Story by Daphne Carliez
Meet Hanan Abdalla Mohammed. She lives in Shagra village in Darfur, Sudan, and has six children. Hanan is involved in a World Food Programme (WFP) project to help women safely cook food for themselves and their families.
She is one of over 2 million women in Darfur reached under WFP’s Safe Access to Fuel and Energy programme, also known simply as SAFE.
“Less women and children need to walk long distances.”
Hanan receives training to make fuel-efficient cookstoves made partly of mud, plant tree seedlings, and make fire-fuel briquettes. Through this she can increase her own income while helping improve both people’s safety and the environment.
The stoves — along with briquettes that she makes as an alternative to firewood — mean that fewer women and children need to walk long distances to collect firewood in Darfur, a journey which had previously put them at risk of violence.
“Women in Shagra feel safer now,” says Hanan. “Before, we had to collect firewood far away. Women and girls can be raped even if they go just a few hundred metres outside the village.
“If they get pregnant their babies are ‘haram’ — meaning forbidden — and they will feel this stigma until they die. Now we go less often and also have alternatives to firewood because of the fire-fuel briquettes we are making ourselves.”
The stoves have other advantages over using an open fire. Burning large amounts of wood pollutes the environment, while women and children face health risks from smoke inhalation.
Strengthening community assets and moving people away from dependency on firewood are important elements of the programme. People grow tree seedlings to produce sustainable supplies of firewood in community forests, for example.
They also attend literacy classes and receive training in sustainable agricultural practices. For Hanan, the extra money she receives from selling stoves and briquettes allows her to hope for a better future for her family.
“It is often difficult to buy enough food. My husband is a farmer and his income depends on the rain each season, which is not always enough for our household,” says Hanan.
“With the fuel-efficient stoves and briquettes we learn to make, we can get more income. We sell them at the market and, with the extra money, we buy more and better food for our children as we can get a bigger variety.
“I now have big dreams for my children and hope they will become doctors, engineers and professors.”
WFP’s SAFE programmes have reached millions of people in 15 countries since 2009, including Burundi, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Uganda, as well as Sudan.
Between 2016 and 2020, WFP is aiming to widen SAFE programmes and to reach additional countries with energy-access concerns, in keeping with the Organization’s goal of reaching 10 million people by 2020.
For more information, visit wfp.org/SAFE