It was a great visit – Thank you Toshiba TEC, MediaCom, Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen.

The Uganda projects have continued to register success in providing safe clean water to the communities through the rehabilitation and maintenance of boreholes hence reduced dependency on firewood to boil their drinking water. This has been made possible by the partnership and continuous support from companies like MediaCom and Toshiba TEC through its Toshiba CarbonZero scheme.

At the close of October, MediaCom and Toshiba TEC accompanied by Mark Simpson and Paul Chiplen traveled over 4000 miles to come and visit the Lango safe Water projects in Northern Uganda with the purpose of learning more about the projects and meeting the communities benefiting from the clean water from these boreholes.

They were able to visit a number of boreholes in the districts of Kole and Otuke – part of the Lango areas where the projects are. The community engagement was very positive as they were able to learn more on how these boreholes have impacted on the lives of the people. The beneficiaries/water users appreciated the companies for the continuous support through great entertainment and hospitality in form of singing, dancing and passing a direct vote of thanks.

In addition to visiting the boreholes, they were also able to visit Abari Primary school, one of the beneficiaries of the Lango Safe Water project and CSR projects that were enrolled last year to provide solar lighting and health sensitization to schools in some of the project areas.

The trip was concluded with a visit to the great Murchison Falls National park – pictures tell it all.

On behalf of co2balance, thank you MediaCom and Toshiba TEC for the continuous support.

Karibu tena!

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Transforming Rural Livelihoods

The Carbon Zero Kenya Aberdares ICS project started in the year 2011, with 10,200 stoves being distributed. Since then company invested in community awaress creation that so locals embrace the use the ICS thus moving from using 3-stone stoves (traditional stoves) to carbon zero improved cook stoves. Speaking to various stove beneficiaries the Carbon Zero ICS have led the community spending less of their time fetching firewood, visiting Kereita forest to collect firewood, spending less money on buying firewood but rather they spend much of their money and time doing other income generating activities improving their livelihood.

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According to Mary Njoki 65 years,  one of our stove beneficiaries from Bathi Village , a single mother of six children, the carbon zero stove has really helped her  in saving time  and money because  before the introduction  of carbon zero stoves in the area she used to spend much of her time visiting Kereita forest everyday collecting firewood which  is about 3km from her place, spending like 5hrs in a day (she used to go at  7:00am and  coming back at 11:00am when the sun is less hot) but since she received carbon zero stove, she only visits kereita forest once per week because the stove is more efficient and uses less firewood.  She also added that the time  she previously spent collecting firewood she nowadays uses it to concentrate with her farming activities i.e. planting carrots, kales, potatoes, cabbages and pruning peas trees and also spending some of her income from farming to educate her grandchildren.

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Mary Njoki added to say that, “I can testify that carbon zero stoves produce less soot/smokes as compared to 3-stone stoves which her neighbor Mama Grace uses everyday causing more problems on her family’s health (flu, coughing and eye irritation), causing her iron sheets discolor easily since 3-stone stoves use more firewood which is also poorly burnt as compared to carbon zero stoves which uses 2-3 small pieces of wood producing less soot”.

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From Mary’s opinion she can add that carbon zero stoves saves more on time, money and even school pupils they don’t spend much of their time on collecting firewood after school but rather they spend much of their time concentrating on their studies even in class because they don’t have to think about firewood collection since one bundle collected on Saturday can be used for long time.

Introducing myself

Hi everyone, I’m Ilona and I am a newly appointed member of the co2balance UK based team in Taunton. My role as Carbon Projects Officer has stretched two weeks now and I already feel welcomed and excited to work with such a knowledgeable team holding expertise in the management of carbon offset projects internationally. I’m really passionate about mitigating climate change and more importantly, providing environmental, economic and social benefits to developing communities through co2balance projects.

I have recently finished an MSc in Agricultural Economics at the University of Reading where I focused on climate change and development in sub-Saharan Africa. My dissertation, which looked at the social impacts of gender in rural communities in Uganda, has helped me to understand the daily challenges faced by rural men and women – knowledge which I can apply when assessing the benefits of small projects which frequently have large positive impacts!

I’m really looking forward to working on projects which transition the lives of local communities and provide vulnerable people with water and cooking facilities, in addition to containing measurable emissions reductions. Working with the team so far has been very enjoyable and I hope to continue to learn from them and get up to speed with on-going projects, and meet the overseas staff in the future.

My hobbies outside of work are cycling, mountain walking and practicing the French language. I hope to be writing on the blog again soon with some co2balance project updates. Until then, below is a picture of me with the first tree I planted in Cornwall in 2016.

