A word from the Old……

In the vast county of Taita-Taveta, a small village of Kajire in Sagalla location thrives. And here we meet up with women from Kajire women group who have gathered for their monthly merry go round. With smiles and excitement on their faces they welcome us to their sitting. We introduce ourselves and we begin our small discussion on their experience using the Carbon Zero improved cook stove and its bigger impact in fighting climate change. Caroline Kwida who is one of the oldest members stands out, at her age of 76, she still has a lot to offer to the mother nature. With her advice and suggestion she captures the minds of her fellow members as she tells them about the Carbon Zero stove and how it has improved her lifestyle.

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You see, Caroline lives with her 85 year old husband and her cooking area is inside her two roomed house. As she explains how smoke used to affect her and her aged husband giving them all sorts of respiratory infections and itchiness that would not stop in their half blind eyes, she could not be more grateful  for the benefits of the carbon zero stove. She used to spend a lot of time fetching firewood now she says it takes her less than thirty minutes to gather firewood for her daily meals.  Before getting the improved stove she used to spare not less than three hours daily just searching for fuel wood.  The women are clearly amazed at this wonder stove and we request Caroline if she could be kind enough to invite us to her kitchen home which she quickly obliges. Not more than five hundred meters from the meeting place we arrive at her well kept homestead. She welcomes us in and starts to prepare us some tea so that we can also experience how fast the CZK stove cooks.

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We ask what she does with the extra time now that she spends time looking for firewood and he gladly  shows us her flock of ducks, she now has enough time to spend with her husband taking care of him in his old age and also take care of her flock of ducks which is her main source of income. Our tea is done in no time and the group members are very impressed. As we finish we cannot help but to wonder how this aged couple would have survived without the highly efficient CZK stove. Caroline and her fellow members are forever grateful for the introduction by Co2 balance of a life saving project. With a smile on our faces and confidence high up we take our leave to the next household.

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Cooking Differently

Approximately three billion people across the globe cook every day using open, three-stone fires or rudimentary traditional stoves. Cooking with these traditional cook stoves is inefficient and grossly polluting, harming health and the environment, and contributing to global warming. In many places worldwide, women must walk for hours to collect firewood, risking their safety and sacrificing energy and time that could be used to earn a living. While often overlooked as a major contributor to the global burden of disease, cooking over open fires indoors is the largest environmental health risk in developing countries i.e. Kenya.

In Kenya the case is not different, many households can relate with the simple and accessible mode of cooking. For decades, women have been using this cooking style not knowing the danger that they expose themselves to.

To curb these menace Carbon Zero has developed various  improved cook stove models  that suit the needs of different local communities with higher efficiencies that have been able to cut down on the amount of fuel used and reducing the time spent cooking allowing women some free time to engage in other income generating activities. Carbon Zero stoves have enabled women to cook with less than a half of the wood they used to use on wasteful three stone fires and in much less time. This saves lives because less wood means less smoke and thus less disease.

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In the Western part of Kenya in Kisumu Carbon Zero has distributed over 10,000 improved cook stoves. Among the stove models distributed in the area was a brick rocket stove that locals have over time complimented for its good service. The rocket stove was the first cook stove to be built in Kisumu East region as part of the pilot project to be used in the rural settlement, where wood used for cooking had led to the immense deforestation of trees. The liner effect on the stove creates a highly efficient, largely smoke-free burn.

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Mrs. Abigael Awour who is 65 years old lives in Rapogi village in Kisumu county were she has been married for the past 35 years and stays with  her daughter and 2 grand children. She is a beneficiary of the rocket stove and we seek to get her opinion on the stove after using it for the last four or so years. With a smile she narrates that “Before receiving the brs cook stove, I had the traditional three stone open fire cook stove, which consumed a lot of fuel and I had to cut down most of the trees I planted so that I could sustain my family. I stay with my grand children who are very young which means I had to cook several meals a day and it was devastating because it was time consuming, very expensive, I also developed health complications, severe back pains and was on a lot of painkillers because I had to bend while cooking since the stove is practically on the ground and cannot be raised.

