People Power will ‘Trump’ the President

It is now official: Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. As the reactions flood in from across the globe, ranging from disappointment to outrage, it is important to recognise some of the positives:

 

  • America will most likely still reduce its emissions no matter what Trump does due to the low price of natural gas, rapidly falling cost of renewables and huge growth in electric vehicles
  • If a president committed to tackling climate change moves in to the Oval Office in 2020, there is chance that the US will still hit their original NDC
  • Donald Trump does not represent America: as I write, representatives from American businesses, cities and states are preparing to submit a plan to the UN pledging to meet the GHG emissions targets set out under the Paris accord

 

When considering the problem of a president who has surrounded himself with climate change sceptics, who is poised to row-back on environmental policy from the last administration, and undermine the global efforts on climate change, there seems to be one solution:

 

  • Ignore Donald Trump

 

The markets, the people and the world will leave him behind. The growth jobs in the US and across the world are in clean tech; the solar industry already employs more than twice the number of people than in the coal industry. Increasing numbers of businesses are being proactive, building sustainability in to their strategies through setting science-based carbon reduction targets and procuring renewable energy sources.

Government can play a powerful role in shaping the competitive landscape. In this case however, it will not be Washington that determines whether America contributes to the efforts to tackle climate change; every day and at every step, it is the people who will make the decisions that, in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, will “make our planet great again”.

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Rehabilitation of Omoro Sub-county Solar Powered Water Pump Scheme

In a continued drive to expand access to water in Northern Uganda, CO2balance recently repaired a solar powered borehole in Omoro sub-county that had been broken down for over 10 years. This borehole broke down at the peak of the insurgency caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in Northern Uganda. This solar pump was estimated to be serving over 2,500 people at the time of its breakdown which caused a major water crisis in the sub-region.

A solar-powered pump runs on electricity generated by photo-voltaic panels or the radiated thermal energy available from collected sunlight as opposed to grid electricity or diesel-run water pumps. A submersible pump is used and this pushes water to the surface by converting rotary energy into kinetic energy then into pressure. Solar pumps are an energy efficient, environmentally friendly way to pump water for various uses from domestic consumption to supporting agriculture activities.

The community at Omoro sub-county have been heavily relying on unsafe water sources as a result of the high population putting great pressure on a limited supply of boreholes which have not been well maintained and have therefore broken down. They further suffered a big water crisis early this year as a result of drought in the region. A growing population, including families moving in from neighboring districts, has heightened the pressure on water resources in the area.

With this new safe water source, access to clean safe water has been increased and many households will benefit from it. The solar powered pump scheme has storage pump tanks of up to 32,000 litres of water, feeding 5 distribution points which will ensure constant supply of water to the people of Omoro. The pioneering technology will ensure that water from a single borehole reaches 5 distribution points throughout Omoro, limiting the distance that users have to travel to access safe water.

This is the first time that we at CO2balance have incorporated a solar borehole into our project activities, having always previously focused on hand-powered boreholes. We are very excited at the potential of introducing a technology that, using the power of the sun, will extend clean, safe water to 5 times as many individuals as would be possible with a hand pump. Watch this space for updates on this project and we hope to repair many more solar boreholes in years to come!

Part of the community at Omoro

Costly Smoke

According to WHO indoor smoke from coal, wood or dung – used as cooking fuel by more than 3 billion people worldwide – ranks ahead of unsafe water as a cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. Almost 2 million deaths a year are caused by cooking smoke, which is linked to pneumonia in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birth weight babies and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families. Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire annually kills 1.6 million adults and children annually.

In Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has worked with local community members distributing rocket stoves to help reduce effects of three stone fires. The rocket stoves have been praised by various users in local communities because they save precious wood while reducing cutting of forests, reduces the risk of children injured by fire, and not least the flex oven create less smoke indoors, which is vital for health. Many say the rocket stoves have simplified cleaned their kitchens by sending away smoke.

