FOR Brenda Luhombo, a resident of Ivakale village in Western Kenya, living close to Kakamega Forest meant unlimited access to firewood and charcoal. She could easily buy it from the illegal loggers who walked right past her door – to and from the forest.
But all that changed in 2019 when she finally installed an energy-saving stove.
“I used to spend 200 shillings (US$1.60) per day on firewood and 2,000 shillings (US$16) on charcoal every week, but since the stove installation in my kitchen, I spend only 100 shillings on firewood which lasts up to one week. The forest management sells us firewood from trees that have dried up,” said Luhombo. Kakamega is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest and is believed to be a remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the continent. The country has been battling to conserve the forest in the face of pressure from surrounding villages.
“The energy-saving stove is very efficient. When you cook in the morning, you will still find embers of flame to use for cooking in the evening. This is much better than the traditional cooking stones where I used to look for firewood daily and for every meal,” Luhombo added.
According to Global Forest Watch, from 2001 to 2021, Kakamega lost almost three thousand hectares, an 8.2% decrease in tree cover and equivalent to some 1.37 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions. High firewood and timber demand by neighbouring communities were largely responsible. Today, Luhombo is saving money and the forest. And it’s thanks to a cook stove project started by a local women’s group.
“Since this project started, the trips the locals used to make to the forest to get firewood have reduced. The stoves use less energy than the traditional three stones used for cooking. To a bigger percentage, we have reduced the degradation of the Kakamega forest,” said Berita Mideva, secretary of the Valonji Women Group.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.