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She further adds that “After receiving the Rocket Stove I have seen a lot of changes especially in matters that deal with health because I no longer cough a lot due to the smoke reduction since I dry my wood completely and my back pain is no longer severe. The stove was done by professionals who considered all ages; I can now sit down and cook comfortably without straining, save money since I don’t need too much drugs for the back pain, now I have time to do farming and from the savings from firewood I buy maize seeds. Also the stoves retain heat so I only cook twice a day and leave the food warm on the stove for anyone to consume. Now it’s not necessary to cut down a tree to cook, all you need is a few small branches. Energy saving stoves are of great importance to our community, says Rhoda, one of the youth volunteers on the project. The stove saves a lot of energy and money because less firewood has to be collected or purchased. It also cooks faster so women have more time to engage in other income-generating activities and it is more hygienic than the traditional model. The stoves have greatly improved our living standards and for me the rocket stove form Carbon Zero is the best thing that ever happened to women in Rapogi.

Compiled by Christine Atira and Moses Maina

Uncovering Success; getting feedback directly from project beneficiaries in the rural communities

Many of us wake up every morning and go to work; we do everything possible to ensure we attain results – tangible results for that matter. But how do we tell if development projects we tirelessly implement have impacted people’s lives?

At this point I need to introduce my Company and what we do. I work for Carbon Zero Kenya an environmental project developer with more than 7 years experience implementing energy efficient stove projects. In close cooperation with our UK partner Co2balance UK Ltd – CZK has distributed approximately 62,000 improved cook stoves throughout East Africa. These projects have helped local communities improve their standards of living across environmental, social and economic domains, by minimizing long journeys spent collecting wood fuel, reducing deforestation, providing local employment opportunities and most importantly reducing health hazards.

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Late last month we made visits to our project areas in Aberdares, Nyeri, Kisumu and Eldoret and the responses we got from the beneficiaries were so promising moving into the future. We visited many households with our improved cook stoves and met women who narrated over and over again how the stoves have drastically helped reduce the demand for firewood and thus protecting local forests, which in a bigger picture leads to reduced CO2 emissions. The women further explained how the Carbon Zero efficient cook stoves have enabled a superior and more efficient combustion process, which has improved the air quality within their respective homes.

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A majority of the beneficiaries we met reported less smoke, less eye irritations, ease to breathe while cooking, less coughing and less suffering from headache. They further noted that besides improvements in environmental impact and health of women and children, the distribution of the efficient cook stoves have led to immense social and economical development.  They can save money which would otherwise have been consumed by firewood to invest in other vital family needs i.e. paying school fees for their kids. The stories uncovered successes of our cook stove projects beyond our imagination.

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Some women noted with that the carbon zero improved cook stoves are safe, stable and dramatically reducing the time, cost, and danger associated with collecting fuel from risky forests.  With all these positive feedback from our project beneficiaries we were able to get back to our initial question; how do we tell if development projects we tirelessly implement have impacted people’s lives?  These responses gave us a clear picture – they answered the question very well and to this effect we can only aim to do more to reach as many more areas. Many times we have understood the reduction in wood use from using our improved cook stoves but with this visit to we are now able to understand both the intended and unintended impacts of our projects.

 

 

 

Issuance of Msambweni, Kenya ICS project

CO2balance celebrated another milestone last week as we issued another of our Kenyan Improved Cook Stove projects under the Gold Standard. Situated in the coastal region of Kenya, the beautiful beaches are a popular tourist destination but local populations are still reliant on wood fuel and traditional three-stone fires for cooking. Over the past years we have monitored how our stoves have been helping to reduce the use of firewood leading to economic and health benefits for local people as well as lowering carbon emissions.

Since 1990 Kenya has lost on average 0.32% forest cover per year and though that does not sound very significant, it equates to more than 250,000 ha. This burden has fallen disproportionately on the coastal region of Kenya where fewer tree cover gains have been observed and our project is one that is helping to combat this decline. Biomass energy has hovered around 70% of total energy requirements for Kenya and seen little reduction in 40 years. 90% of this demand comes from the domestic sector and by providing more efficient cooking stoves, we can help to reduce the total demand for energy and therefore, wood, leading to multiple benefits for local people and the local environment.

Paris in Focus

Next week, on April 22nd, the environment will come under focus as the world celebrates another annual ‘Earth Day’; this one bears more significance than most as world leaders gather at the United Nations in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. As the Paris Agreement will no doubt gain extra media attention next week, we look at the ‘need-to-knows’ of this historic accord.

Haven’t they already agreed?

