Eritrea: Programme Report

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.

 

Fairtrade Climate Standard Approved

A small but important announcement was made late last year as world leaders debated the way forward on climate legislation at COP 21 – the Fairtrade Climate Standard was released.  This new venture – in partnership with the Gold Standard Foundation – aims to further utilise carbon offset projects to increase skills, knowledge and financial flows to producer communities in countries in the Global South.  As one of the most trusted brands in Britain, Fairtrade have not taken their decision to enter a new market lightly and the key driver behind their involvement is the inherently unfair nature of climate change.

Hand on heart, most of us recognise that climate change is largely a problem caused by the developed world, however it is not common knowledge that a cruel climatic irony is at play.  The majority of people in developing countries are small scale producers or smallholders dependent on crops and livestock as both a means of subsistence and income.  These people are therefore the most vulnerable to weather extremes in a changing climate, but are also the people that have made little – if any – contribution to the cause of it.   A staggering 80% of the world’s food is produced on land less than 2 hectares in size – when you consider that most of this is vulnerable to a changing climate, the scale of the challenge makes Fairtrade’s intervention understandable and very welcome.

I have just returned from Bonn where I attended a workshop at Fairtrade’s HQ on the key operating procedures defined in the newly published standard.  Just like Fairtrade bananas and coffee, I learned that a key feature of a Fairtrade offset is that a so-called Fairtrade premium must be paid to the producers (not developers) of the carbon credit.  (In a cookstove project, this is the people who have swapped their 3 stone fire for an improved cookstove.)   This premium must then put to use for the collective good of the producers in the way that has been democratically decided by that group to be most appropriate for their needs.  In a traditional Fairtrade supply chain, this premium is typically used to invest in improved processing techniques, organic fertilisers or similar things that will add value or improve working practices.  A Fairtrade carbon offset is different; the premium must be invested in climate adaptation activities – thus enabling and empowering producers to prepare for a changing climate.  Project Facilitators, like co2balance, will assist producer groups by transferring knowledge about climate adaptation practices (such as improved irrigation practices or water storage) to deliver extra impact within the offset project.  Now that the Fairtrade standard has been approved after exhaustive revisions, the rest of 2016 will see it being trialled by around 20 projects, including one of our own.   We are very excited about what it can bring to the carbon market and shall continue to keep helping shape its development.

 

 

Issuance of First Gold Standard Water Projects In Kaliro

CO2balance are pleased to announce that our first two borehole VPAs in Kaliro District, Uganda, have been issued under the Gold Standard. For the past two years, we have worked closely with local NGO WAACHA and district water mechanics to rehabilitate broken down boreholes and implement a long term maintenance programme that ensures the provision of clean water to communities for at least 7 years. An important part of the programme is  community sensitization and engagement, which involves training the borehole caretakers and water resource committees on the key aspects of borehole maintenance and hygiene. We recognise that creating a sense of ownership among the community members is a crucial element to the success of the projects.

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WAACHA and CO2balance conducting a WASH meeting in Madibira under a jackfruit tree

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Educating children from Saaka school on the importance of borehole hygiene

 

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A well maintained borehole in Lwamboga

 

 

A low-carbon Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly, merry and usually extravagant but instead of a white Christmas, perhaps a ‘green Christmas’ would be the best way to finish what has been a very positive year for the environment. Here are a few ways in which you can lower your carbon footprint this festive season and truly enjoy a guilt-free holiday.

1. Reduce

With forecasts suggesting that this is likely to be the warmest Christmas for many decades, consider adjusting heating controls to reflect the mild weather. As many homes fill up with family and friends, as well as having an oven on for hours, houses will be warmer than usual and each 1° of overheating is equivalent to an 8% increase in heating costs.

2. Recycle

Once the presents have been opened and the Christmas meal cooked and eaten, the waste paper in the UK alone could reach all the way to the moon! We now recycle more than we throw away in the UK and by keeping that up and recycling everything we can, it dramatically reduces the Christmas carbon footprint. For the UK, find out what you can recycle here.

3. Re-use

When the festivities begin to wind down and it’s time to dispose of the tree, different methods of disposal have a big impact on its carbon footprint. Carbon Trust estimates suggests that with real trees the footprint can be reduced by as much as 80% by diverting old trees from landfill. Artificial trees have a larger carbon footprint than real ones and need to be re-used for 10 Christmases to keep the environmental impact lower than real ones.

Christmas celebrations can be all too short but it can be a great time to form lasting habits and encourage broader change. With friends and family around, your actions are more likely to get noticed by others and influence positive change. The simplest thing you can do to reduce the overall environmental impact over the holidays, is share your Christmas with as many family and friends as possible and from everyone at CO2balance, we wish you all happiness and good health.

xmaspic

The time is now…

Discussions continue in Paris this week at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) as politicians from all over the world begin their final push to reach a new global accord for action on climate change. Negotiations are due to conclude on Friday but could roll on in to the weekend with some sleepless nights as many key disagreements are yet to be settled.

