Giving Power to rural women

With the support of Australian High Commission in Kenya in the 2015 Carbon Zero Kenya partnered with a women group (Umeme women group) in Western Kenya in Kisumu West to produce 900 cook stoves and sell them within the community. The women were empowered with skills in stove production and marketing.

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The aim of the Umeme Women’s Group Improved Cook Stove Project was to set up a self sustaining cook stove enterprise that was to construct and sell stoves within the local community. The project created some source of income for the women and thus enabling them improve their living standards.

Just to offer some background an acute shortage of fuel for cooking is one of the many problems faced by people in Kisumu West as it is the case in other parts of the country. Gathering fuel is generally women’s work but is fraught with dangers; they gamble with the risk of rape and life threatening attacks during their search for much needed firewood, in order to feed their families. In certain areas, local sources of firewood are completely depleted, leading women to travel further and further afield or to dig up tree roots, eliminating any chance of the trees growing again. Even if women survive this, they are still exposing themselves and their children to potentially deadly smoke fumes.

With the above challenges in mind and the financial support from the Australian High Commission Carbon Zero decided to tackle the challenges in Kisumu West through the use of more fuel-efficient Carbon Zero Artisanal Stove, which is both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs.

Carbon Zero Kenya mapped out several women groups in the area; vetted them and settled on one that was most convincing – Umeme women group. The group of ten women was well trained both in theory and practicals of artisanal stove production. After which the women were supported to source for materials and stove parts and produced a total of 900 cook stoves that they marketed within their community. The revenues collected from the sales helped the women earn an extra income. In addition the women started making weekly savings into a central kitty that they have been able to invest overtime further raising their incomes which has in a big way boosted their living standards.

Diana   is one of the women group members; the secretary of the group. Speaking to her she elaborates that prior to this project had always used the three stone cooker ever since she was born and had never seen an alternative cook stove. She says that previously she didn’t know how expensive it was sustaining a three stone stove. Knowing well that Kisumu West has fewer forests with most land under farming the only way to get firewood was and still is through buying. While using the three stone stove she says she used to buy wood worth 800/= Kenya shillings per week and this was too expensive for her.

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However she says that her turning point came in 2015 when together with the other women were selected to be trained on how to manufacture artisanal stoves and market them within their community. Diana says that after they were trained as a group they produced a total of 900 stoves that they sold out to locals. She gained skills in stove production, maintenance and also simple business skills that have been very essential in her life thereafter. As a group under her leadership the proceeds from sale of stoves were put into a table banking revolving fund that members have overtime been borrowing and paying back with little interest. She says that many group members have borrowed money and paid school fees for their children, some have borrowed to start different businesses and as they pay back their revolving fund has been growing and today they have even increased their membership.

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Diana explains how she borrowed from the group and started vegetable farming. The project has been on for the last two years and the returns are good. She is able to get an extra income to pay fees for her kids while at the same time get something to keep making contributions in the women group.  She explains that since she did not have formal employment she couldn’t borrow from the bank hence the capital they got from the sales of the stoves helped inject capital into their group that has seen them grow both individually and as a group in ways she cannot explain.

She further explains that many women call her within the local community at times to repair their stoves when they have for instance cracks and they pay her helping earn her earn her income.  She says today she her community as a stoves maintenance expert in the community. Within her own home Diana says that ever since she received the CZK stove she has seen a big difference in her life. For instance the improved cook stove saves wood fuel which enables her channel some of the money she would spend buying firewood to other development projects. As we part Diana says that for her the biggest thing out of the stove production enterprise set by Carbon Zero is that she was able to save and start a farming venture that has really improved her family’s income. She says that the project gave them power to improve their lives and turn around their fate.

 

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Counting the cost

Human life requires cooking, which means having access to fuel. 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.

For anyone who relies on an open fire to cook daily meals, the need for fuel rivals that for food itself. It’s common knowledge that almost everywhere on earth people cook, but that is not all, the question is yes you cook; but how do you do it? Are you using the traditional three stone stoves or an energy efficient stove? And do you know that the stove you use for cooking has an effect on your health, the environment and even beyond? According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, up to 1.6 million women and children die every year from breathing polluted air in their homes. Respiratory and vision problems occur in mostly women and children because they spend significant time indoors tending to cooking fires.

