World Environment Day – Air Pollution Awareness

Today we are celebrating World Environment Day, an annual event created by the United Nations in 1974 to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Since its creation, the event has grown to become a global movement for public outreach for the need of environmental action. Each World Environment Day has a new theme and is hosted in a different country where the official celebrations take place – this years host is China, with the theme of air pollution.

Summarised from the World Environment Day website, the main source of household air pollution is the indoor burning of fossil fuels and biomass-based resources, such as firewood, to cook. Around 3.8 million premature deaths are caused by indoor air pollution annually, most in the developing world. Despite efforts to increase the prevalence of cleaner burning stoves and cleaner fuel, 3 billion continue to use solid fuels on open fires.

Across the areas we work in in developing countries, we typically come across households in rural communities using highly inefficient three-stone fires for their cooking and boiling of unsafe water for purification. These traditional fires require large amounts of firewood to do only a small amount of work due to their inefficient nature.

As a result of burning large quantities of firewood on these open fires, large volumes of carbon emissions are released contributing to climate change, as well as harmful pollutants causing significant health problems to those regularly exposed to them, such as the elderly, women and children.

Our improved cookstove carbon projects involve introducing improved technologies, such as improved cookstoves, into households through community buy-in schemes. With the help from our local partners, communities are trained how to use and maintain the stoves effectively and educated on the dangers of indoor air pollution and how the new stoves are helping tackle it. Our safe water projects involve rehabilitating safe water sources, to reduce the amount of firewood burned on three-stone fires by removing the need to purify unclean water.

Our projects directly contribute to tackling Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing. Through robust monitoring and calculations within our cookstove projects and certain water projects, we determine the reduction in household air pollution following the project implementation, which are certified by the verification body Gold Standard.

Millions of people are continuing to suffer from preventable diseases and many are dying prematurely – World Environment Day is helping raise awareness of this widespread problem and drive incentive for action. Through focused, community initiatives involving education and key training, the adoption of cleaner, more modern stoves and rehabilitation of broken safe water sources can reduce the risk of illnesses and save lives.

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Water, sanitation and hygiene training in Kaliro, Uganda

In May, CO2balance in-country partner WAACHA conducted WASH training in Kaliro District, Uganda.

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The purpose of the annual training is to sensitise the communities on important issues such as keeping the area around the borehole clean and storing water correctly. The training takes place every year to reinforce these values.

These important visits ensure that the project boreholes can be properly maintained by the communities, thus protecting the long-term future of the water point. The practises and techniques taught also help protect the groundwater from contamination and ensure that the water is stored safely at home.

The Kaliro Safe Water project reduces CO2 emissions by providing communities with safe water, so they no longer need to boil water with firewood as a treatment method. The WASH training are used along side water quality testing to ensure that the communities are consuming safe water year round. As well as reducing CO2 emissions, this project provides safe water to rural communities and cuts cases of water-borne diseases and diarrhoea.

Eritrea Cookstove Monitoring 2019

CO2balance and project partner Vita, an Irish NGO, are in the fourth year of conducting monitoring for two cookstove projects in northern Eritrea.

The region in which the stoves are based is the Anseba region, named after the Anseba river which passes through the region. Majority of the region is at high altitude with varying weather conditions compared to other regions in Eritrea. Once heavily forested, now forest cover for the whole of Eritrea is less than 0.1%.

This makes it particularly difficult for the population who rely mainly on sourcing wood fuel for cooking. The improved cookstove projects allow people to continue to cook traditional meals for their families, using less fuel. This saves time and effort in collecting wood fuel. In addition, the stoves are fitted with chimneys which direct smoke from open fires out of the kitchen, improving the health of women and children.

Since new cookstove monitoring requirements were introduced in July 2018, CO2balance is required to take pictures of all the improved stoves monitored known locally as the Adhanet stove. The pictures show how women have personalised their stoves which are permanently fitted in their kitchens. The three outlets on the stoves are used for cooking injera, bread and soup respectively.

These projects positively contribute to four SDG impacts as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Please Contact Us or email enquiries@co2balance.com to hear more about the positive impacts of our Eritrea projects!

SDG cookstove redo

CO2balance in Sierra Leone

CO2balance has been exploring the options for launching projects in Sierra Leone for a long time. Following on from extensive nationwide feasibility studies, we finally decided recently to launch an initial borehole rehabilitation and maintenance programme in partnership with the NGO CODE-SL. Having lived in Sierra Leone back in 2016 and been captivated by the country’s natural beauty and generous people, I was very excited to return to meet our new partners and to explore Kono, the remote district in the East of the country where we are conducting the pilot phase of our project.

The need is immense in Sierra Leone for projects that ensure access to safe water and promote improved sanitation practices. Official figures state that 53% of the country’s rural population lack access to an improved water source, but in reality this figure is likely to be much higher. Whilst many rural communities have had access to safe water from a hand pump powered borehole at some point, a vast proportion of these have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of training or resources for them to be maintained locally. The situation is even starker regarding improved sanitation, with just 6.9% or rural communities having access to improved sanitation facilities. The impacts of these trends can be seen in the shocking figure that over 90% of rural water sources in Sierra Leone are infected with E-Coli.