Though major steps forward have been made, it is becoming clear that the agreement in Paris will only form part of the solution and also, how businesses will be one of the most influential actors on climate change. Just this week there has been calls from many sectors for businesses to aim carbon neutrality by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Now, with the new international agreement on the horizon and wide calls for global price on carbon, businesses are beginning to see value-at-stake from action on climate change. Changing public perceptions, increased energy costs and changing weather patterns, all represent risks to businesses and should be treated as such.  By measuring carbon footprints and investing both internally in energy efficiency and externally in climate change mitigation to offset carbon emissions that cannot be reduced, there are multiple benefits to be realised.

Last week ICROA, of which CO2balance are members, launched a series of videos from just a few businesses that have recognised the benefits of offsetting as part of broader carbon management strategy, setting out the clear business case. Endorsed by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it will feature at this year’s COP to highlight offsetting as a vital part of the solution set to meet global emission reduction goals.

By supporting carbon-offset projects, businesses are investing in the local environment, communities and benefits that extend far beyond the carbon reductions. We now look forward to the conclusion of this week’s negotiations and hope for a strong, binding agreement that sets a clear path to a low carbon future.

CO2balance Issues 4 Ugandan Borehole VPAs under The Gold Standard

Since 2013, CO2balance has been developing a number of borehole rehabilitation projects in Uganda under the Gold Standard voluntary carbon offset scheme. After almost 2 years, we are glad to announce that 4 VPAs in the Lango sub-region (Dokolo, Alebtong and Otuke Districts) have recently issued carbon credits for the first time. This is a major achievement for everyone that has been involved in the projects, in particular our staff in Uganda who have worked extensively with the communities and other local stakeholders to garner support and ensure that there is participation at all levels. Although this may seem straightforward, in practice there are a plethora of challenges that need to be negotiated especially when operating in such remote and poverty stricken environments.
Between 1987 and 2007, the Lango sub-region was subject to countless human rights atrocities by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which has had long lasting impacts on the social and economic fabric of the affected areas . It is estimated that over 20,000 children were abducted by the LRA many of whom were forced to commit horrific acts of violence. Around 1 million people fled their homes and ended up moving to temporary camps for the internally displaced (IDPs). The prolonged period of conflict inevitably led to the deterioration of institutions and basic services. All the challenges related to rebuilding a war-torn region are evident, from stabilising the economy and restoring infrastructure to reintegrating former members of the LRA and addressing human rights abuses.

Memorial Site for the 2004 LRA Massacre in Otuke District

Memorial Site for the 2004 LRA Massacre in Otuke District

 

Building a biogas plant for a local school in Barilonyo

Building a biogas plant for a local school in Barlonyo

Over the last 3 years, CO2balance has rehabilitated 41 boreholes in the Lango sub-region  which supply clean water to over 20,000 people who previously relied on open water sources such as lakes and ponds. As local governments lack sufficient funds for water infrastructure, these projects are playing a small but important role in the region’s post conflict development.

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CO2balance realises that community participation is crucial to the long term success of its projects

 

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One of CO2balance’s rehabilitated boreholes in the Lango sub-region

 

 

Making Better Use of My Free Time!

Rural women largely contribute to agricultural and rural enterprises therefore driving local and global economy which in turn contributes to Sustainable development goals. However, persistent structural constraints such as lack of education and constant exposure to risks of violence hamper their full potential in growing economies around them. In rural areas, women are culturally assigned reproductive roles, housework, fuel collection and caring for children. A greater burden goes to firewood collection and fetching water therefore limiting women from employment opportunities.

In the concept of mitigating climate change and structural constraints faced by women and girls in rural Kenya Co2balance has distributed 10,000 energy efficient cook stoves in Meru South. These cook stoves contribute to lesser use of wood as compared to traditional open fire cook stoves. This has greatly contributed to lessening the burden of wood collection by rural women in Meru South thus creating time for other household activities and establishment of Small Income generating activities in beneficiary.

Agnes Kanini from Muiru Village Meru South is one of our case studies who has directly benefited from this cook stoves program. She applauds the program for helping change her lifestyle in the kitchen, financially and time management.
Despite her lack of education which hinders her from securing a formal job, Agnes is able to save time from wood collection for mining activities near her home area.
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Though this casual job is short-term, more precarious and less protected it has contributed to an extra income complimenting her husband’s of income. Improvements in her home are noteworthy since she adopted the carbon zero stove. Agnes explains that firewood has become a rare commodity. She further says that the population in the area has increased in the last five years and the same has resulted to the pressure in the small forests available.

