How eCook technology can keep deforestation at bay

06Jan 2019
Gerald Kitabu
Dar es Salaam
Guardian On Sunday
How eCook technology can keep deforestation at bay

ENERGY experts have called on Dar es Salaam residents and Tanzanians at large to change their mindset by switching from charcoal and fuel wood to more efficient electric cooking appliances to rescue forests from rampant deforestation.

Project Manager for Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, Shima Sago (centre) training women from different parts of Dar e salaam on efficient electrical cooking appliances. Photo: Gerald Kitabu

They said efficient electric cooking appliances such as pressure cookers, rice cookers and thermo pots are actually cheaper and far better than charcoal, which will also help to mitigate the problem of climate change.

Speaking at a training on the use of efficient electric cooking appliances that involved more than 30 women in Dar es Salaam, Project Manager for Sustainable Energy and Climate Change from the Tanzania Traditional Energy Development Organization (TaTEDO) Shima Sago said experience had shown that efficient electric cooking appliances had stalled deforestation in many places.

The training on the use of efficient electric cooking appliances was given freely to women from Chanika, Kimara, Ubungo, Mbezi Beach, Kijitonyama, Sitaki Shari Ukonga, Tabata, Mwananyamala, Goba and  Airport in Dar es Salaam region.

Citing an example, he said by using efficient electric cooking appliances such as a pressure cooker one can cook 1kg of beans for 50 minutes and use only 0.5kWh costing Sh180.

He said in realty it is not possible to cook beans with charcoal for Sh180, but with electricity it is possible. 

“Currently Tanzanians use an estimated 2.5 million tonnes of charcoal per year, with Dar es Salaam residents using 60 per cent of all charcoal produced in the country.

“If urban areas and major cities like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Dodoma and Arusha, decided to use efficient electric cooking appliances, we would conserve and protect our forests and the environment from wanton tree felling,” he said, adding: 

“Before the training, we conducted a simple survey for 25 households in Dar e Salaam and studied daily charcoal use for two weeks and then we asked them to switch from charcoal to efficient electric cooking appliances. At the end of the study, it was discovered that using charcoal was very expensive compared to efficient electric cooking appliances.”

Last year the government said it had completed a global market analysis highlighting Tanzania as having enormous potential for solar battery electric cooking.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Dr. Hamis Mwinyimvua said this was due to the fact that more than 84 per cent of people who rely on unsustainably sourced charcoal and firewood for their cooking needs and staple foods are highly compatible with battery-supported electricity.

Securing a steady and reliable supply of modern energy is a major challenge for the country. That is why the government, through the Ministry of Energy, is looking for alternative innovative solutions to contribute to addressing the challenge of energy for cooking in the country.

However, with research findings and demonstrations of efficient electric cooking appliances, there is hope that thousands of Tanzanians will have a paradigm shift to electric cooking using new and efficient technologies, especially solar electric cooking being one of them.

Evidence from other countries has already shown that solar electric cooking offers the potential for emission-free cooking while saving time and money and broader environmental benefits from reduced fuel wood and charcoal consumption.

In another development, according to experts, the proposition of solar electric cooking (or PV-eCook) is that by 2020 the cost of using solar photovoltaic panels to charge a battery, and then using the battery for cooking as and when required will be comparable to the monthly cost of cooking with charcoal and wood in mot developing countries.

As 2020 is now less than two years away, it is an exciting time to be talking about this potentially transformative eCook technology.

The new eCook technology has established that, if adopted on a large scale in the country, there will be no need to use firewood, charcoal or gas in current quantities.

Researchers from Universities of Loughborough, Surrey, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia said that if deliberate and concerted efforts are made to spread education on this new technology, only sunshine will be the national fuel instead of biomass fuels, which is the case now.

eCook Researcher Dr. Jon Leary explained that research into eCook aimed at coming up with alternative solutions for cooking through solar battery and electricity cooking.  

“eCook is a technology that saves time for women because they are able to do other income-generating projects,” he said.

“This cooking improves health for women and children as it doesn’t have indoor air pollution for women and children, it saves time and reduces mortality rates,” he added.

He said it is better people to understand how much time and energy used on eCook, compared to other methodologies so that they could make an informed decision.

Executive Director for TaTEDO Estomiah Sawe advised Tanzanians to change their mindset and opt for efficient electric cooking appliances instead of biomass energy to protect their health and conserve forests from rampant deforestation.

He said different studies show that about 3 billion people in the world cook food and heat their homes with traditional stoves fueled by wood or charcoal fires, which accounts for a large percentage of the greenhouse gases that pollute the planet.

In Tanzania, cooking is keeping millions of women from reaching their full potential. Women and girls spend up to five hours a day cooking and collecting firewood.

“The fire from charcoal, wood and farm residues, produce toxic smoke which is inhaled, leading to over 20,000 preventable deaths every year in Tanzania according to  the WHO,” he said.

But solutions exist that can empower women and help them live their lives to the fullest. However due to lack of international and national political will and associated funding, the solutions have not been promoted and the problem continue to worsen year after year.

The problem is clearly manifested by the amount of daily deforestation occurring in Tanzania. According to National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment report (NAFORMA), Tanzania is losing more than 1000 hectares of natural forest each day due to charcoal production and the loss is increasing fast.

“The opportunity for efficient electric cooking appliances in Tanzania is a potentially transformative household electric cooker that is cost effective for household cooking. In addition to offering a clean solution, it can also provide reliable and affordable electricity access,” he said.

The new technology can be tailored to best meet the needs of Tanzania cooks, in particular, those from lower income households located in poorer urban areas, peri-urban and rural areas.

Senior researcher Eng. Evarist Ng’wandu explained that research showed that efficient electric cooking appliances are a new technology that consume less energy.  It is a technology that could be enhanced to other users who still cling to firewood and charcoal across the country.

“Some cooking methods exist, like gas and charcoal, but these are traditional although gas could be new, but the efficient electric cooking appliances could be very important at household levels,” he said.

The project on leading the change, Civil Society Rights and Environment under TaTEDO, has been providing regular training on efficient electric cooking appliances in different regions in Tanzania to educate women and create public awareness on how best they can use electric appliances to conserve forests and the environment at large.