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A broken-down handpump in Old Kissy Town, Kono district

My visit had 2 main purposes: to travel with CODE-SL to visit some of the communities in Kono where we will be working to repair and maintain boreholes and to attend the Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting, which introduces the project to local authorities in the target area and solicits their feedback.

The visits in Kono district were fascinating. We travelled to some of the most remote corners of the district, reaching the village of Kaadu where we looked across the Mel river into the Republic of Guinea. In Kaadu, we saw the broken down handpump which will shortly be repaired and visited the current water source, which is a murky and mossy pool in the forest about a 20 minute walk away from the village. We met Sita Sandi there, a local woman with 4 children who usually has to travel to the water source about 3 times per day. She reported that although they boil the water they collect, waterborne illnesses remain a major problem and that her son had just missed several days of school through diarrhoea. She looks forward to the completion of the borehole rehabilitation, as she hopes that it will save her the best part of 2 hours every day to have fresh water available in the village. Crucially, it will also reduce the scourge of waterborne disease which has greatly disrupted her children’s education.

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Sita Sandi collects water outside Kaadu

Having visited the communities, we conducted the local stakeholder consultation meeting in the city of Koidu, which was attended by several councillors from Kono district in addition to representatives of local NGOs and leaders of communities to be targeted in the project. The meeting was a fantastic meeting of minds of the key stakeholders with whom CODE-SL and CO2balance will be working in the coming years, and the feedback for the project was overwhelmingly positive. Stakeholders praised the concept of the project, particularly its focus on long-term maintenance of water points due to the high risk that water points can break down if they are not regularly serviced. It was also discussed that there is a great need for the project to reach beyond the initial 30 communities, with stakeholders assured that if all goes well in the initial phase of the project, we hope to significantly expand the reach in the coming years.

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The CODE-SL/CO2balance team gather before the LSC meeting

I’d like to thank our partners, CODE-SL, for their welcome and for their hard work on the feasibility phase of the project. This marks not only our first project in Sierra Leone, but our very first project in West Africa. It’s very exciting to expand into this new region and we hope that it will be a gateway to further projects in West Africa in the coming years. The first borehole rehabilitations will be conducted in the next couple of months – watch this space for more updates from Sierra Leone!

Zambia Safe Water Project Development: Local Stakeholder Consultation

At the end of February, CO2balance Project Manager, Emma, travelled to Zambia to meet local partner organisation, ROCS, and to host a local stakeholder consultation for new borehole rehabilitation and maintenance projects in the Eastern Province. This is what she had to say about the trip: 

CO2balance has been exploring the possibility of developing a safe water project in Zambia for some time, so it was great to take the first steps into helping it come into fruition. Reformed Open Community Schools (ROCS) is an experienced and well respected local NGO that operate across Zambia. While their focus is predominantly on education and school projects, they also have significant experience in rehabilitating community boreholes and carrying out WASH campaigns.

ROCS Field Office in Lundazi

It was my first time in Zambia, and I was struck by the friendliness of the people and, as I was there in the ‘Emerald Season’, the lushness of the environment. The ROCS team gave me a warm welcome in Lusaka before we travelled up to Lundazi together to meet the local communities and stakeholders that will be targeted by the project, and to hold a stakeholder meeting to discuss the project design and impacts.

In the drive up to Lundazi we travelled through changing landscapes, and it was striking to see the reduction in forest cover in the more rural areas in the Eastern Province, our destination. Once in Lundazi we were able to visit rural communities in Lundazi, Lumezi, and Chasefu Districts. In all of these districts access to safe water presents a daily challenge for communities- with many of the boreholes installed in recent decades not functioning, they are forced to collect water from the only sources available to them, which are mostly ponds or streams, referred to locally as ‘dambos’. As the water sources are unsafe, many households have to boil their water over traditional 3 stone fires in order to purify it for drinking.

Speaking to a local Village Headman, he also underlined the impact that unsafe water can have on the health of his community. The majority of the community suffer from stomach related illnesses at least once a month, but most people can’t afford to attend a clinic for each incidence. Many of the women that I spoke to also highlighted the massive impact that having a reliable safe water source in their community would have on their every day lives- saving them valuable time and the burden of carrying heavy full jerrycans and firewood over long distances.

At the Local Stakeholder Consultation, stakeholders from across the District gathered to discuss the project and give their feedback on the project impact and design. At the moment, ROCS and CO2balance are aiming to rehabilitate and maintain 50 boreholes across Lundazi District, that will also focus on contributing to key SDGs including Clean Water and Sanitation, Gender Equality, and Good Health and Wellbeing.

It was a privilege to be part of the meeting, to hear first hand what the stakeholders thought of the project and what they think the impacts will be. Stakeholders ranged from local government to community members, and it was great to see that everyone played an active role in contributing, particularly in group discussions on safeguarding principles and SDGs. Overall, all the stakeholders were incredibly positive and supportive of the project, urging work on the ground to start as quickly as possible.