In Her own words she says,“sasa hata tulikuwa tunashindwa miaka tano inayokuja kuni zitapatikana wapi, na msitu ni kama kilomita kumi; hii jiko imenisaidia kwa sababu tulikuwa tunatumia kama dakika thelathini kukata kuni za kupika siku moja. Ile ingine tulikuwa tunatumia zaidi ya masaa mawili” (“We were wondering where we are going to be collecting the firewood as the forest is ten kilometers from here; the carbon zero stove has helped me because we usually spend like 30 minutes to collect firewood compared to the three stone which we used to spend more than 2 hours”).
Meru Nov. 1

Compiled by;
Micheal Njihia and Virginia Njata

The treasure of Kaptagat Forest!

Deforestation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to global climate change. One problem caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle. If greenhouse gases are in large enough quantity, they can force climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Trees can help a lot as it’s estimated that about 300 billion tons of carbon is stored in trees, according to Greenpeace.

The deforestation of trees not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. This is because when trees die, they release the stored carbon. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year. Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent. (Van Der Werf, G. R. et al., 2009).

Worldwide deforestation accounts for 25-30 percent of annual CO2 global emissions, the result of the burning of brushland for subsistence agriculture and wood fires used for cooking. A surging population in Africa seeking to provide energy for cooking needs has led to massive environmental damage, including deforestation.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Africa, where a 2007 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forest report stated, “in Africa, almost 90 percent of all (forest) wood removals are used for energy.”

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Deforestation is ongoing even in Kenya and is shaping climate and geography. One case scenario is Kaptagat forest in Eldoret. This forest has been threatened by anthropogenic activities one of them being cutting down trees for wood fuel. Demand for fuel has destroyed Kaptagat forest and threatened lives of people living nearby.
(Watch the media coverage on status of Kaptagat forest via the links below).
http://std.co.ke/14468
http://std.co.ke/14469

Deforestation for firewood causes:
-air pollution
-global warming/climate change
-desertification
-loss of biodiversity
-loss of habitat
-floods
-soil erosion etc

Many organizations thought of ways to combat this worrying trend on this very vital forest. Carbon Zero Kenya could similarly not just sit and watch thus started an improved cook stove project in the area. 16,000 cook stoves were distributed in the area and the results so far have been promising.
Kaptagat forest 2
The improved cook stove came in handy to reduce on amount of wood spent on cooking by replacing three stone /traditional stoves which over time have been consuming high volumes of firewood and even demanding for more hence increasing levels of deforestation. Traditional stoves have low combustion efficiency, leading to higher cooking times and inefficient use of fuel wood. Introduction of the improved cook stoves by Carbon Zero will lead to the revamping of Kaptagat forest while at the same time cutting down on wood use hence reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

High hopes on the road to Paris

Global support for climate action is growing and with less than 100 days to go before a deal is struck in Paris, there is an increasing focus on governments around the world to match this support with political will. Unlike the heady days of the ‘90s when agreements in Rio and Kyoto left environmental campaigners euphoric, negotiations in recent years have been incremental and marred with political log jams; the signs for the latest Conference of the Parties (COP) however, have been positive and groups of all persuasions are looking forward to the outcome on December 11th.

Unlike previous COPs, all governments have been invited to publically disclose their ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs). These are the climate pledges that countries are encouraged to submit ahead of the UN negotiations and to date 30 INDCs have been submitted covering 57 countries and almost two thirds of global emissions. Many of these have indicated ambitious reduction targets and more than 100 countries are expected to have announced their plans before negotiations begin in November.

Countdown to Paris

The balance between a bottom-up and top-down (with the UN tracking whether governments are committing to enough reductions) format seems to have been delicate enough to ensure that a “fair” deal is struck and, since they have been decided themselves, governments of the future are less likely to backtrack on commitments. Setting these goals will send strong signals to businesses and investors globally, raising the confidence that a path is being laid in a transition towards a cleaner planet.

Today marked the close of the penultimate UN talks before Paris and already there seems to be a more open and transparent approach to roadblock issues that may arise over the coming months. We can only hope that this approach supports productive discussions and an ambitious climate agreement that meets global expectations and sets the tone for a brighter future.

Keep an eye on INDCs on the UNFCCC website – bit.ly/1AAyvjS

Papal Encyclical and Climate Change

EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Source: EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

After months of speculation and expectation, the Pope has released an encyclical about climate change and our species’ relationship with its natural environment. The encyclical, which is the highest form of communication that the Pope can issue, covered everything from battery storage to deforestation, to carbon credits to ecological debt, to calling for an end to fossil fuel use. Pope Francis called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is beginning to resemble a “pile of filth”.

Up to now, he says, the world has accepted a “cheerful recklessness” in its approach to the issue, lacking the will to change habits for the good of the Earth. The Papal encyclical continues the tradition of a Catholic Church that does not shy away from social and political issues. While the Argentina-born pope is a very humble person, he seems increasingly determined to play a central role on the world stage. Though not a politician – or maybe precisely because he is not one – he commands high moral and ethical authority that goes beyond traditional partisan lines.

No one – religious or atheist – should be in any doubt that the Pope’s encyclical on defending the natural world is a big deal. Watch the space for reaction.