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Recently in one of our community cook stove projects in Western Kenya in Kisumu we visited Mary Akeyo one of our rocket stove beneficiaries who shared her experience having used the Carbon Zero Kenya rocket stove for the last five years. Mary explained that prior to getting the rocket stove she used to have a traditional three stone stove, which would emit a lot of smoke that affected her and her family. The stove would emit smoke that made her and her three kids cough a lot forcing them to seek medical attention many times, at least thrice a month where they were charged about Kes 300 per checkup per person. This saw her family spent at least KES 1500 per month.

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Also she explained that during this period she had issues with her eyes, shedding tears while cooking even her husband couldn’t support her with the cooking chores as he feared the smoke. Her kids could not even read while at home as the smoke would not provide a conducive environment for them to study. But today she is happy to cook anytime as the smoke is a gone case, her kids can study freely, the many visits she used to go to hospital for treatment of coughs are no longer there, she is happy. Even her husband can afford to cook a meal or two for his family as the kitchen is clean. She further explains that her cooking pots are clean too unlike before when they were all infested with smoke.

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Mary explains that smoke is really dangerous and without one noticing it has effects that can even cause death. She explains the difficulty in breaking her youngest child used to have and how scared she would be at times thinking her kid would collapse and die, she even feared living her kids at home alone. But to her excitement all these are no longer part of her worries. She even says that part of the money she has managed to save from going to hospital for medical checkups she has used to it to feed her family. She is really excited about the rocket stove. As we finalize our chat with Mary she reminds us that smoke is dangerous!

 

Irrigation and Food Security in Malawi

The climatic extremes of prolonged drought and frequent flooding are major challenges Malawi. A large part of the population relies on agriculture and is prone to be directly affected by the natural environment.

One major environmental and economic issue is energy scarcity: In the absence of electricity and alternative fuel sources, trees are commonly used as biomass, causing widespread deforestation. This in turn reduces the water absorption capacity of the soil, facilitates erosion and further aggravates flooding. Flooding and droughts have been estimated to cost Malawi 1.7% of its GDP annually. [1]

Other issues are water and food security, both of which affect the livelihoods and wellbeing of the poorest populations. While 46% of Malawi’s land is arable, only 2% is irrigated. Farmers rely heavenly on rainfall and hence mostly grow crops during the rainy season. Hence, they sell their crops to the market at times when supply is abundant and prices are low.

Small scale irrigation agriculture can augment and change this production cycle and enable the production of crops during the dry season. Low-cost and durable irrigation products include pedal-powered or solar irrigation pumps that transport water from an open well, rover or lake to the field via a spray hose. They enable to spread the harvest of crops throughout the year and provide an opportunity to raise farmer’s income, as less produce is lost and prices in the dry season are higher.

Irrigation has been shown to have a positive impact on farmer’s food security by increasing both calorific intake and income, thus playing an important role in alleviating poverty. These benefits are shared by marginalised groups such as youth headed or female headed households [2]

CO2balance and its partners have been working in Malawi since 2013 and are expanding their activities in the central region to address needs on a community and district level. We are currently exploring effective options of supporting the adoption of solar-powered irrigation technologies. Get in touch, if you are interested in this area.

[1] Pauw and Thurlow 2009

[2] Nkhata 2014

Not just about cooking!!!!

Cooking on a three stone stove is the cheapest way to prepare food in many parts of the world. This is because to assemble a three stone stove you only require three suitable stones of the same height on which a cooking pot is balanced over a fire. That’s how cheap the stove is. This make many families across the word especially in Africa fall for them.

Ok cheap is expensive, many say so and indeed even in the cooking sector this turns out to be true. The seemingly cheap stove on the contrary has many problems:

  • The inefficient transfer of energy requires the user to use more wood fuel, increasing the amount of wood harvested from the surrounding environment. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.
  • Smoke is vented into the home, instead of outdoors, causing health problems.
  • Only one cooking pot can be used at a time.
  • The use of an open fire creates a risk of burns and scalds. Especially when the stove is used indoors, cramped conditions make adults and particularly children susceptible to falling or stepping into the fire and receiving burns.

