Use of improved cook stoves pivotal in saving natural forests

24Oct 2019
The Guardian
Use of improved cook stoves pivotal in saving natural forests

THE Sustainable Holistic Development Foundation (SUHODE Foundation) has suggested the need for the government to enforce mandatory use of improved clean cook stoves for all households and institutions to save the country from turning into semi-desert.

Tree felling for firewood, charcoal and farm expansion are among of the key drivers of deforestation in Tanzania.

The foundation’s director, Frank Luvanda said that the use of improved cook stoves will help reduce 40 percent to 50 per cent of biomass consumption at households and institutions levels hence contribute towards sustainable utilization of biomass from natural forests.

According to Luvanda, the foundation under support from WWF Tanzania and SIDA through a project entitled “Leading the Change: Civil Societies, Rights and Environment” is building affordable improved cook stoves at household levels in two villages—Njungwa village in Gairo district, Morogoro region and Mchakama village in Kilwa district, Lindi region.

In the two villages, local communities using improved cook stoves have confirmed reduction of biomass consumption measured through frequencies of entering the forests for firewood, the environmental activist said, adding:

“Most of households used to go to the forests at least twice a week for firewood collection but since they started using improved cook stoves they only go once a week and some firewood collection  had showed   50 per cent reduction.”

Citing a study by the Center for International Forestry Research, (CIFOR), he said: “The same experience of biomass reduction has been confirmed in Ethiopia whereby improved cook stoves for Injera (a staple food in Ethiopia) showed 40 per cent reduction of biomass consumption as compared to traditional three stones cook stoves.”

On affordability and reliability of such improved cook stoves, said that there are lots of such improved cook stoves made by several institutions which can readily be available to users.

The costs for proposed improved cook stoves can range from a 15,000/- per improved cook stoves up to 3m/- for institutional-based improved cook stoves, he said, noting that there are several varieties to suits urban and rural needs as well as to suits individual’s purchasing power.

“As foundation, we’re ready and willing to transfer knowledge of making affordable improved cook stoves to local communities something that will reduce costs for rural communities.

“SUHODE Foundation is confident and optimistic that introducing and enforcing mandatory uses of improved cook stoves at household and institutional levels will save the quick diminishing of natural forests in Tanzania hence save the country from falling into semi-desert,” Luvanda said in an exclusive interview.

According to information from CIFOR, improved cooking stoves (ICS) have a long history in nature conservation and development projects; as they bear the potential to reduce the pressure on forest resources and improve local livelihoods at the same time. 

“That’s why we’re suggesting the need for the government to legally introduce mandatory uses of improved cook stoves at household and institutional levels for the purpose of saving our natural forests in Tanzania,” he said.

He added that the recommendation aligns well with various national policies and plans such as the National Energy Policy 2015, National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) 2013-2018, National Environmental Policy 1997, National Forest Policy 1998, Wildlife Policy 2007, Forest Act No 7 of 2002, Environmental Management Act No 20 of 2004, Wildlife Conservation Act No 5 of 2009, Water Resource Management Act No 11 of 2009, etc; all these aim at sustainable management of natural resources in Tanzania.

“This is also in line with the World Bank Group recommendation, which highlights the importance of access to modern fuels and low impact urbanization. Limiting the amount of biomass fuel consumed by households would have an immediate positive impact on ecosystems and human health.” 

He also said that SUHODE Foundation will continue working hard to support government’s environmental protection initiative and sustainable management of natural resources.

“The foundation will embrace natural rejuvenation techniques to restore degraded natural forest landscapes as part of its forest restoration program. It will continue to embark on renewable energy interventions by facilitating local communities to embrace energy efficient cook stoves as well as other renewable energy options.”

According to him, the foundation is quite optimistic that the government of Tanzania will take measures and decisions that favor protection and conservation of natural forests in Tanzania.

“SUHODE Foundation hopes that the government of Tanzania will embrace sustainable uses of natural forests to ensure its sustainability in the long term not only for us but for future generation as well.”

“The confidence that foundation has right now is based on the fact that the fifth government of Tanzania has taken desired actions to increase efforts in conservation,” he said.

Current data shows that forest loss in Tanzania is huge as the country losses 469,420 per annum.

According to the World Bank Group Report of 2019, Tanzania is one of the fastest deforesting countries in the world, whereby firewood and charcoal are among the key drivers of tree felling.

Tanzania’s Sustainable Energy for All Action Agenda 2015 said that more than 90 percent of the country’s rural households use biomass from natural forests for cooking while in urban areas 62 percent of households use charcoal for cooking and heating.

Some of the negative impacts of natural forest loss are biodiversity loss, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of water sources, shrinking of wetlands and water catchment areas, and destruction of river banks. 

 “Our forests are shrinking year after year hence requiring strong measures to stop deforestation in the general land adjacent to cities and towns as well as in protected areas.

“Personally, I really fear the future of our current and next generations as  they may find themselves amidst chaos due to lack of reliable clean water supply, reliable energy sources, as well as reliable natural air cleaning mechanism. The same generations might find  engulfed amidst erratic and unpredictable rains, food insecurity, and polluted air,” Luvanda said.

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