest part is the physical rehabilitation and the siting of the boreholes. However there are many challenges which appear only in the second phase of the project, once the boreholes are providing safe water. We have met one of these challenges when some locals reported that the water from our freshly rehabilitated boreholes is salty and not palatable for few users in our Rwandan project. These feedback were unexpected because the water quality tests carried out by a recognized laboratory showed that all tested parameters are well within the acceptable range. What could have been the problem then?

According to our field team, locals have been drinking warm and dirty water from lakes and pond which might have tasted sweeter than the fresh and clean water coming from the boreholes. Our NGO partner reported about similar experience in other clean water project.

The laboratory has also confirmed that the underlying reason is that groundwater often has higher levels of dissolved solids than surface water because of its contact with aquifer geologic material and more time to dissolve rock and mineral materials. To explore the issue more in-depth, conductivity of the borehole water was tested, which is an indicator of the amount of dissolved salts and used to estimate the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) rather than measuring each dissolved constituent separately. This is an important parameter for drinking water because high TDS values may result in a ‘salty’ taste to the water.

All our TDS results for our rehabilitated boreholes have been well within the limit and range required in the “WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality, Fourth Edition” and we found it important to share it also with our local borehole users. The issue has been incorporated into the WASH education and community sensitization programme to make sure that people are aware why the borehole water may taste “salty” after years of drinking surface water. The success of the WASH programme is confirmed by the field team and in-country partners but also by the usage survey which now shows 100% usage of the rehabilitated boreholes.

Developing Leaders

On Tuesday the 25th March we welcomed Dr Ian Williams from CaplorHorizons into the CO2balance office in Taunton to provide leadership training to various members of the organisation. Amongst other things CaplorHorizons aims to inspire sustainability in business and communities as well as delivering training programmes that build remarkable teams. The session covered many areas and there was plenty to take on board as we thought about what makes an effective leader and how we might improve our own leadership styles.

Leadership Training

Successful roll out of stoves in Likoni

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Over the past couple of months our field staff in Likoni, Kenya, have been on the ground distributing our new energy efficient improved cook stoves. These stoves are much more efficient and resource-friendly than traditional stoves or three-stone-fires.

The project received a number of positive responses from several women’s groups in Likoni. The adoption and sustained use of the new stoves will lead to improved livelihoods through improved health, time savings for households and other indirectly derived economic benefits.

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The stoves were purchased by the end users at a subsidized cost and the stove adoption rate was quite high. This was partly due to the scarcity of firewood and the rising cost of fuel wood in the area.

co2balance also provided training on how to use and maintain the new stove. This capacity building approach was essential for the success of the project. Money saved from using the improved cookstoves could used to cover immediate needs such as food, medicine and clothes. Time saved from not having to collect firewood and faster cooking times could be used for other household tasks, farming and other income-generating activities.