The World Health Organization has documented a significant number of deaths caused by smoke from home fires. The negative impacts of such a process of cooking can be reduced by using improved cook stoves.

 In Kaptagat in the vast Rift Valley Region of Kenya we visit one of the Co2balance improved cook stove beneficiaries Alice Kiplimo who tells us  “Tangu nipewe hii jiko nimefurahia sana kwa sababu inafanya kazi harakana inatumia kuni chache(since I was given this stove five years ago it cooks faster and also consumes less wood”. She adds that because of its efficiency on wood usage it saves her time and in that she is able to do other activities that are incomes generating promoting the living standards of her family. For instance the time she would use going to collect firewood in the forest she tends her small piece of land with passion fruits that when ripe gives her up to 200/- per kilo, and she makes up to 15 – 20 kilos per week.

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In her explanation she manages to clearly exhibit how the improved Co2balance stove has not only helped her change her cooking conditions but how the stove has changed her life as a whole. She says that before receiving the improved cook stove from Co2balance she used to use a three stove which consumed excess wood not allowing her have any extra time for any other activity; she basically would spend all her free time in the forest looking for firewood. However after getting the Co2balance improved cook stove which uses less fuel she has had many benefits; reduce wood fuel consumption by almost a half, improved health – more coughing like before, less time spent searching for wood etc. She explains how the improved stove has freed her allowing her function fully being her family’s bread-winner being able to invest in her farm planting passion fruits and having time to manage the fruits well. And as a single mother of two this has helped get earn an income which is helping her sustain her family.

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With this living story it’s now possible to see the bigger picture and realize that improved cook stoves are not just for cooking.  They change lives beyond cooking.

Over the years Co2balance has been a front runner in improving access to affordable and reliable energy services for cooking in developing countries. And it’s on this basis that it has invested in over 67,000 improved cook stoves distributed across Kenya and still seeks to partner with like minded organizations to reach many more families which are still in dire need for an improved cook stove because it understands that it’s not just about cooking.

Easter celebrations at Abongodyang village – the gift of a new borehole

For the people of Abongodyang village, this Easter season was special and extra ordinary as it came with it the best ‘Easter Egg’ in form of a newly drilled borehole by co2balance – a gift of clean safe water.

The village of Abongodyang which has a population of about 320 people who until the drilling of the borehole had been using unsafe water sources like open wells, ponds, swamps, among others were very excited about their new water source which is not only clean and safe but has a good yield and is close to their homes.

After doing a thorough hydro-geological survey, a suitable site was picked to ensure the borehole had a high sustainable yield and good water quality. This was followed by site clearance which the community actively participated to strengthen their community engagement and partnership with co2balance in the continuous maintenance of this borehole after drilling.

The community has now pledged to look after the borehole and ensure that it is always clean and safe from any contamination that may be harmful to their health. They have also agreed to contribute the water user fees that that was set as a government policy to ensure that the communities are able to maintain the source using the money collected from all households.

Borehole in use

Drilling of this borehole has not only increased the safe water coverage in Otuke district but also ensured that so many waterborne diseases are avoided by consuming unsafe water. This also means that the wood fuel that goes into purifying this water significantly drops.

They say…….. ‘THANK YOU’

World Water Day – What our project impacts on safe drinking water?

“Water is life”. This is commonly what we hear when working together with communities across the globe, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, in recognition that water is the essential building block for the living world. More than that, it is key to every aspect of human development, from the economy to a child’s education.

Today is World Water Day, where we focus on the importance of water as a resource and consider the progress that is needed to provide clean, safe water to everyone. Today, a quarter of the population of the world will drink from a water source that is contaminated, putting them at risk of contracting diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

The UN have developed their 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals with the aim to provide access to safe water to all. At CO2balance, we continue to work towards these goals by rehabilitating village hand pumps and providing education on sanitation and health in rural communities. Below is a summary of some of the key impacts of our projects:

Annual Impact of CO2balance Borehole Project_2017.JPG