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Another critique with traditional wood fires is the inefficiency in fuel consumption. Traditional wood fires are inefficient at transferring the released energy into the cooking vessel. Most of the released energy in the wood is wasted heating the surrounding air rather than heating the cooking vessel. 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.

Even worse is the fact that the burden of accessing firewood  always fall on women and girls, as they are responsible for cooking family meals in most rural communities. This compels them to walk for long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families. Firewood collection is at times incredibly dangerous, exposing them to the risk of physical and sexual violence. Sadly, every day, millions of women and children risk being raped, attacked either my human beings with ulterior motives or even animals as they collect firewood.

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From the above photo Carbon Zero as one of the main environmental companies in Kenya is tackling these issues through the use of more fuel-efficient woodstoves, which are both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs. This further translates into improved health and time savings for households, in preservation of forests and associated ecosystem services, and in reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Empower a Woman; Empower the World!

While most governments in Africa acknowledge that empowering women and girls is a key contributor to economic development little as been done to achieve this noble goal. In Kenya women are the backbone of the rural economy. Nevertheless they receive only a fraction of the resources geared at ending poverty i.e. land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.
Empowering and investing in rural women has been shown to significantly increase productivity, reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve rural livelihoods not only for women, but for everyone.

With this understanding Carbon Zero Kenya got into Kenya with a different approach on its aim to fight climate change and empower rural communities. It invested in working with rural women as agents of change and this has so far proved fruitful. Since the inception of Carbon Zero Kenya energy efficient cook stove projects in Nyanza most rural women with the neighborhood of Kisumu have been privileged to be beneficiaries of the improved cook stoves.

And it’s in this region that we meet Mama Akinyi who lives in Nyahera village which is located approximately 20kms west of Kisumu town.  Mama Akinyi says that…“The traditional cook stove “kite adek” has been in my family for a long time .I used to buy firewood every week which cost me about 300/= Kshs, which was very expensive considering the fact that I did not have a constant source of income. Per month this totaled to 1200/= kshs,sometimes I was forced to purchase the firewood on credit basis from the wood vendor, this  made me run away when I heard him looking for me. During rainy seasons the wood price escalated, wood was not readily available and sometimes if available was not dry.

One day at the market I met this lady from Umeme women group who introduced me to a jiko ya kisasa, artisanal cook stove”.

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Having read my past blogs you will remember that Carbon Zero Kenya in 2014 trained a group of 15 women form the community (Umeme women group) on how to produce and assemble an efficient CZK artisanal cook stove.

Mama Akinyi continues to say; ……The group used to do a demonstration on how to light and use the stove and this really motivated me to purchase it through an installment basis which was convenient for me .One of the key aspects of the stove was the ability to cut the firewood consumption by approximately 50% leading to the reduction on the amount that I was spending per month to purchase the firewood. The use of the artisanal stove has allowed me to purchase firewood in bulk thus enabling me to prepare the wood in terms of making sure they are well dried and readily available. Also my relationship with wood vendor has improved drastically because am able to buy in bulk and pay on time. Having cut wood consumption by 50% it made it easy to save and start an income generating activity.

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With the funds I managed to save, I started a small kitchen garden where I planted kales and other vegetables .This provides food for my family and is also a source of livelihood. The money from this venture has made me join a “Chamaa” which has enabled me to buy a mobile phone making communication easier. Through this chamaa we do table banking with the money I get form my vegetables farm I intend to save money for a year and borrow a loan to take my son to the University. All this could not be possible were it not for the improved cook stove which was designed by carbon zero and produced by Umeme women group’’.

The story from mama Akinyi verily confirms the fact that Women are essential to ending poverty around the world. Strengthening women’s roles as leaders, entrepreneurs, consumers and economic stakeholders will transform the African continent and the world in totality.

Prepared by; Christine Atira and Moses Maina

Stroke of Luck for Rural Women in Kenya

Worldwide demand for energy to meet social and economic development and improve human welfare and health has been on the increase over the years. This has attracted many versions of energy efficient technologies springing up with an overall objective to save planet Earth.

Carbon Zero Kenya Ltd has remained a key player in the fight against climate change by developing projects that aim at mitigating the effects of the current global crisis. Over the last six years Carbon Zero has persistently worked with local communities in Kenya in promoting use of clean energy thus reducing demand for wood hence bringing down the overall speed of deforestation.

