Using less charcoal, firewood to save forests
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Cooking stove designed to minimise firewood consumption, thus save forests, at igamba village in Mbozi District, Mbeya Region. (Photo by a Correspondent)

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MBOZI District in Songwe Region is experiencing climate change effects. Known as one of the leading food producing areas in the country, the district is now grappling with the effects of environment destruction mainly caused by human activities.

Isansa and Igamba wards are the most affected areas in the district. Effects of environment destruction are evident. About 80 per cent of the residents in this area depend on agriculture as a major source of income.

District Environment Officer Ms Jackline Wikechi says that improper farming activities, cutting trees for firewood and for making charcoal, lack of alternative source of energy for cooking, invasion at water sources, poverty and lack of understanding on environment conservation are the major environment destruction in the two wards.

“The situation in these two wards is really saddening. There is acute shortage of water, temperatures rise, decrease in rainy periods, rivers are drying and there is stormy winds,” she says.

In general, residents in Mbozi District depend on resources generated mainly from the environment. Survival of the people and other creatures in this area depend much on their relationship with the natural surroundings.

Therefore, sustainable measures are needed to ensure a favourable condition for production and this means having focused measures in environment protection and conservation. Ms. Wikechi says that her department has been conducting awareness sessions to the villagers which aim at capacity building on environmental protection which includes protection of water sources.

“There are invasions at water sources for farming activities. We have been educating the villagers not to practice any agricultural activities within 60 metres from water sources”. Some of villagers are responding positively but there are those who are resisting claiming that they have been farming at water sources for a number of years.

Those who are not obeying are taken before the Law for further actions. In the process, the villagers are being motivated to plant trees for fuel uses in their farms so as to avoid cutting trees in reserved areas.

Meanwhile, district authorities in collaboration with environment stakeholders from in and out the country are finding ways to ensure that the situation is improving. Heifer International organisation is one of the stakeholders who are working with the District authorities in saving environment and at the same time making sure that people’s economic activities are being improved as well.

Speaking during a recent launch of campaign on Community Sensitization on Alternative Sources of Renewable Energy organised by Heifer International, Mbozi District Commissioner Mr John Palingo said that shortage of rain in the area is an indication that there is serious environment destruction.

“In September and October last year it did not rain. Drought seasons are becoming longer. We need to fight this situation urgently and you must support initiatives of your government and its partners in improving this situation before it becomes worse,” he told Isansa villagers in Isansa Ward.

Mr Christossy Lalika, Project Manager for Mbozi Farmer Livelihood Improvement (MFLI) from Heifer International organisation says; “disappearance of our forests is an indication that there is growth of population which in return results in increasing demand for forest products for energy.”

For decades, villagers in Isansa and Igamba wards like other individuals in most parts of our country have been using firewood and charcoal from indigenous trees and for their own uses. Large parts of the area which was once well covered with different types of indigenous trees are now bare or with very little number of trees.

As deforestation is increasing, getting firewood from remaining forests is becoming a difficult task. Mr Lalika says women are the most affected group of in communities since they are forced to walk long distances from their homes to look for firewood than they used to do before.

“It is important to have focused measures in planting more trees and taking care of the environment but it also very important to assist communi ties to have access to modern technology which will help in reducing high consumption of firewood and charcoal for cooking”, he emphasizes.

A well known traditional three stone stove which has been in place for number of decades has proved to be less efficient since it loses high amount of heat during cooking and thus demanding large amount of firewood.

This means more visits to the forests to search for firewood and more amount of money spent for buying firewood for those who are buying firewood. In addition to that, continuously use of a three stone stove has been cited as one of causes of eye and lung ailments to majority of women and children.

Heifer International with support from Starbucks Company of the United States of America has introduced Fuel Efficient Stove which is built especially focusing on reduction of firewood consumption and thus save more trees which could be cut for the purpose.

These types of stoves can be constructed using resources which are easily available in our surroundings, including soil, burnt bricks, water, rice husk or dry grass. Other benefits of the stove are that they are safe to use and cannot cause fire accident to children or to the person who is using it since the burning part is covered.

They produces little amount of smoke compared to a three stone stove and thus causing no health risk. This project has been implemented in the two wards since March this year whereby a total of 136 villagers from ten villages have been trained how to construct the stoves.

In Isansa Ward, a total of 30 fuel efficient stoves have been constructed in 30 households in six villages of Isansa, Iwalanje, Mpito, Lungwa, Namsama and Sambewe. In Igamba Ward, a total of 20 fuel efficient stoves have been built in 20 households in four villages of Igamba, Itepula, Shiwinga and Hatelere.

Rahel Thabit is one of the beneficiaries of the project in Isansa ward. She says the stove has enabled her save time she was spending in search or firewood since it uses few firewood pieces.

At Igamba village two women; Sarah Halinga and Lucia Jackson say that the use of fuel efficient stoves has changed their lives since they are now saving money which they were using in purchasing firewood.

Besides, using the stoves make them feel more comfortable when they are in kitchen since the stoves are releasing very little smoke compared to three stone stoves.

Meanwhile, on the move to help residents increase their income and at the same time save environment Heifer International has provided a total of 200 cows to the ten villages of Igamba, Itepula, Shiwinga, Hetelere, Isansa, Iwalanje, Mpito, Lungwa, Namsama and Sambewe in two wards of Igamba and Isansa respectively.

Each one of these village has received 20 cows through two groups which have been formed in each village. “We have provided a total of 200 cows to the villagers and we have a system that each first calf which is born is given to another villager in that case we will be able to help more villagers and increase number of animals in short time”, says Mr Lalika.

The project of providing cows to the villagers aim at protecting environment since the manure which is produced by the cows will be used in making biogas which in return will help reduce the use of firewood and charcoal.

Construction of biogas digester plants is going on. In each village, one plant will be constructed at one household which means a total of ten households; six from Isansa Ward and four from Igamba Ward will benefit from the project.

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