By Daphne Carliez & Paris Kazis
Lack of firewood and a four-hour daily walk to collect new supplies often meant families were undercooking or even skipping their meals in the region of Gitega, central Burundi. Now fuel-efficient stoves are transforming people’s lives and also generating extra income for some families. The World Food Programme’s Safe Access to Fuel and Energy, or SAFE, initiative has reached over 6 million people in 18 countries, meeting a target set in 2009. The aim now is to assist 10 million people by 2020. Here we take a closer look at Burundi’s story.
“Access to firewood was the main problem I always faced,” says Marie Gakobwa. Marie and her husband Richard Nahimana, parents to four children, received a new stove under the SAFE programme in Colline de Rushanga.
The new fuel-efficient stoves in this area mean fewer and shorter firewood-collection trips, allowing more children to attend school instead of gathering fuel. Less money is spent on firewood, while families eat more regular, nutritious meals as there is no need to worry about using up all the wood.
For Marie, the improved stoves are more stable, can be used with a variety of cooking pots, and allow for faster and cleaner cooking with less smoke — benefiting both people’s health and the environment.
“The same bundle of firewood that I used to cook with each day can now last four to five days,” she says. “Looking at the difference in terms of firewood use, I am pleased.”
WFP Field Monitor Alice Nibitanga explained the difference the stoves are making: “To save firewood, meals prepared on the traditional three-stone fire were often undercooked or skipped, affecting people’s nutrition and ability to lead a healthy life.
“In Rushanga this could happen as often as five days a month, especially in the rainy season when dry firewood is hard to find.”
Training includes helping families to understand the stoves’ multiple benefits, including fuel savings, with each household’s need for firewood reduced by an average of 11.5 kg per day.
SAFE stoves have also presented a new business opportunity for some community members, including Marie’s husband Richard.
After several training sessions, he is now making and selling his own improved stoves, helping generate extra income for his family. By being locally designed and sourced, the stoves are easy-to-make, affordable and trusted by the community.
Richard explains how his neighbours in surrounding communities have already expressed their interest, offering him as much as 5000 francs (US$ 3) per stove. This could bring in significant income and benefits for his family, which has often had to curb its spending on food in order to buy firewood.
The Gitega project has reached 485,000 people to date, and is aiming to cover 10,000 rural households by 2019. Through WFP’s School Meals programme, SAFE is also providing Institutional stoves to reduce the pressure on firewood needs in four more regions in Burundi. From 2016 to 2019, SAFE will reach around 100,000 children in 147 primary schools.