In the South of Mt Kenya is Mathira East project where the company has continued to advocate  and champion the adoption of energy efficient cook stoves, not only with the aim to mitigate green house gases emission but also improving the lives of the community  both economically and socially.

Among the notable aspects of the Carbon Zero energy efficient stove that attracts massive beneficiaries appreciation is in its great ability to save fuel. Wood fuel is a scarce commodity in this region. In addition, fuel costs have risen as more and more forests are cleared, therefore Carbon Zero stoves come in handy in the search of solutions for fuel shortages.

In one of the many success stories in the area, we meet Mrs. Grace Kangacu in her home. She is an aged grandmother from Mathaithi village. She shared her journey before and after receiving Carbon Zero energy efficient cook stove.

Pointing at three children playing outside her house, Mrs.Grace Kangacu explains how she felt deserted when her other grandchildren were growing up. Being a widow, she felt very lonely .She further recounts that before receiving the CZ stove she used to spend the nights alone because her sons’ wives could not allow the children to her kitchen as they feared a likelihood of fire accidents. ’They said that I am aged therefore not swift enough to handle the playful young ones’’ which she agrees it is true. ‘’All this changed when I started using my new (CZ) stove. Now my evenings are full of laughter from my grandchildren since their mothers are comfortable to let them visit. My new stove is safe as the fire is well enclosed inside the stove to prevent accidents and conserving a lot of energy too,’ ’ She confidently wraps up her testimony.

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Seeing that wood collected from Mrs. Grace’s farm lasts longer while using a CZ stove, the need to make back up wood purchases has  also become a thing of the past.

Carbon Zero Kenya is proud of making a change and brightening Graces’ sunset years.

Compiled by; Purity Maina, Virginia Njeri and Moses Maina

Our Carbon Zero Federation Dashboard

The Carbon Zero Federation Dashboard (FED Dashboard) is an online interface, designed in-house by CO2balance that provides project partners a central access point to all the key documentation relevant to project development as well as data entry tools for monitoring activities. Due to the data intensive nature of carbon projects, ensuring that all records are stored in a secure location both in hard copy and electronically is important so that they are easily accessible for auditing purposes. A key advantage of the FED Dashboard is that the functionality can be customised according to the requirements of our clients. As outlined below, the Dashboard has three primary functions;

1) Project Documentation

Documentation and templates relating to each stage of the project cycle are stored in this section of the FED Dashboard. This provides a master copy of all documents that can be accessed and downloaded both internally and by Partners working with CO2balance on specific aspects of the project. Access for Partners can be set up and tailored so as to provide only the necessary information and documents for each stage in the project development.

2) Stove Sales Record and CTF Management

Obtaining the carbon rights form (CTF) is a crucial element of the project development process and a copy of each form needs to be uploaded to a database in order for an electronic copy to be stored and made accessible for project auditors. One of the primary functions of the Dashboard is to provide a secure space for storing the CTFs electronically and creating a total sales record (TSR) which is ultimately used to calculate the emission reductions. The following functions provided by the FED dashboard allow for easy management of the TSR;

  • CTF forms can be downloaded directly from the FED Dashboard in PDF format
  • Once the CTF details of a stove recipient have been collected, a photo of the CTF is uploaded to the FED Dashboard from any location in the world in close to real time. This means that field staff in remote locations can transfer data quickly and efficiently and thus minimise the risk of mislaying important information.
  • After the details of each CTF have been entered into the Dashboard, they are automatically transferred to a spreadsheet, which can be downloaded as an excel file. This crucial process enables the user to track and manage the technology records easily in close to real time which allows for accurate management and monitoring of project sales.

3) Data Entry

An additional function that Partners can access in the FED Dashboard is a data entry system for the monitoring surveys such as MKS’ and KPTs, which considering the data intensive nature of carbon projects, can help save time and minimize the risk of data entry errors.

Confirmed this past week, World Vision Kenya will be using our in house written software for the development and monitoring of 2 improved cookstove projects in Kenya, Wema and Mogotio. This is a great step forward for the collaboration of our two companies and will allow us both to have instant access to data, which will improve efficiency and ease of communication.