Introducing myself

Hi everyone,

I’m Oscar, the new Carbon Projects Officer joining the CO2balance team here in sunny Taunton. I’m told this is a tradition, so allow me to introduce myself.

I’ve always loved the natural world, so initially went down the path of science, studying for a Masters in Applied Ecology at Imperial College London. Yet it was here that I discovered the SDGs and their potential for the world, and discovered a newfound passion for international development.

I joined the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Rome, where I had the privilege of carbon auditing large-scale agricultural projects in Mozambique and Vietnam.

Seeking the rural life, I then ran off to the mountains of Nepal to live and work in a remote village with a charity for four months, learning the value of small-scale projects to improving people’s lives.

I must say, I’m truly impressed by all that CO2balance has achieved. The fact that the company is growing so rapidly is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone, the team past and present. So I’m delighted to be joining at this exciting time and be able to contribute to this growth, be it through projects in climate-smart agriculture (my specialism at the FAO) or traversing new lands in Africa and Asia.

Outside of work, I’m usually found rock climbing, surfing, playing tai chi, eating cake or learning something new – I describe myself as a philomath (a lover of learning) and hunter-gatherer of interestingness, so am never far from an interesting book or lecture.

Thank you to everyone for such a warm welcome. I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Capture1

Overlooking the historic Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Advertisements

2018 .eu Web Awards Gala

On 21st November 2018, EURid for the 5th year running, held their .eu Web Awards which attracted 5 categories namely –

  • The Laurels – won by Fetfx.eu
  • The Leaders – won by Sorbum.eu
  • Rising Star – won by Naturalself.eu
  • Better World – won by Stardustproject.eu
  • House of .eu – won by Socialeurope.eu

with a couple of Special Commendations to Macty.eu and Dodoni.eu.

The 2018 .eu Web Awards competition recorded over 200 nominations with close to 10 000 votes during the nomination and voting period. The winners were announced at the 2018 gala, which took place in Brussels, Belgium at the Theatre du Vaudeville on 21 November 2018. The gala also hosted spectacular performances from the London based band, Blue, in addition to Hungarian pianist and composer, Balázs Havasi.

Co2balance that presented the award for Better World was represented by Grace Ayoo (Project Development Coordinator), Lucas Emmerson (Programme Manager) and James Walker (Carbon Projects Officer).

EURid through its Going Green programme supports borehole rehabilitation projects in Uganda with a focus on the Districts of Dokolo, Otuke and Alebtong .Through co2balance, their goal in the Ugandan Borehole project is to support Ugandan communities to repair and maintain broken boreholes in order to restore access to clean, safe drinking water.

On behalf of everyone at co2balance, a big thank you to the EURid team and congratulations to the incredible winners in the 5 different categories.

The Web Awards Gala in pictures

 

A visit with clients to the Pearl of Africa – Lango sub-region, Uganda

In October I travelled to Uganda to meet with the CO2balance Uganda team, partner NGOs and local officials.

Presentation & gifts (34)

Welcoming assembly

The trip included visiting our borehole projects in Kaliro and Lango. It was great to meet our committed and knowledgeable team and partners, who do a wonderful job in implementing the projects. Each borehole is managed by a Water Resource Committee, made up of local borehole users who ensure the borehole is kept clean and functioning. The Committees are trained to be “gender sensitive” and each have a gender balance of 50/50.

The main purpose of the trip was to host clients who were visiting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project that they had funded in addition to offsetting their CO2 emissions through the Lango Safe Water Project. The CSR project worked in 2 primary schools: rehabilitating rainwater harvesting systems in both, and fixing a borehole in one and building a new pit latrine in the other.

Pit Latrines old & new (25)

The new pit latrine at one primary school makes people jump for joy!

The impact of this project was fantastic. The new pit latrine gave girls a safe, hygienic and private place to use the toilet and change. This is particularly important for those in their monthly menstrual cycle. The Head Teacher said that it has reduced absenteeism and has a huge positive impact on education. The rehabilitated borehole on the school grounds gives pupils a source of clean water, without which they had to walk for many kilometres to fetch water. Again, this impacts upon education as pupils no longer tire themselves by walk to and carrying heavy loads of water. The rainwater harvesting systems capture rainwater and store it in the 16,000 litres tanks. This can be used for washing hands, cooking, cleaning and drinking.

Rain Harvesting tank (7)

Pupils now have a water source on the school grounds

It was wonderful to see the impacts these projects are having on the pupils and their communities. The visit gave the clients the opportunity to see their work first-hand and meet the people who are benefiting from the projects. Because of the stories, songs, dances and messages of thanks they received, as well as observing the projects in action, they were able to take these stories back to their company, family and friends to spread the message of sustainability. As a gesture of thanks from the schools, they received traditional water containers, brushes, 3 chickens, 2 doves and a sheep.

Expansion in the Lango Sub-region – more clean safe water

When CO2balance moved to Uganda 5 years ago with its borehole rehabilitation project, the rural areas of Northern Uganda had suffered many years of civil unrest by rebel activities that left its water infrastructure wanting. The indigenous people typically depended on wood fuel, using inefficient three stone open fires to purify their drinking and cooking water leading to emissions from the combustion of wood.

