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!

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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.

Ethiopia Improved Cookstove Project: Stories from the Field

Meet Mahlet Gebrie .

Mahlet (28) lives with her husband and three young children (aged 3-9) in Birbir town in Mirab Abaya woredas. She is amongst the many unemployed high school graduates in the area. The only income earned is by her husband from hard daily labor, roughly 30 ETB/day (approx. 82p), which is insufficient to cover the basic necessities for the family, including food, clothing, medication, school fees and equipment.

In 2017 co2balance with Vita (an Irish NGO working on the ground in Ethiopia) launched an improved cookstove carbon-offset project in Mirab Abaya and Chencha woredas.

As well as displacing carbon emissions, our projects also support the local economy and empower women in the project country, tackling key developmental hindrances. As such, the project provided technical training to two local women’s enterprise groups, teaching them how to construct improved cookstoves. The project also provided financial and management training, teaching the women well-rounded, transferable skills. Following training and support, their production capacity increased from 10 to 40 stoves a day.

The Bemenet Mirt Improved Cookstove Producing Enterprise during production.

One of the enterprises is ‘Bemenet Mirt Improved Cookstove Producing Enterprise’ that comprises of 10 previously unemployed women. Overall, the enterprise has supplied over 2000 improved cookstoves on a subsidised system. With a rate of 180 ETB percook stove (approx. £4.80), the enterprise has earned a gross income of 360,000 ETB (approx. £9770.00). Mahlet has been elected as the chair of this enterprise, managing the women and finances. Mahlet and the other women members share the dividend monthly, earning a monthly income.

The project has changed Mahlet and her family’s lives, providing a secure job, training and income. Outside of her duty in the enterprise, she has progressed with her education, and has graduated with a diploma in business administration. The additional income has allowed her family to build a new, beautiful house, which they have wanted to do for a long time. Mahlet and her husband are now leading a successful life, able to afford food, medication when needed, clothes and school uniforms and equipment for her children.

Mahlet and the Enterprise are now planning for the future and aim to purchase a vehicle to offer cookstove distribution services, as well as exploring the possibility of expanding the enterprises’ activities to include the production of bricks for the construction of buildings in the local community.    

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2016 the UN launched SDGs, a set of 17 measurable goals which together form a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

The project contributes to many of the SDGs, in particular:

Our improved cookstove projects have a range of positive impacts, not only to the project beneficiaries who receive the stoves, but to women who, through support from the project, produce the cookstoves for distribution.

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!

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!

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.