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Prioritising Safe Cooking Methods

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Every year, over 100,000 women die as a result of indoor pollution, black carbon, which affects their health. It also steals their productive years because they have to cook for a very long time.

Cooking with firewood which is inefficient is also detrimental to the economy as it leads to deforestation. Deforestation causes the loss of our forests so rapidly at about 3.7 per cent every year and translates to over 30 per cent of the forest disappearing.

These are real problems coupled with climate change. To tackle this challenge the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiated a five-year intervention project, the Sustainable Fuelwood Management (SFM) project to promote reforestation in local communities by providing more sustainable solutions to fuelwood method of cooking.

As part of promoting this intervention, the project is poised to make funds available for grants to local communities to address identified problems which include the issues of health, environmental pollution, climate change, and cost of energy to women.

Speaking at the first interactive/brainstorming meeting on management and disbursement of grants under the SFM project to local farmers and cookstoves business agents (producers and distributors/sales) through Micro-finance Banks/Institutions (MFBs/MFIs), in the pilot states  of Cross River, Delta and Kaduna in Abuja, the national project coordinator, Engr. Okon Ekpeyong, pointed out the need to start a conversation amongst the key players in the cook stove sector with a view to having a standard framework that would lead to effective disbursement of the fund for sustainable fuelwood management in the country.

“It is a combination of the UNDP, MFB, MFI, the end users, that are here to discuss how the loan is going to be operated and monitored. We don’t want to just go around sharing money, we want this loan to be revolving. We don’t want it to die with one person. So, we want somebody to take the loan, do business, establish and pay back to the MFB and they will use the same money to give to another person so it will be revolving,” he said.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the national chairman of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Prince Ene Okechukwu, hinted at the organization’s push for  legislations that would make it stringent for people to just burn plastics and use it as alternative methods, saying forums to engage stakeholders to find sustainable cooking methods was necessary and apt.

“So, a forum like this is taking the awareness and practically walking the talk. So, you can begin to appreciate the fact that when institutions like MFI, MFB, ECN, UNDP come together to begin a project it means we are succeeding tremendously in bringing attention to a very crucial aspect of sustainable, green energy to the core people that matter.

“Giving out loans at zero interest would trigger behavioural change in using more safe cooking methods which would advance the clean cooking industry. It is a win-win both for the end user and the entrepreneurs and we are talking about local content here, most of the stoves that are available that we’re promoting are stoves manufactured here in Nigeria especially those manufactured by women,” he said.

In a speech, Rifkatu Bawa of the Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) said the interaction would help to promote use of sustainable fuelwood because a lot of people want to go into business but are not getting loans.

“So, by the time they are getting loans from this microfinance institutions, they will start marketing energy efficient stoves and it will promote the SFM project. Promoting sustainable fuelwood management will help to curtail deforestation and the end-users would have access to clean cookstoves and business, so this project would help very much in promoting healthier environment and people,” she said.

Similarly, the first vice president, National Association of Microfinance Banks (NAMB), Yusuf Gyallesu, said the MFB and MFI are ordinarily dealing with the low-income earners who are mostly the users of these cookstoves, adding they know the health hazards of using the conventional tripod cookstoves because of their closeness to the grassroots.

“I believe we are rightly placed to really deal with them because we already know them, their peculiarities and have been dealing with them at the bottom of the pyramid level, so dealing with them is much easier with us because they are already part of us. Since it involves giving out loans to them to procure all these products it is easier to give, monitor and get these loans back,” he said.

Giving a recipe for past failures of grant to solve issues related to environmental conservation projects, the UNDP GEF consultant, Mr Femi Oye, said grants in the past failed because it was donor-driven, saying the current project had changed the approach by adopting the market approach model where everyone had a key role to play for the success of the project.

“Grants in the past failed because it was donor-driven but this project now gives responsibility to cross sector for the common good of the project, this is where the market approach comes in. Here the technology which is the stove is not enough. So, you now talk about the value chain because the stove has to be manufactured, transported, sold.

“So, now for the first-time cheap funds have been made available through the SFM program of the UNDP to be able to help manufacturers, distributors, customers that are already struggling to make ends meet to have access to very cheap way of funding that they can easily pay back. “Those are the ways by which this fund is going to work to help resolve the issue. Entrepreneurs have now been brought in to help manage the system because they are the interface between manufacturers and end users. Microfinance institutions understand how money work and already have structures in the most remote areas of the country,” he added.

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