This project involves indigenous women in local production of cheap, environmentally friendly stoves and cookers in northern Cameroon. “Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation for Indigenous Women in Northern Cameroon” uses peer education to build ownership and engagement for the improved cooking technologies, while an outreach campaign also educates communities about simple measures that further increase fuel efficiency. The project reduces fuel wood use in an area that’s at risk of turning into a desert due to climate change. The project is funded by GEF Small Grants Programme and UNESCO.
- 6,500 households use energy-efficient cook stoves daily
- 50,000 households have reduced firewood consumption by 50 percent
- 5,000 tons of firewood saved annually
The arid Sahel strip that runs from east to west along the southern edge of the Sahara desert in northern Africa is growing as a result of climate change, shifting southward into new regions. The extreme north of Cameroon is one area where the Sahel is expanding – it’s also the poorest part of the country, and faces a bottleneck of scarce natural resources and population explosion.
Compared to other African countries, Cameroon has seen limited introduction of firewood-efficiency techniques and technologies, so firewood consumption in arid northern Cameroon has remained relatively high.
“Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation for Indigenous Women in Northern Cameroon” trains indigenous women in the Mayo Tsanaga and Diamaré areas of extreme northern Cameroon in how to construct efficient clay stoves and fireless cookers. Thirty women were instructed in how to train other women, resulting in 600 total trainers in indigenous Mbororo and mountain dweller communities.
The training included education on fuel-efficient techniques such as use of tight lids, minimum water, and soaking during cooking; and wood drying and splitting. In addition, the project launched community radio shows on fuel efficiency and other adaptations to climate change, helping to spread the message of sustainability.
Helping the planet
Trees and bushes hold soil in place, and when they are removed, erosion and other processes like evaporation take place, which end up degrading the land. Reducing wood-gathering slows the desertification taking place in this far-northern region of Cameroon, and contributes to greater ecological health including land and water quality. Preventing collection of firewood means not only that less gets burned, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions – it also means that trees and other plants remain standing and continue to anchor carbon from the atmosphere, helping address the problem of climate change.
Indigenous women of northern Cameroon who use the stoves benefit from reduced smoke during cooking, which makes for healthier and more comfortable kitchens. Women in two villages also manufactured fireless cookers to make money, improving their economic position and helping them support their families. Having a healthier natural environment benefits the community at large.
Other organizations that visited the project site are already copying it in other parts of Cameroon. As other communities became aware of it, women visited to become involved of their own accord. Such spinoffs and spontaneous expansion are allowing the project to grow. The “training of trainers” approach, as well as outreach efforts through the radio shows and a documentary, also contribute to the project’s ability to be replicated.
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