The signing is the second of three steps before the Paris Agreement takes effect with the first being the adoption of the text by negotiators at COP21. The final stage will be the ratification by individual nations at a later date.

What’s the big deal?

This is set to be the largest single-day signing of an international agreement and represents a monumental diplomatic feat as almost every nation reaches a consensus on the need for concerted efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Didn’t we know that already?

For years there has been overwhelming scientific consensus on the dangers of climate change under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario however political logjams have marred any significant international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The innovative approach to discussions in Paris were widely regarded as being key to achieving successful negotiations.

So what did they actually agree?

The text of the agreement centred around a few key numbers:

  • Limit global warming to 2°C (while aiming for 1.5°C)
  • 189 countries submitted targets in the form of Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) accounting for 99% of global emissions
  • Countries must re-assess their targets every 5 years (from 2023); they cannot lower them and are encouraged to set more ambitious targets over time

The final question is when will it take effect? The agreement needs to be ratified at a national level by 55 countries representing 55% of emissions.  It is possible that enough countries will move it through the approval process for that to happen this year however given the varying domestic approval timelines, 2017 is more likely.

In the meantime, there are constant and growing efforts from businesses, organisations and individuals around the world to reduce their own impact. Progress has been slow to get to where we are now but the pace is accelerating; the more we do, the more we abate the negative impacts of climate change and next Friday will be one step further along the path.

Green Climate Fund and CDM

Early last month, South Korea’s Songdo hosted to the latest meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). CDKN’s Christina Elvers observed that compared to last year’s disappointing meeting in Zambia, GCF managed to make some major progress with the US signing the first tranche ($500m) of their commitment to the GCF. Riding on the momentum of the Paris Agreement, 2016 should be a very important year for the fund as it committed itself to take funding decisions worth $2.5 bn in 2016 for mitigation and adaptation projects. The main challenge is whether the fund delivers to those nations most in need.

GCF’s stated aim of providing direct access to developing countries, and thus bringing about a “paradigm shift” in terms of access to finance for vulnerable countries. However many developing countries would need support in preparing the proposals, as the President of Kiribati rightly pointed out in the Guardian early this year. At the moment, many of these small developing nations do not have means to access the fund directly but only though accredited private entities such as banks and multilateral institutions approved by GCF. Understandably simplifying the accreditation process is not on the table, as accountability to donors as well as to poor people is of prime importance, point out Harjeet Singh from Action Aid. It is therefore a positive development that GCF has finally approved a readiness support to Rwanda whose direct access entity, MINIRENA, received a $1.5m grant to prepare the proposals.

Many questions though whether it is the right decision to spend such large amount on preparation support and this is where carbon market frameworks come in the pictures. In 2012, the CDM High-Level Panel on the CDM Policy Dialogue proposed that GCF shall build on “CDM standards and methodologies in accounting for payments for verified results, so as to leverage the achievements, knowledge, and resources of the CDM”. While some part of their recommendations, such as purchase of CDM credits clearly cannot be considered due to the additionality criteria, it might worth to reflect on the lessons learned on this long-standing mechanism of emission reductions. Besides CDM, Gold Standard can also provide GCF with knowledge on how to set the standard which enables project developers to deliver high-impact, community focused emission reduction projects in developing countries. It is only by learning from these institutions’ past experience that GCF will be able to design a financial response that would truly lead to a paradigm shift.

Zoba Anseba Cookstoves: Tekea and her Award Winning Eritrean Stove

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.

 

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Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba

Tekea and her family

Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan

International Day of Forests 2016

Today is the International Day of Forests 2016 and a good time to take note of the importance of forested land (the ‘lungs of the planet’) that covers almost one third of land area of our planet. In our projects and many others, a strong focus is put on the role of forests as a form of carbon storage to counter the increasing anthropogenic carbon emissions, however forest ecosystems provide a variety of other ‘services’ that often go unobserved or unaccounted for.

It is estimated that forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. As well as being important themselves in creating biologically diverse plant ecosystems, they provide a vital habitat to a vast array of animals, many of which are not yet known to science. For humans, this can provide food, medicinal resources and raw wood/plant products for fuel and building materials. Additionally, grazing occurs within forests and local populations often grow rotational crops on temporary plots of land with the forest providing cover and protection.

