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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Award winning Mogogo Stove in Zoba Anseba
Tekea and her family in the village of Adi-Tekelezan
After three months of enormous efforts our project partners Vita have successfully completed the repair and maintenance of 48 bore holes in the central region administration of Eritrea (or Zoba Maekel) This repair programme has received mass support and satisfaction from the beneficiaries that will now benefit from access to clean water across the entire district.
It is with enormous pleasure and pride on behalf of CO2balance that we have been able to be part of these projects which truly alter the lives of the most deserving people on the planet. I have seen first hand how illness from drinking dirty water and the time lost fetching it robs entire communities of their futures while cascading them onto a cycle of poverty which makes Eritrea one of the most under-developed countries in the world.
CO2balance and Vita are seeking to address extreme poverty in Eritrea going forward over the next number of years. Zoba Maekel is just one part of the programme being implemented which is seeking to break the cycle of poverty in Eritrea and long may it continue to thrive and develop going forward. All our work is done in conjunction with the communities and people of Eritrea. Eritreans are proud of their country. Proud of what they have achieved in such a short time since becoming independent. In the villages and the towns where co2balance and Vita operate is to be found Eritrea’s greatest strength; the resilience of its people.
It was Robert Unger (philosopher and politician) who famously articulated that “At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different”. CO2balance together with Vita do not lack any clarity or imagination on a vision for Eritrea. Ultimately, their programme has the dream of repairing all the broken boreholes in the country and providing clean water for thousands of people. Watch the space for this dream becoming a reality.
See a montage of photos from the borehole repair programme in the beautiful country of Eritrea through 2016.
Dirty water sources in Eritrea
Borehole repair programme
Women very happy
Children also very happy if not a tad confused by the new found fame
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.
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.
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
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.
CO2balance realises that community participation is crucial to the long term success of its projects
One of CO2balance’s rehabilitated boreholes in the Lango sub-region
Last week we received confirmation from the Gold Standard that our first 4 micro scale borehole projects in Malawi had been Listed. This is a land mark in what has been a slow moving project but one that carries an enormous amount of potential.
The project aims to improve access to clean water in one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 160th out of 182 in the Human Development Index. In fact according to the United Nations about 74% of the population still lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day and an incredible 90% are below the $2 a day threshold.
On top of this Malawi is considered a water stressed country with less than 1,700m3 of fresh water per capita. This problem is amplified by remarkable population growth, especially in its urban areas. Future water demand projections predict that Malawi will fall to less than 1,000 m3 of fresh water per capita as early as 2015.
Against this back drop only 65% of Malawi’s population has access to improved water and sanitation. Therefore to achieve its 2015 MDG targets more than 6 million additional people will require access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Our projects are playing a small but vital role in helping Malawi meet its MDG targets and we have now repaired more than 60 boreholes which are currently providing communities with clean and safe water, while also helping to avoid current and future GHG emissions.
Last week we welcomed two new Carbon Projects Officers into the team to help manage the growing portfolio of projects that CO2balance are implementing. Both Antonis and Ethan completed their masters degrees at Edinburgh University and come to us full of knowledge on all things carbon. New members joining the team is always an exciting time for both old and new alike and we can’t wait to see what fresh ideas they bring to the company.
Over the coming weeks and months I am sure you will get to know them more as they begin to pick up their own projects as well as contributing to the blog but until then I hope you will join us in welcoming them to the CO2balance family!
At the end of last week we received an update from our partners, Concern Universal, in Malawi that a total of 62 boreholes have been repaired and are now providing clean water for local communities. This marks a significant milestone in the project to date as it means we can soon submit to the Gold Standard for registration of our 4 VPAs.
The approach we are taking in Malawi is centred firmly on the community; before making any repairs the community must have organised a committee to manage the borehole. This committee is responsible for ensuring that some basic materials and labour are provided by the community before work can begin. We see this as an important step in the process as it affirms the communities buy in and ownership of the boreholes. Without this, it is unlikely that they will effectively manage the resource and further borehole breakdowns are likely to occur.