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.

DSC05324

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.

DSC05236

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.

IMG_20190328_160637200_BURST000_COVER_TOP

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!

Celebrating gender equality on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day 2019 comes at a very exciting time for CO2balance. Over the past couple of years, we have been working towards registering our borehole projects in Lango sub-region in Uganda under the Gold Standard’s Gender Equality methodology. The projects have now completed the process of registration under this methodology, making them the first projects to do so.

This process feels like a natural progression. It has been observed for several years that our borehole projects have very positive impacts on gender equality in target communities. In Uganda as in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of collecting crucial household resources like firewood and water falls disproportionately on women. Where water access is difficult due to the lack of a functioning borehole, the burden of water collection on women can become particularly intense, often taking up to 6 hours per day which leaves very little time for rest, education and income-generating activities. We have known anecdotally that the rehabilitation of boreholes in the centre of communities greatly alleviates these challenges by reducing the distance travelled for collection, but with the adoption of the Gender Equality methodology, we are now gathering and collating firm quantitative data to back this up.

IMG_4773

Women in Lango sub-region collecting water

Working under the Gender Equality methodology has required some additional steps to enhance the existing positive impacts of making safe water available in the heart of communities. A particularly important step was the conducting of a sensitisation campaign in November and December 2018, where almost 250 members of the target communities received training on key concepts for gender equality, including the promotion of sharing domestic responsibilities between men and women, advocacy against gender based violence and encouraging women to adopt leadership roles in their communities.

The impacts of this campaign are now beginning to be felt, with recent monitoring in communities in Lango showing quantifiable improvements in gender equality on a range of indicators. Not only are women saving vast amounts of time on water collection, but awareness has increased on the importance of this responsibility being shared between men and women. Crucially, women are also gaining equal representation on water resource committees, the community groups responsible for maintaining the boreholes and informing water users about sanitation and hygiene. To have women on these committees serves as a great medium to share the positive messages of the project on gender equality in the wider community.

Kole

Community members in Lango attending a meeting as part of the sensitisation campaign

In a few months time, we will be issuing the first round of carbon credits from the Lango projects which have the Gender Equality stamp. We are very proud to be the first company to make such credits available on the market, and hope that this will serve as a watershed moment to instil gender equality in carbon projects globally.

Watch this space for further updates on this exciting project in the coming months. From all of us at CO2balance, have a very happy International Women’s Day!

Updates from Rwanda

In September I had the chance to travel to Rwanda to spend time with our partners and visit the communities benefitting from our projects. Having made a brief previous visit to Rwanda, this was a great opportunity to spend more quality time with the team at FAPDR, who implement the improved cookstove projects, and Rwandans4Water who are responsible for the borehole maintenance programme.

A key aim of the trip was to follow up on the CSR project that concluded earlier this year in Gatsibo district. CO2balance conducts bespoke CSR projects throughout our target countries, whereby investors in carbon credits fund supplementary projects that benefit the livelihoods of communities beyond the core carbon offset projects. The recently

DSC05144

Pupils at Gorora Primary School wash their hands at the tippy tap

concluded project in Rwanda involved installing solar lighting and charging systems in 4 primary schools which had previously had no electricity access at all. The schools were also equipped with handwashing stations and had their toilet facilities rehabilitated, and a comprehensive programme of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training was conducted.

During my time in Rwanda, I had the chance to visit Kiramuruzi and Gorora Primary Schools and to chat to teachers and pupils about the lasting impacts of the CSR project. All schools have chosen to ensure ongoing WASH awareness by creating WASH clubs of particularly engaged pupils who are responsible for sharing messages about sanitation and hygiene with their peers and the wider community. Espérance Murereyimana is the teacher responsible for convening the WASH club at Kiramuruzi and she described the strong engagement in the WASH club, which currently has 50 members. The club meets every Friday to discuss WASH issues and to practice singing awareness raising songs which are then shared with the whole school during assembly. Espérance highlighted the greatly improved WASH practices noted throughout the school, with all pupils now washing their hands several times throughout the day and passing on information to their families and neighbours.

Staff in both schools also praised the impact of the solar charging and lighting systems. In both schools visited, the systems have been working without fault up to the present time, almost one year and a half after their installation. As well as enabling a laptop to be used to fulfil school administration tasks, the key impact has been the introduction of lighting in several classrooms. In communities where there is no electricity and children have no light at home by which to do homework, having light at school after sunset at 6pm has an immense impact. Staff at both schools reported that high numbers of pupils remain after school to study on most weekdays, and that this was particularly useful at the end of the last academic for pupils in Primary 6 who were preparing for their final exams.

DSC05038

‘End User Training’ on optimum usage of the fuel-efficient stoves in Bugesera district

Other than following up on the CSR projects, I also had the opportunity to visit users of the improved cookstoves in Bugesera district and to see the boreholes in action in Kayonza and Gatsibo districts. The ongoing high levels of use of these technologies and good condition of the project infrastructure are a credit to FAPDR and Rwandans4Water for the strong engagement and maintenance activities that they continue to implement on a monthly basis.