It started with the rehabilitation and maintenance of 41 boreholes in the Lango sub-region in the districts of Otuke, Alebtong, Dokolo and Kole. Since then it has moved to expand and develop its rehabilitation project, fixing and maintaining up to 141 boreholes which are currently functional and serving over 80,000 people up from 20,000 at the start of the project in 2013. This has been made possible because CO2balance has ensured that there is participation at all levels by working extensively with the communities and other local stakeholders who have been a great support system.

Here are some photos from the recent borehole rehabilitation done in May

Much as the expansions have contributed to widespread clean safe water coverage, there are still many cases of dependence on unsafe water sources like open wells, unprotected springs and even ponds like seen in the pictures below.

 

 

Where are you going on your summer holidays?

The world-wide tourism industry is booming and worth over $7 trillion. It employs 10% of workers and brings in massive revenue for areas which may have little else. The industry is growing by 4% each year, driven by new wealth in emerging economies such as China, Brazil and Mexico.

brown hut island gazebo

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A study in Nature Climate Change found that tourism is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, much more than the 2.5-3% previously estimated. It found that the carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e between 2009 and 2013. The most significant contributor is transport, followed by shopping and food. As with most emissions, high-income countries are responsible for the majority of this footprint. Some small island nations, such as the Maldives and the Seychelles, generate a significant proportion of income through tourism, yet are among the most at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change.

The strong annual growth of tourism has surpassed efforts of the industry to decarbonise, but the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is upbeat about the momentum seen in “a growing number of hotels, airports and tour operators that have all become carbon neutral”. A great example of this is Cochin Airport in Kerala, India, the first ever fully solar powered airport.

photography of airplane during sunrise

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

Tourism also does possess a great power to benefit some aspects of the environment and help achieve other UN Global Goals. For example, the Gorilla trekking licences in Rwanda and Uganda which fund the conservation of mountain gorillas, and the alternative livelihoods provided to small hill-tribe communities in Thailand which drives economic develop in remote areas. However, eco-tourism still has a significant carbon footprint due to the flights involved.

So, what are the solutions?

One way to mitigate the carbon footprint from your summer holiday is to offset the emissions through CO2balance’s Gold Standard carbon credits. As well as reducing CO2 emissions by reducing or removing the combustion of firewood and charcoal, CO2balance’s projects positively impact the target communities and help achieve the UN Global Goals by providing safe water, improving health by reducing indoor air pollution and creating gender equality by reducing the time required to collect firewood. Use our Flight Calculator to see the CO2 footprint from your flight and take a look at our Projects page or Contact Us to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint, help fight climate change and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

The importance of clean cookstoves in delivering the SDGs

It’s easy to forget, while moaning about what to cook tonight, that the daily routine of simply turning a few dials on the oven, putting on the TV, and waiting for dinner to be ready, isn’t one that most people in the world can enjoy.

In fact, for over 38% of the world’s population everyday cooking comes with an inherent risk. Household air pollution from the use of inefficient stoves and the burning of unclean fuel for cooking is responsible for around 4 million deaths a year, with women and children most at risk [World Bank, 2018]. To put this into perspective, deaths related to household air pollution total more than the deaths related to malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined, making it the second-largest overall health risk for women and girls, and fifth largest health risk for men worldwide [WHO, 2016].

Universal clean cooking is a key component of SDG 7- access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. However, progress is currently not on track, with access to clean cooking fuels and technologies lagging furthest behind. In fact, the number of people that lack access to clean cooking has sat steady at 2.8 billion since 2000 (accounting for population growth), and according to current projections over 2.3 billion people will still use unsafe cooking solutions in 2030 [World Bank, 2018].

The truth of the matter is that access to clean cooking not only contributes to access to modern and clean energy (SDG 7) and improved health (SDG 3), but its impacts can be felt keenly in 10 out of the 17 global goals including gender equality (SDG 5), climate action (SDG 13) and the elimination of poverty (SDG 1). In other words- without a shift towards universal clean cooking solutions, achievement of most SDGs will also be affected.

The impacts on gender equality, in particular, are key to enabling inclusive progress towards the SDGs. The responsibility of collecting fuel, feeding stoves, and cooking falls disproportionately on women and girls- and therefore the associated risks do too. Without clean cooking solutions, women on average spend 1.4 hours collecting firewood, and 4 hours cooking each day, meaning that they have little time to take part in any other activities [IEA, 2017].

clean cooking and sdgs

Clean Cooking impacts on the SDGs
[Source: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves]

The solution? Recent meetings on the matter, such as the 2018 SE4All Conference, underlined the need for an inclusive, holistic approach involving multi-stakeholder collaboration, emphasising that the importance of a shift to clean cooking shouldn’t be overlooked. While there is no ‘silver bullet’ answer, it is also clear that women need to be at the centre of ensuring the shift is lasting and effective.

However, major barriers to progress still need to be overcome – including the upfront cost associated with improved cooking solutions, and delivering solutions in rural areas. Clean cookstove projects, like those implemented by Co2balance, therefore play a vital role in providing viable, affordable clean cooking solutions to those who are most at risk; ensuring sustainable finance for long-term progress; and are key to enabling the achievement of the SDGs.

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.

DSC04441

Community members gather round a broken borehole in  Chipinge district

DSC04417

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.

DSC04326

Ramwidzai Musimbi and her son with the fireplace and pot where they usually boil water to purify it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC04340

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.

DSC04507

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!