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Giving Power to rural women

With the support of Australian High Commission in Kenya in the 2015 Carbon Zero Kenya partnered with a women group (Umeme women group) in Western Kenya in Kisumu West to produce 900 cook stoves and sell them within the community. The women were empowered with skills in stove production and marketing.

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The aim of the Umeme Women’s Group Improved Cook Stove Project was to set up a self sustaining cook stove enterprise that was to construct and sell stoves within the local community. The project created some source of income for the women and thus enabling them improve their living standards.

Just to offer some background an acute shortage of fuel for cooking is one of the many problems faced by people in Kisumu West as it is the case in other parts of the country. Gathering fuel is generally women’s work but is fraught with dangers; they gamble with the risk of rape and life threatening attacks during their search for much needed firewood, in order to feed their families. In certain areas, local sources of firewood are completely depleted, leading women to travel further and further afield or to dig up tree roots, eliminating any chance of the trees growing again. Even if women survive this, they are still exposing themselves and their children to potentially deadly smoke fumes.

With the above challenges in mind and the financial support from the Australian High Commission Carbon Zero decided to tackle the challenges in Kisumu West through the use of more fuel-efficient Carbon Zero Artisanal Stove, which is 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.

Carbon Zero Kenya mapped out several women groups in the area; vetted them and settled on one that was most convincing – Umeme women group. The group of ten women was well trained both in theory and practicals of artisanal stove production. After which the women were supported to source for materials and stove parts and produced a total of 900 cook stoves that they marketed within their community. The revenues collected from the sales helped the women earn an extra income. In addition the women started making weekly savings into a central kitty that they have been able to invest overtime further raising their incomes which has in a big way boosted their living standards.

Diana   is one of the women group members; the secretary of the group. Speaking to her she elaborates that prior to this project had always used the three stone cooker ever since she was born and had never seen an alternative cook stove. She says that previously she didn’t know how expensive it was sustaining a three stone stove. Knowing well that Kisumu West has fewer forests with most land under farming the only way to get firewood was and still is through buying. While using the three stone stove she says she used to buy wood worth 800/= Kenya shillings per week and this was too expensive for her.

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However she says that her turning point came in 2015 when together with the other women were selected to be trained on how to manufacture artisanal stoves and market them within their community. Diana says that after they were trained as a group they produced a total of 900 stoves that they sold out to locals. She gained skills in stove production, maintenance and also simple business skills that have been very essential in her life thereafter. As a group under her leadership the proceeds from sale of stoves were put into a table banking revolving fund that members have overtime been borrowing and paying back with little interest. She says that many group members have borrowed money and paid school fees for their children, some have borrowed to start different businesses and as they pay back their revolving fund has been growing and today they have even increased their membership.

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Diana explains how she borrowed from the group and started vegetable farming. The project has been on for the last two years and the returns are good. She is able to get an extra income to pay fees for her kids while at the same time get something to keep making contributions in the women group.  She explains that since she did not have formal employment she couldn’t borrow from the bank hence the capital they got from the sales of the stoves helped inject capital into their group that has seen them grow both individually and as a group in ways she cannot explain.

She further explains that many women call her within the local community at times to repair their stoves when they have for instance cracks and they pay her helping earn her earn her income.  She says today she her community as a stoves maintenance expert in the community. Within her own home Diana says that ever since she received the CZK stove she has seen a big difference in her life. For instance the improved cook stove saves wood fuel which enables her channel some of the money she would spend buying firewood to other development projects. As we part Diana says that for her the biggest thing out of the stove production enterprise set by Carbon Zero is that she was able to save and start a farming venture that has really improved her family’s income. She says that the project gave them power to improve their lives and turn around their fate.

 

It’s from the Kitchen that good health starts

A huge population across the world especially in the developing world depends on traditional three stone fires for cooking. This primitive form of cooking negatively impacts the health of people using the stove and the well being of the natural environment.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cooking over traditional open fires can cause increased health problems brought on from the smoke, particularly lung and eye ailments. WHO notes that nearly two million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use.

In Kenya the difference is the same, three stone fires are commonly used in food preparation, and many people especially in the rural areas relate well with the simple and accessible mode of cooking. For decades, rural women have been using this cooking style minus knowing the danger that they expose themselves to.  Since cooking is a task that most cultures have assigned to women, women have been most affected by pollution resulting from food preparation this puts them at the greatest risk of developing respiratory diseases.