Forests also play a key role in the hydrological cycle. By stabilising the soil with root structures, slowing the percolation and reducing the total water flow, forests lessen the impact of flooding and erosion, benefitting people far beyond the forest margins. This process greatly increases the water purity through filtration and preserves soil quality across the landscape; improving crop yields and the health of populations that rely on surface water for drinking and washing.

One ‘service’ that is often less considered is the cultural importance. Forests often come to define landscapes and, though it may contribute to the tourism industry, the aesthetics and beauty that they offer is something that cannot be quantified. Places where nature is untainted often carries a spiritual importance, not least for indigenous populations, therefore any destruction of these areas undermines this historical knowledge.

The benefits that humans derive from forests should not be understated; as well as providing a home to hundreds of millions of people, almost a quarter of the global population depend on forests for their livelihood. When considering the vast array of ‘ecosystem services’ that forests provide for humans, the number is probably far greater than that. Every year an area of forest the size of England is lost but, more and more, these benefits are being recognised and celebrated. Today in particular we can try to raise this awareness and encourage the sustainable use of these resources so that they might provide the same benefits to future generations.

Budget 2016 – A missed opportunity?

We heard from the Chancellor George Osborne yesterday as he set out government spending plans and it certainly offered a mixed bag for the energy and environment sector. It was framed as a budget of long-term solutions, “putting the next generation first”, which was promising following the recent Paris Agreement, however this claim has since received some criticism from representatives of the ‘green economy’.

There were undoubtedly some positive announcements and there was an obvious effort to streamline energy efficiency requirements for businesses. Following a consultation on the future of the energy efficiency tax landscape it was finally revealed that the CRC scheme is to be abolished. In the form it has adopted, the CRC is a tax rather than a ‘commitment’ and, recognising this, the levy will be collected through an increase in the Climate Change Levy (CCL) after the 2018-19 reporting year.

The obligation for large companies to report on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will remain. In the consultation, GHG reporting through the ESOS regulations was highlighted as a successful driver for energy efficiency investments. CO2balance are conducting a review of our ESOS experience and will publish the results in the coming weeks.

A single energy and carbon reporting scheme is to be introduced from April 2019 that integrates the requirements from climate change agreements (CCA), the ESOS regulations and the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS). In the short-term, not much will change but a single reporting system and tax will be seen as an improvement for any company negotiating the current overlapping policies and schemes.

Those looking for a drive towards a low-carbon, energy efficient future however have found few positives. After the last Budget the CCL also applies to electricity generated from renewable sources who will be impacted by the increase and policies to support and encourage the renewables sector were again, scarce. This dearth is one reason the UK has slipped in the ‘Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness’ table and with the announced tax cuts for oil and gas it does not seem as if the Government has much ambition to climb it again.

In the first Budget since the Paris Agreement and in the face of record-breaking global temperatures over the first two months of the year, many felt there was an opportunity to send a strong signal to bolster the ‘green economy’ in the UK. This ‘budget for the next generation’ however, was particularly notable for its failure to mention climate change at all and has left many feeling that, perhaps, this was an opportunity wasted.

Carbon Counting

Since the Paris agreement was reached and political leaders across the world signalled their ambition and direction for the path ahead, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a huge need for ‘carbon accountants’. Now, the title ‘accountant’ doesn’t often inspire great aspirations but this is a different breed of accountant with a very different remit. In a world where companies now account for their carbon debits as well as their financial bottom line and countries have made ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ of how they intend to reduce emissions, there is a need to monitor, verify and report on carbon emissions and for those with the expertise to do so.

The job of calculating carbon emissions is not a simple one; an improved cook stove for example, may use less wood when cooking than an open fire but people may also use fuels other than wood, may use more wood during different seasons or still use an open fire to heat the family home; calculating how all this affects potential emission reductions from a new stove can be complicated.

At CO2balance, we have developed a breadth of expertise in precisely this area and have developed several climate mitigation projects that support some of the poorest communities in developing countries as well as helping to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We have also worked with hundreds of companies around the world to calculate, verify and make savings on their carbon footprints. We support the agreement reached in Paris and will continue to build on this strong foundation.

We have recently advertised a new position for the role of Carbon Projects Officer in search of applicants to join our team whom we can share expertise with. The call for applications closes at 17:00 today and we look forward to bringing in a new member to our team who can contribute to our work at an exciting time when ‘carbon counters’ are becomingly increasingly essential for a carbon-free future.