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.
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.
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.
Tekea Tsefagherghesh keeps her home spotlessly clean – not an easy task in Eritrea, a hot and dusty sub-Saharan country. Tekea’s village, Adi Tekelezan, is 2,500 metres above sea level and about 40 minutes’ drive north of Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Within the low walls is the mid-sized hut that contains Tekea’s most proud possession; her self-built improved cook stove.
The traditional stove with its open flame and voracious appetite for fuel is very detrimental for the health of families and their living environments. One familiar image of Africa is of women and children carrying heavy bundles of sticks, sometimes for many miles. Tekea was one such woman, gathering sticks three or four times a week and carrying them many miles back to her home, or spending her little amount of cash buying them instead.
Tekea’s new stove is quite substantial, at over two metres in length. It has various doors and openings to regulate the temperature as well as large, round hotplates so that she can cook Injera, the traditional bread eaten all over East Africa. The design is simple but very innovative, and has won many awards for it’s inventor, local man Debesai Ghebrehiwet such as The Green Apple Award and the Tech Museum award. Each stove saves at least three tonnes of CO2 per year.
Tekea has decorated her stove with hand painted flowers and leaves. The huge advantage of the stove is that it uses nearly 60% less fuel that the traditional stove and any harmful fumes are funneled out of the small, enclosed kitchen hut. All of the materials used to build the stove are sourced locally.
In this community-led programme, Vita supplies the moulds and the knowledge, but the women themselves contribute towards the cost, as well as building each stove with the help of the other village women. Involving the whole community ensures that no individual family is left out. Tekea is now a trainer, and works with Vita’s home economists to bring the programme to the wider community. Vita has an integrated approach to enabling farm families achieve sustainable livelihoods, involving not just stoves but clean water pumps, solar lights latrines and trees. This creates ‘green zones’ that not only benefit the families but have a hugely positive impact on the environment.
For Tekea, the drudgery of gathering sticks is dramatically reduced, and this has given her far more time to spend working to better her future and that of her children. Tekea, like more than 40% of women in Eritrea, rears her family of seven children alone. The extra income she can now earn is used to buy milk and help pay for her children’s education.
Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba
Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan
Recently I had the opportunity to accompany our project partners Vita on an in country visit to Eritrea to report on the great work currently going on in country. The collaboration between Vita and co2balance continues to go from strength to strength and it impacts on the lives of Eritrean people is profound. I have seen this first hand.
The overall programme now consists of 2 cookstove VPAs in Zoba Anseba and 4 boreholes VPAs in Zoba Maekel with planned expansion of more borehole VPAs in Zoba Debub through 2016. Borehole repairs are moving at an excellent pace thanks the careful coordination of the Vita team in Eritrea.
I was humbled to have discussions with villagers about the extraordinary improvements that the cookstoves and borehole rehabilitations have made to their lives. To see the look of joy on the faces of women and children as the first jerrycans are filled from new boreholes, some of whom have had to travel for miles to collect water from unsafe sources is something that will live long in my memory.
These are some of the poorest people on earth but the welcome they extended, their unwillingness to let us leave there village without sampling their finest Injera (local bread) and yogurt was truly inspiring. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people. To understand the foundation for this resilience we must consider the history of the African continent. Four hundred years of slave trade. One hundred years of colonialism. This equates to five centuries of external domination. Now Eritrea has a chance to forge its own path. In respect of this, it is a young country (formally becoming independent in 1993) on a young continent.
At co2balance we are determined on improving the lives of Eritrean people. We look forward to expanding our work there. Watch this space for high quality HD footage of the work in Eritrea coming soon.