To counter the negative environmental and health effects of the three-stone cooking style, Carbon Zero Kenya an affiliate Company of Co2balance introduced energy efficient stoves in Kenya. Since 2009 Carbon Zero has implemented various energy efficient cook stove projects in Kenya distributing over 70,000 cook stoves. The wisdom behind  Carbon Zero’s decision to  introduce energy efficient cook  stoves in Kenya was that improved stoves are more efficient, meaning that the stove’s users spend less time gathering wood fuel, suffer less from respiratory diseases prevalent in smoke-filled homes, while reducing deforestation and air pollution in general. The Carbon Zero energy efficient cook stove project was also in sync with Kenya’s Vision 2030 which aims at improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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In the Coastal region of Kenya in Shimba hills Carbon zero has distributed over 10,000 energy efficient cook stoves. The stove beneficiaries highly appreciate the many social, health and economic impact that the stoves have had in their lives. The stoves have also led to the protection of the Shimba hills forest that was under threat before due to anthropogenic activities i.e. cutting down trees for firewood. Majority of the stove users are happy with the stoves performance some even calling it a hero. This has been evidenced through the many success stories that have been shared by the stove owners. One such is Zubeda’s Story;

Zubeda is a wife and a mother of two children.  With her family they live in Golini, Shimba hills in Kwale County. Speaking to Zubeda we really got to understand the difference between using the three stone stove and the improved cook stove, her moving story left us yearning to do more.

Zubeda says that “Since the installation of Carbon Zero stoves the stove has been a hero in my family, The Carbon Zero stove as had a positive transformation in my life .Initially I used to spend a lot of time in firewood collection when I was using the three stone jiko. The Carbon Zero stove uses far much less wood my earlier three stone stove.  Also the three stove emitted a lot of smoke. Since the stove used to consume a lot of wood it also produced   a lot of smoke. You can imagine staying in a kitchen that is full of smoke for over four hours a day; I used to cough a lot and also had eye irritation, always squeezing my eye – shedding tears without my wish. I had to go to the clinic at least weekly for treatment as coughing was just too much. I always had arunning nose.  My clothes were always smoky and filled with ash. The smoke and ash from the kitchen could not be tolerated by my husband and children, we used to quarrel a lot with my husband because he thought I didn’t not know how to cook, my marriage almost broke u, we just didn’t have peace.’’

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She further adds that…..Even my children had challenges reading from home as the smoke affected their eyes, they couldn’t read and this affected their performance. They could not do their home work and were always at loggerheads with teachers.  My children were always coughing and this meant that we keep spending most of our income on their treatment.  We could spend over KES 800 weekly buying medicine. Health care is expensive and the worst thing is you cannot do anything minus being healthy. Seldom would a week pass without seeking medication at Rukanga dispensary due to chest infection. This was expensive knowing that my husband doesn’t have stable income, that time I also didn’t have any income. We could not invest in anything, we couldn’t.’’

Zubeda further saysHowever today am a happy woman, mother and wife. My husband is happy with my cooking after understanding that it wasn’t my fault causing all the smoke that used to bedevil us but the type of stove we were using.  Both I and my children are now healthy; we no longer cough nor have unending running noses. We live with some decency. And all this has been as result of the energy efficient stove we received from Carbon Zero. Since getting this stove five years ago my life has changed a lot. The previous chest infections are things of the past. I spend the money previously spent on medication on my children’s fees. In fact just to the math’s if we save KES 800 per week we used on buying medicine we can afford to have KES 3200 every month and that is good money for us.’’

She further adds that… “I know many women could be suffering with their families in other places in the country as they still use three stone fires. I see even some in other villages that did not get stoves – they still have the same problems I had five years ago. I feel for them. I feel I could do something. My prayer is that you reach them and sensitive them because they don’t know the effects of the stoves they are using, they are slowly dying innocently. If you can reach out and just teach people about the effects of the three stone stove and distribute the improved stoves to them then life would change in the communities where people are suffering. Today I know that what happens in the kitchen can totally mess the health of a family. And since all families especially in the rural areas have kitchens and cook almost every day this is an issue that must be prioritized to save lives before it’s too late. I cannot thank Carbon Zero enough I just wish they continue expanding and reaching many more people and even the whole country if possible.’’

Tom’s First Visit to Uganda – Our Eastern & Northern Trip

Since the beginning of our Uganda projects in 2013, co2balance with the help of its partner Organisation WAACHA in Kaliro District and Project Officers in the Lango sub-region have continuously worked with the communities right from rehabilitating hand-pumped boreholes to maintaining them annually and doing reactive repairs when need arises. This has been done hand in hand with the community who provide unskilled labor when required. They also use their borehole user fees to contribute towards minor repairs at the boreholes which has given them a sense of ownership of these projects.

