Stoves and Juicers: protecting the environment and livelihoods

Most meals in rural Nigeria are cooked over open wood fires. This is simple and familiar. Traditionally fuel has been cheap and fairly easy to find.

However demand for firewood has increased in line with population growth. As trees are cut down the environment suffers from deforestation, soil loss and eventual desertification. There is also increasing awareness of the damage to health caused by wood smoke, especially when cooking takes place indoors.

Efficient wood fuel stoves cook food more quickly and use less fuel. So if the stoves can be provided cheaply to local families everyone wins, right? Not quite!

Alternative livelihoods need to found for the women who gather and sell the firewood.

John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation are working to solve the issues with DARE, a Nigerian NGO and their German partners.

BACKGROUND

Working with DARE and their German partners, John Dada is able to source up to 10,000 efficient wood burning stoves at half-price. The Save 80 is prefabricated in Germany and then assembled locally in Nigeria.

The Save 80 (named because it requires 80% less fuel than open fires) needs only 250g of small brittle sticks of wood to bring six litres of water to the boil. Traditional fireplaces require five times as much fuel to boil the same volume. The design offers complete combustion with no visible smoke and only small amounts of ash. The stove is suitable for cooking, heating and sterilising water, frying, and for baking flat bread. After reaching the boiling point, food can be transferred to the heat retention box, where it will continue to simmer until it is well cooked.

A single cooking stove will also save about 3.7 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Nevertheless, at NGN15,000 (about £60) the stove is still too expensive for most local people to buy. Fantsuam is exploring whether it can provide the stoves using microfinance loans and appealing for donations to subsidise the purchase cost. Update May 2010 I understand from the team at Fantsuam that 100 stoves have now been brought (May 2010) using their microfinace loans.

When the stoves are distributed the project will help to:

  • bring wood consumption down to a sustainable level so as to allow natural recovery of forests and/or reforestation to take place
  • curb greenhouse gas emissions resulting from wood fuel burning
  • diminish indoor air pollution from wood smoke and avoid its harmful health consequences
  • reduce household fuel bills
  • contribute to the preservation of wood resources so as to avoid conflict over resources

WHO LOSES OUT?

If lots of people begin to use more efficient stoves and demand for  firewood collapses, what will happen to the many women whose income now depends on felling trees?

John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation do not plunge into new projects without thinking through the implications for the whole community. Please see previous blog entry about the juicers story which will hopefully help provide alternative employment for some of these women.