Stakeholders discussing the impacts that the project will have on SDG 5: Gender Equality

It was an absolute pleasure to spend time in Zambia with the ROCS team and the communities and stakeholders in Lundazi District. We are really excited to start moving on the project, and given the positive feedback from the stakeholders, we are aiming to start the rehabilitation of the boreholes in April, when they will start crediting. Watch this space for future updates!

Leave No One Behind – World Water Day

Today is World Water Day. This years focus for tackling the global water crisis is addressing why so many people are being left behind in the plight to ensure equitable access to safe water for all.

‘Whoever you are,
wherever you are,
water is your human right’.
http://www.worldwaterday.org

In 2010 the UN recognised access to clean drinking water a human right, ‘essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’. Today there remains billions of people living without safe water in their homes, schools, workplaces just among a few. Marginalised groups such as women, children, elderly, disabled, refugees and indigenous people are often overlooked and face discrimination trying to access safe water. The hard reality – people are struggling to survive, unable to escape the poverty trap and live prosperous lives to their full potential.

Access to a safe water source underpins public health and wellbeing, and is therefore critical to sustainable development and a secure and thriving global population. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Safe Water and Sanitation – is clear with its primary target, ‘Water for all by 2030’. By definition and in principle of sustainable development progress benefiting everyone – this means leaving no one behind. Access to water underpins health and wellbeing and is therefore critical to sustainable development and paving the way for a stable and prosperous world.

We cannot progress as a global society while so many are living without safe water. Although some progress has been made across Africa, there remains approximately only 30% of rural populations with an improved water source within a 30-minute trip from their house. There are a multitude of reasons for people being left behind in access to safe water, from gender, ethnicity, religion, forced displacement to economic and social status to environmental degradation and climate change. Many rely on unprotected sources, open to contamination. The lack of safe water is amongst the biggest drivers of death and disease across the African continent.

To ‘leave no one behind’, there must be increased focused to include marginalised communities and societal groups discriminated against. Water services must meet their needs, and to ensure efforts are implemented sustainably, they must be included in decision-making processes.

One of the main types of projects CO2balance implement are safe water projects. Households that lack a clean, safe water source are forced to collect water from unsafe sources. As a result they must purify that unclean water to make it safe for consumption, boiling it on open, inefficient fires which require large amounts of firewood.

By repairing broken safe water sources within communities we provide thousands of people with a safe water source, and offset emissions by removing the need to boil the water.

Our projects follow a stringent ‘inclusive’ design process to maximize participation of the local stakeholders, with emphasis for reaching and involving women in the project design and decision-making processes.

We implement projects in marginalised areas, reaching communities and specifically women who are isolated from developmental progress, unable to access improved technologies and information of such. We currently have established safe water projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi, Eritrea, Kenya with projects being established in Zambia and Mozambique.


Catastrophic Cyclone Idai


Considered one of the most severe tropical cyclones to hit the Southern Hemisphere, Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall at the port city of Biera, Mozambique on Thursday 14th March. Winds were reported to have exceeded 177km/h (106mph), leaving a trail of devastation as it moved inland. In its wake, Idai devastated critical infrastructure in the provinces of Sofala, Zambezia, Manica and Tete, including electricity, communication and road networks.

Many of the severely affected areas are inaccessible, cut off by extensive flooding and destroyed or disrupted transport routes, leaving hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims isolated from emergency relief efforts. Many of these inaccessible areas are uncontactable, although where contact has been made it is reported food, water and supplies are coming to the end, with only a few days worth remaining.

We are currently working on establishing safe water projects in Manica Province with not-for-profit organisation Village Water, who are currently in Mozambique on the ground working tirelessly assisting with local relief efforts and ensuring their teams on the ground are safe. The official death roll is currently at 300, although it could rise to above 1,000, with 217 confirmed in Mozambique. There are a reported 15,000 people still in need of rescue, it is unknown how many amongst these are accounted for or missing. According to our local partners working the project area, in Chimoio town in Manica Province there are 1600 now homeless people camping in 3 schools as houses have been destroyed, whilst 2km outside of the town people remain stuck in trees as the rain continues and roads and bridges have been swept away. Dombe has been severely hit with virtually impossible road access and no communications, with 50 people reported dead already.

Access into rural communities remains incredibly difficult and our rehabilitation efforts are likely to be delayed. Yet, unfortunately, following this disaster an increasing number of people are now without access to safe water as fully working safe water sources have now been swept away.

More than ever, the provision of clean water in the disaster-stricken regions is vital. From standing flood water, high numbers of unrecovered causalities and pollution from destroyed infrastructure and vehicles, water-borne diseases will be rife and ground water supplies contaminated. Affected people are reported to be drinking unchlorinated well water due to the lack of safe, accessible options. The entire populations of affected areas are vulnerable within a disaster like this, although the young, pregnant and old are more susceptible to the associated risks, making the provision of safe water essential.

As extensive flooding continues, and more rain expected over the coming days, our thoughts are with those most affected, relief workers and members of society donating their time and energy to help the devastated regions. There is likely to be a long road ahead to recovery in Mozambique, and CO2balance are committed to continuing our efforts to provide safe water in Manica Province.