You might associate energy poverty with British households who can’t afford to heat their homes. But it is also one of the biggest contributors to the loss of rainforest in the Congo.
That’s because 95% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s energy comes from burning wood or charcoal from rainforest. Each year the average household in the DRC will get through 1.6 tonnes of fuelwood, mainly for cooking. No part of the forest is safe and even national parks are degraded by the constant need for fuel.
In our Lubutu partnership, demand for fuelwood is the number one threat to forest. Cooking on open fires is also a major health hazard with household air pollution from cooking fires kills more children every year than AIDS or malaria combined1.
With your support, the villages in Lubutu are testing three alternatives to traditional stoves and three-stone fires. These are wood gasifiers that burn much more efficiently, solar ovens that store heat from the sun to cook food and mud stoves. Less wood, or none at all, is needed for each of these stove designs, but that’s not the only deciding factor. The stove selected to roll out to the next stage of the project will need to be practical, easy to use and maintain, affordable, and suitable for traditional cooking methods.
The best people to test these stoves are the women who use them every day. The most effective and scalable option will be chosen based on interviews, tests and a focus group with the community.
Like other Cool Earth initiatives, our approach is ‘bottom up’. We make the most of local expertise, listen, and adapt plans to provide the right support.
As well as lifting people out of energy poverty, this project will deliver wider social and environmental benefits.
Less wood burnt indoors means fewer emissions from wood smoke. Emissions are usually created during cooking, and a reduction will improve the respiratory health of the community, particularly for women and children, the people most affected by household air pollution.
Female empowerment and income generation
Training women’s groups to make and fit stoves will empower women and provide an alternative means of income, up to 90% of which will be reinvested in other social benefits. And, practically speaking, without having to collect as much fuelwood, girls will have more time to go to school and study, and women will be freed up to generate their own incomes.
Reduced environmental stress
Energy efficient stoves will dramatically reduce the amount of wood that is harvested from the forest surrounding the community, reducing pressure on the forest and ultimately, keeping trees standing.
“We cannot have a good life without conserving our natural resources especially trees and forest and resources and things we are depending on.”
Mbake Silva, Lubutu Partnership
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