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Saturday, August 1, 2015
- Carbon finance is putting new and efficient charcoal stoves into hundreds of thousands of kitchens in Uganda – reducing charcoal use and protecting forests as well as saving money for poor households. The mouthwatering smell of stewing beef is drifting through the congested streets of Nkere, on the outskirts of Kampala. It’s coming from Susan Nanpiima’s newly-acquired stove.
“You can’t compare this stove to the ones I have used in the past. It uses so little charcoal,” says Nanpiima, seated on the veranda of her one-room home. “I had been getting through a [60 kilo] sack of charcoal every month, but the sack I bought this month is not even half empty.”
Nanpiima’s new and efficient stove comes from a factory right in the midst of this densely-populated part of the city. Ugastove – Uganda Stove Manufacturers Ltd – claims to have already reached over 300,000 families in Uganda’s major towns and plans to ramp up production to 20,000 stoves a year.
The stoves have a thick clay lining that holds in the heat of burning charcoal and cooks food more efficiently. According to Ugastove chief executive officer Mohamed Kawere, the stoves use only half as much fuel as conventional stoves, saving a family the equivalent of 80 dollars a year.
Burning up the future
More efficient stoves could reduce charcoal use, saving tens of thousands of hectares of trees.
“We are not saying that we shall fully stop deforestation,” says Kawere, “but we need to give people the technology that will reduce the felling of trees for charcoal.”
But selling the stoves has been a challenge: despite the savings on fuel, many poor families find it difficult to come up with 26 dollars up front for a Ugastove. The scrap metal stoves most commonly used in Uganda cost just two dollars, though a Ugastove will last longer – up to three years.
Plugging into carbon finance
The company has been keen to find a way to use carbon finance – credit for the emissions reductions due to more efficient stoves – to bring down the price.
“We tested the stoves and got 50-60 percent reduction on charcoal. We thought this could a perfect carbon offset project but our requests were not accepted,” he said.
Major funders insisted on rigorous procedures and standards which could not be met. “Our plan was to increase the output from our factory by about 20,000 stoves per year and then franchise out production to other manufacturers, but we had no money,” he said.
The solution was to bring in Impact Carbon, a U.S. non-profit organisation that specialises in quantifying emissions reductions and developing business models for projects exactly like Ugastove.
Impact Carbon has contracted the Uganda-based Centre for Integrated Research and Community Development (CIRCODU) to conduct monthly and quarterly spot-checks on the sales, production, inventory records of Ugastoves. It also conducts quarterly kitchen surveys in households which use Ugastove to determine the stove’s fuel efficiency in the kitchen conditions.
The stoves earned recognition by the Switzerland-based Gold Standard Foundation, a non-profit organisation that operates a certification scheme for carbon credits. This prized certification guarantees the environmental and local community benefits.
Ugastove was able to sell carbon credits to JP Morgan Climate Care, which in turn sells the credits to offset programmes, such as one for car manufacturer Land Rover.
Feeling the benefits
The goal of the offset project is to save around 21,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – which is equivalent to the amount 10,000 diesel-engined Land Rovers would produce in a year. Kawere says the savings from two families using improved stoves in Uganda offsets the emission generated by one Land Rover, each Ugastove saving the rough equivalent of a tonne of CO2 emissions compared to a conventional charcoal stove.
Ugastove receives nine dollars for every tonne of CO2 offset by one of their units. The carbon finance has gone towards building a new factory and showroom and a new electric kiln for firing the stoves’ clay linings, allowing the company to increase production from 50 to 300 stoves per day. The increased efficiency has also brought down the cost per stove. A small domestic stove now costs the equivalent of eight dollars; a larger model sells for $13.
Just a few metres from the newly-expanded factory in Nkere, residents are used to buying bread from Mama Namu. She has been using an improved stove for her small business for over five years. She told IPS that the stove was costly, but well worth the initial investment.
“It lasts longer than the conventional stoves used in many homes. I have saved a lot,” she explained.
The savings extend beyond Mama Namu’s fuel costs – with charcoal and other biomass providing domestic energy for millions of households across Africa, more efficient stoves are also saving the continent’s forests.