New tech saves trees

Sunday December 02 2018
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A forest in Muheza. Thousands of households are benefiting from fuelwood-efficient stoves introduced two years ago at Misalai and Zirai wards in Muheza. PHOTO|FILE

Muheza. Nearly 2,000 households are benefiting from fuelwood-efficient stoves introduced two years ago at Misalai and Zirai wards in Muheza District, Tanga.

The technology has also contributed to the conservation of the East Usambaras.

The stoves fit rural homes. They are made from clay soil and stones, and are fast replacing traditional three-stone stoves.

Thousands of women and children in the East Usambaras who bear the responsibility of collecting firewood and cooking for their families are enjoying the new technology.

The traditional three-stone stoves put cooks at risk of respiratory and eye diseases.

At the same time, the decrease in the collection of firewood from about four loads a week to one load a week helps to conserve forests.

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The old cooking technology involved high fuelwood consumption rates and subsequent wanton tree felling.

The 1,992 households consumed 7,968 loads a week.

The alternative technology was introduced in October 2016, under the project known as “Integrated Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation in the East Usambaras”.

According to project manager Eustack Mtui, the new stoves are part of efforts of strengthening the resilience and reducing the vulnerability of the poor rural communities to effects of climate change.

The project is being implemented by the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) in collaboration with Ongawa and Muheza District Council as part of the European Union funded Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Tanzania project.

GCCA is a European Union flagship initiative which is helping the world’s most vulnerable countries to address climate change.

Mr Mtui said the community had easily adopted the technology.

“People who were originally resistant are now embracing it.”

According to him, the technology is simple, and can be replicated anywhere to replace the inefficient smoky traditional stoves, mostly fixed inside inadequately ventilated dwellings with women spending between 3–7 hours a day near them.

The new technology enables one to place two pots at a time. It is also fitted with a chimney to remove smoke from the kitchen. The stones normally heat faster, but take long time to cool, thus maximising the cooking energy.

The higher adoption rate of the new technology manifests the recognition of the stove efficiency and the outstanding merits environmentally, socially, health wise and economically.

Ms Sauda Yasini Tindi, a farmer from Kizerui Village in Zirai, said the new technology involved the use of less firewood.

“In the past it took me four hours to collect firewood. I am using less firewood. Now with the new technology, I visit the forest once every seven days,” said she.

She spends more time with her family than fetching firewood in the forest as it was the case before.

Fewer frequencies’ of firewood collection mean low rates of forest degradation, said Mr Mtui.

The technology contributes to strengthening the resilience and reducing the vulnerability of the poor rural communities to the effects of climate change.

Further responses from beneficiaries have shown that kitchens are now smoke-free and safer for women and children.

“This technology generates little or no smoke at all. No more pain in my lungs and irritation in my eyes like it used to be. The three-stone stove was killing me,” said a Mgambo-Miembeni woman at Misalai Ward.

Mr Mtui thinks it is important to roll up the technology in the whole of Muheza District to improve the management of forest reserves.

He revealed that a group of 20 community-based trainers (10 men and 10 women) has been trained and legally registered to continue with these initiatives even beyond the project time and site.

The results of the East Usambara experience add to various other studies conducted in other places in developing countries, which confirm that the new technology in energy-saving unlike traditional stoves.

Mtui puts the saving rates at between 40 and 48 per cent.

According to an article appearing on the website of the Centre for International Forestry Research in Ethiopia, for example, 140 interviews, including users and non-users of the improved stoves, revealed fuelwood savings of nearly 40 per cent compared with the traditional three-stone fire, leading to a total annual savings of 1.28 tonnes of fuelwood per household.

Considering the approximated share of fuelwood from unsustainable sources, these savings translate to 11,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved for 11,156 disseminated improved stoves, corresponding to the amount of carbon stored in over 30 hectares of local forests, the article said.