DSC05112

Meeting with the borehole committee and wider community in Kinunza village, Gatsibo district

The visit was also tinged with sadness as it was the first CO2balance visit to Rwanda since the death of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana, the founder and president of FAPDR, who passed away in March 2018. The past few months have been a very difficult period for FAPDR, particularly for Patrice Ndatimana, the FAPDR Projects Coordinator who had worked closely with Jean-Baptiste for many years. Jean-Baptiste is greatly missed on a personal level and we’re immensely grateful to him for his work on the projects over many years. Patrice has worked tirelessly to keep the projects working over these last difficult months. We’re delighted to have recently welcomed on board Clarisse Ingabire, who joined FAPDR in August to support Patrice and who is already doing a great job of coordinating awareness campaigns and monitoring in the cookstove projects. It was also a pleasure during my visit to meet Marthe Mukamuramutsa, Jean-Baptiste’s wife who took over as FAPDR president after his passing and who continues to take a keen interest in the organisation’s work.

IMG-20181003-WA0002 (002)

Clarisse, Marthe, Tom and Patrice at the FAPDR office in Kigali

Many thanks to FAPDR, Rwandans4Water and the many community members that we met during my trip. Watch this space for more Rwanda updates in the coming months!

Promoting Gender Equality in Uganda

screen-shot-2018-01-12-at-11.11.09

Members of a women’s business group collect water from a borehole in Lango sub-region

Projects under the Gold Standard, the principle body through which we verify carbon credits at CO2balance, are currently undergoing transition to a new methodology, Gold Standard for the Global Goals. Projects making this transition will be required to demonstrate the impacts they are having towards achieving some of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are delighted to announce that as this transition goes ahead, CO2balance has been approached by the Gold Standard to pilot the new guidelines for proving the gender-sensitivity and gender-responsiveness of projects.

Our projects to rehabilitate and maintain boreholes in Lango, Northern Uganda, are currently undergoing the transition to becoming fully gender-responsive projects. We have already gathered evidence of the positive impacts that the projects have for gender equality. It is well-documented that in Northern Uganda, as in rural areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of collecting water for household use falls disproportionately on women, who will often spend over 3 hours per day going back and forth to distant water sources. This prevents women from being able to engage in productive activities, such as learning and engaging in trades to generate income independently. Making long solo journeys to collect water also puts women at risk of danger, with widespread reports of assaults against women in rural areas.

Having collected findings on these trends before, we are well aware that our projects, in putting safe water sources in the very heart of the community, enable women to have time to engage in productive activities and allow them to avoid exposing themselves to danger. However, the challenge to date has been to quantify and verify the positive impacts of the projects in this area.

Being the first project to implement the new Gold Standard gender requirements, there will be a stakeholder meeting conducted in Lango to get community feedback on the status of gender relations in the area. This will be followed by a baseline survey which will give us a basis to monitor the impacts on gender relations of the projects in future. Although we are already aware of some of the indicators that are likely to arise through these studies, we are also very excited to potentially learn about new and wholly unexpected impacts of the projects. And of course, having quantitative data on the impacts of the projects will allow us to refine our activities and maximise positive impacts for both men and women.

This puts the projects at the cutting edge of the carbon projects field, as they will generate the first Gold Standard gender-certified credits. You can learn more about the guidelines and the pilot project in Uganda through article and the Gold Standard website. Watch this space to hear more about the progress of the projects over the next few weeks!

Sustainable communities in Eritrea

Both the cook stove and water projects continue to move forward in Eritrea as last month we initiated our stakeholder consultation for a new community safe water programme in Zoba Anseba. The meeting, held in the local hall, was well attended by representatives from all the surrounding villages and the feedback received truly showed that the importance of water resources is highly valued. The project will identify communities that don’t currently have access to improved water sources because of broken boreholes and rehabilitate them to good working order.

Though the meeting was led by our project partners to give details of the project and take feedback, we were pleased to see active discussion between village members about how to best preserve the pumps once they have been fixed. The importance of borehole maintenance and awareness of water resource management were both raised and will be part of project over its lifetime.

20170607_112138

The success of the cook stove project in Zoba Anseba has continued and recently completed its second verification under Gold Standard. The project funded the training and construction of more than 3,600 ‘Adhanet’ stoves in the district. Hugely popular in the region, the stoves have shown reductions in wood use of as much as 70% and over; a huge improvement making a significant impact on rural families.

5

By embedding training on stove construction and borehole maintenance in to the programme, it strengthens the sustainability of the projects and furthers the sustainable livelihoods and sustainable communities across Eritrea.

 

RIP Oscar Carlsson, designer of the Sholapur hand pump

The CO2balance team was saddened to learn recently of the passing of Oscar Carlsson, inventor of the Sholapur hand pump, who died in late January at the age of 89. Oscar designed the hand pump whilst managing the Sholapur Well Service in India in the 1970s.

Whilst Sholapur may not be a household name, the influence of the design on rural water access throughout the developing world has been astronomical. The India Mark II, the most widely used water hand pump in the world, is based on the Sholapur design. Over 6 million India Mark IIs are in operation in India and countless thousands more are in operation globally, guaranteeing safe water access to communities living in some of the most remote and challenging locations on the planet.

Oscar’s innovations included designing ball valves for the pump cylinder and a sand trap in the rising main to extend the life of the cup washers, amongst several innovations to improve the durability and longevity of the pumps. CO2balance is one of the many organisations whose work benefits from Oscar’s efforts, with the India Mark II being one of the most widely used pump models used in our borehole projects.

Oscar is remembered by his friend Ruper Talbot as “a rare being, blessed with out-of-the-box imagination and clever engineering skills that he translated into practical solutions to every day technical and social problems”. All of us at CO2balance extend our thoughts to Oscar’s family and friends and hope that many others will be inspired by him to bring practical and ingenious innovations to support livelihoods and protect the environment.

Featured image: an India Mark II hand pump repaired and maintained by CO2balance in Eritrea