December 5, 2014, by Matt
A Geographer, pretending to be an Engineer, in Zambia…
…actually, as a human geographer based in the Faculty of Engineering, I pretend to be an engineer most days. There is however, logic to this madness. I am a research fellow on the ‘Barriers’ project which is a School of Geography (Co-Investigator Dr Sarah Jewitt) and Faculty of Engineering (Co-Investigator Dr Mike Clifford) EPSRC funded project investigating the barriers to the introduction and uptake of Improved Cookstoves (ICS) in Southern Africa (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/barriers/index.aspx).
To give a bit of background, it is estimated that there are more than three billion people worldwide who depend on fossil fuels such as solid biomass for their cooking, lighting and heating needs. The WHO estimate that four million people die each year from exposure to indoor air pollution (IAP), which is more than TB and malaria combined, as a result of burning solid fuels on traditional open fires. There are also wider environmental and gender factors to consider as women and girls spend several hours a day collecting fuel compromising their education. Furthermore, 80% of sexual harassments in Sub-Saharan Africa happen to women and girls who are collecting firewood.
I know this all sounds incredibly bleak but improved cookstoves are designed to burn solid biomass more cleanly and efficiently and can help to alleviate some of the health, environment, education and gender issues mentioned above. For example in Kenya, 80% of urban households use the ‘Kenya Ceramic Jiko’ (KCJ) which uses 50% less charcoal and widespread uptake saves an estimated 206,000 tonnes of wood per year. The problem is that the uptake of ICS in Southern Africa in comparison to Kenya has not been as spectacular as hoped for.
This brings us to Zambia, one of the 7 study countries as part of this project. The Barriers recently held their 1 year project meeting in the city of Livingstone which was a great opportunity to discuss the next stages of the project, meet some of those who are involved in the ICS sector and of course see Victoria Falls (even if it was the wrong time of year!!). We met a South African organisation called Greenpop who are “on a mission to (re)connect people with the planet” and as part of that have started a tree planting and eco-education project around Livingstone. As part of this, they have started to run ‘Rocket Stove Workshops’ to train community members how to make local mud stoves and sensitise the wider community on how using these locally made stoves can discourage deforestation, use less wood fuel and can be made with little to no financial cost. We were lucky enough to join Uncle Ben, Director of Trees for Greenpop Zambia, and his son Solomon on one of their stove workshops at Livingstone Hospital to inform hospital staff about the advantages of using an ICS and how that can save more trees. This trip allowed us to put the literature, policy and research into context and so we can better formulate our methodology to further understand the barriers to the introduction and uptake in Southern Africa.
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