Tanzania: Clay stoves make life easier for rural women

Tanzania: UNDP supported clay stoves make life easier for rural women
Stella Fungameza, with one of her three children, can now cook with half the amount of firewood thanks to an energy project piloted by UNDP. (Photo: UNDP)

Until January of this year, Stella Fungameza – a 30-year-old mother of three children –wandered into the forest twice a week for 12 hours, bringing home up to 30 kilograms of firewood from each her trips.

Now Stella can cook with half the amount of firewood thanks to an energy project piloted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tanzania, a country facing a critical energy shortage.

UNDP is working with the government to provide more efficient cooking stoves so that people will not have to collect and burn so much firewood. The new stoves emit less smoke indoors – improving overall public health – and, in addition, women like Stella can spend more time with their children or launch a second income stream.

Highlights

  • UNDP trained 80 young men and women to construct firewood stoves using clay soil and sand. In 2011 they constructed 7,500 stoves and, in turn, have trained more than 350 other villagers to do the same.
  • If the 7,500 improved stoves are used well they will reduce annual firewood consumption from 27,000 tonnes to 13,500 tonnes.
  • In the last three years, US$850,000 has gone to this project from UNDP, with an additional US$152,000 from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

“I now collect firewood only once a week instead of going there twice,” Stella said. “I can sit in the kitchen with my children because the new stoves give out very little smoke. The smoke was bad when I was cooking on the traditional three-stones; my children used to cough quite a lot and complain from painful eyes.”

More than 40 million – about 94 percent – of Tanzania’s population relies on firewood and charcoal for cooking. As a result, the country’s forest cover has been reduced over the last 50 years from 6.3 hectares per capita to around 0.8 hectares in 2010, leaving behind miles of barren land incapable of absorbing water or supporting plant life.

When the project began three years ago, UNDP trained 80 young men and women to construct firewood stoves using clay soil and sand. In 2011 they constructed 7,500 stoves and, in turn, have trained more than 350 other villagers to do the same.  UNDP has encouraged the use of clay stoves because they use less firewood and burn out slower than traditional open firewood stoves.

“If the 7,500 improved stoves are used well they will reduce annual firewood consumption from 27,000 tonnes to 13,500 tonnes,” said Bariki Kaale, a UNDP Tanzania forest expert.  “If all households in the country started using improved firewood stoves, deforestation could be reduced from the current 412,000 hectares to around 206,000 hectares per year. This would enhance the conservation of water resources and biodiversity, and reduce deforestation’s contribution to climate change.”

In the last three years, US$850,000 has gone to this project from UNDP, with an additional US$152,000 from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

Currently, there are two ongoing pilot projects in Kwimba and Moshi districts, which are home to more than a million people.  Plans are now under way to extend the same programme to other parts of Tanzania.