By Kandani Ngwira, contributor:
It is early morning in Chiseka Village, Lilongwe.
Mainesi Ntalira has already prepared porridge for her children, who are ready to go to school.
The introduction of rocket cookstoves in her village has simplified cooking for her family and many others not connected to the frail national grid.
“With this stove, we use a few sticks for cooking the whole day. Even residue from the backyard gardens makes cooking easy,” Ntalira says.
The clean cookstoves have two pot seats and two combustion chambers, meaning one can be cooking food on one place while boiling water on the other.
They are different from the traditional three-stone fireplaces which require a considerable amount of wood fuel and produce too much smoke.
The smoke causes non-communicable conditions including stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
The conditions kill 3.8 million people a year.
“I have had terrible headaches, coughs and itching of eyes. That is no longer the case,” Ntalira asserts.
According to C-Quest Capital, distributers of the clean cookstoves, the stoves have a 34.5 percent efficiency compared to 10 percent of three-stone fireplaces.
Elsewhere in Kamphata Village on the outskirts of Lilongwe City, Village Head Sophia Kapala has seen the stoves transforming lives of women within her area of authority.
Kapala says women spend less time cooking and invest the rest in other businesses to improve their livelihoods.
“We also grow fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants. Every family has a garden of leaf vegetables and legumes. As such, such food is always available,” the traditional leader says.
Officials from C-Quest Capital recently visited Kamphata to assess the impact of the cookstoves on lives of those who have acquired them.
A video documentary on the intervention is also expected to be showcased at the United Nations Climate Change Summit slated for November in Glasgow, Scotland.
The documentary will demonstrate the stove’s potential in reducing carbon emissions as a contribution to cooling a rapidly warming planet.
The carbon finance and private equity entity, which is distributing the cookstoves in traditiona authority (T/As) Chiseka and Kabudula in Lilongwe, wants to reach one million households in Malawi.
The firm’s general manager Onyx Msachiwa is satisfied with the pace of the project after partnering Ener-G-Africa to expedite the production of the stoves for distribution.
According to Msachiwa, Ener-G-Africa is producing at least 20,000 stoves a day.
“We are also providing fast-growing bamboos and assisting beneficiaries to have backyard gardens. They also save and lend each other money,” he says.
Traditional leaders are proving to be crucial stakeholders in the initiative.
They are taking leading roles in alerting their subjects about adopting technologies that use less fuel wood and reduce their carbon footprint.
“This is facilitated by the deployment of an experienced field coordinator at T/A level. The coordinator trains health promoters to help in drilling the whole community so that they can install the stoves on their own,” Msachiwa says.
Field coordinator Eliza Kasinja ensures recipients of the stoves effectively utilise them.
She says the stoves are providing an improved energy source, thus, reducing overdependence on trees from fast waning woodlands.
“For the bamboos, the idea is that, once they mature, they can be used as firewood. This will wean households from reliance on trees,” Kasinja explains.
Killing two birds with one stone
United States-based Alena Morris, who is C-Quest Capital senior operations and health specialist for Africa, hails cookstove use as one of the most practical ways of fighting climate change while improving lives of poor community members.
“The stove is providing a sustainable, healthier and modern energy service and reduces emissions at the same time. It gives us hope that a greener future is possible,” Morris says.
Reports indicate that, every year, Malawi loses 33,000 hectares of forest cover through charcoal and wood for curing tobacco and baking bricks apart from clearing land for farming.
Just about 13 percent of the country’s nearly 20 million people are connected to the national electricity grid.
The rest of the population largely relies on firewood as a source of energy for domestic use.
C-Quest Capital hopes distributing cookstoves to one million households can help preserve trees at risk of being cut down.
The firm is providing a platform for social impact, investing in many of the least developed countries and in some of the poorest communities in other parts of the developing world.
Ntalira says she is proud to take part in reducing the global carbon footprint which, according to experts, needs to drop under two tonnes every year by 2050 to have the best chance of avoiding a two degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures.
“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reaching net zero [carbon dioxide] emissions.
“Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I co-chair Panmao Zhai said in an IPCC report released last month.