On a recent visit to the projects, I was joined by our Carbon Projects Officer Tom Urry who was visiting Uganda for the very first time and also meeting the communities that are beneficiaries to the project. We visited some boreholes and also had a chance to engage with the community and get their feedback on the project.

During our visit in Kaliro, we had the privilege to be joined by a team from Climate Neutral Group who had a chance to meet the borehole users. committee and also interact with the users of Mwanga and Masuna boreholes.

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Tom (extreme left) & the team from Climate Neutral Group

Hightlights from our trip

Borehole visits

We visited a number of boreholes, met their water user committee members and had some community engagement sessions. From our interaction, we learnt that the communities were putting into practice all that they had learnt from the last Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training they received. They said that that much as they have learnt basic hygiene practices like washing hands after toilet use and before preparing and eating food, getting soap has continued to be a big challenge. Some afford it occasionally while for others, it doesn’t lead as a basic priority hence they do without it.

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To address the challenge of difficulty in getting soap, as part of a WASH campaign, our partners WAACHA in Kaliro District decided to start training women groups attached to the boreholes in local soap making using plant materials and herbs. Apart from using this at home, they can also sell the soap and earn an extra income to meet other basic needs in their households.

With the training received from co2balance on basic hygiene in homes, the borehole users with the help of Village Health trainers have been able to improve on their sanitation facilities and also construct simple tippy taps near their toilets. This is to help cultivate the culture of washing hands after using the toilet.

Community engagement

In a bid to get the community involved in the projects, topping to the monthly monitoring visits, we were able to meet the communities, discuss their concerns and rising challenges and get their feedback on the project.

We were able to visit some of the old water sources that the borehole users entirely depended on before the boreholes were rehabilitated. This would prompt them to cut down more trees in order to get wood fuel for boiling their water but with this continued practice, wood became more scarce and expensive. This left some of them with no option but to take unsafe water hence getting waterborne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, cholera among others.

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one of the unsafe water source used by the communities before the rehabs

With the government being one of our support systems in implementing these boreholes projects, we have continued to engage with them for the success of the project. Through the District Water officers and other local government staff, we are able to identify the boreholes to rehabilitate, monitor them, get household information among others.

We had the chance of paying a courtesy call to the sub-county offices at Omoro in Alebtong district which is home to many of our boreholes, with the latest addition being a solar pumped borehole rehabilitated recently to expand on the Lango Safe Water project.

On overall, the Kaliro and Lango sub-region borehole users are very happy with the projects and this is shown by their active involvement and prompt implementation of whatever recommendations they receive from the project officers’ monthly visits.

Protecting Forests is Vital; without them, Kenya would be little more than a desert

Forests influence climate, landform and soil composition and they exist in a wide variety. Each forest type has its own uniqueness and together these forests complement one another and perform the various socio-economic, ecological, environmental, cultural and spiritual functions. Forests remain vital sources livelihood and water to many people across the globe.

East Africa’s forests are rapidly declining due to pressure from population increase and other land uses. In Kenya the case is not different, destruction of forests has occurred at an alarming rate. This puts so much strain to forests that are supposed to support over many people depending on the natural resources emanating from them.

Following the alarming dwindling speed of Kenya’s forest cover the Minister of Environment Judy Wakhungu on 8th September 2016 pronounced governments plan to actively promote tree planting to regain our lost glory.  She explained that these re-a forestation efforts would provide Kenyans “with the opportunity to reduce poverty, to improve food security, to address climate change and to conserve our valued biodiversity.”

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Forests are destroyed due to many different reasons and wanton and deliberate destruction of forest for fuel wood remains one of the main reasons resulting to virtual depletion of forest vegetation cover. In the long run this has in return resulted to drying of rivers, soil erosion, scorching sun, human-wildlife conflict etc. Local communities have due to the negative climatic changes become even more dependent on the forest for their livelihoods, causing a vicious cycle of poverty. Women and girls move longer distances in search of fuel wood and water, exposing them to danger of attacks and sexual assaults. With the loss of flora and fauna, tourism income is dwindled, bringing the curio business down with it.

Having critically examined effects of climate change Carbon Zero Kenya understood clearly that the challenges facing Kenya’s forests required several approaches and efforts to plant more trees alone would not help if more trees were still being cut at high speed for firewood. To this effect Carbon Zero introduced energy efficient cook stoves in various communities in Kenya that came to replace traditional three stone stoves. This has indeed resulted in immense savings in terms of the wood being used for cooking ultimately reducing pressure on the forests giving them a chance to restore themselves for the past four years.

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Traditional three stone stoves are criticized for their 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 – this leads to high levels of deforestation. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.

Carbon Zero Kenya has been on the fore-front of fighting climate change in Kenya and beyond 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 people’s 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.