By Pamenus Tuso
Grace Moyo, of Insiza district in Matabeleland South, used to consume three two-metre long bundles of firewood weekly for her family of six.
But following the introduction of energy saving stoves in the district by the Zimbabwe Project Trust in conjunction with Environment Africa, she and her family now use almost a third of the firewood which they used before the introduction of the project in the area.
Apart from saving firewood, Moyo says the initiative has also alleviated indoor pollution as the new stoves have a chimney which emits the soot.
The stoves are built from locally available material which includes special clay and cast iron. The stove channels smoke through a chimney outside the kitchen huts thereby lowering the amount of soot that collects in thatched roofs and shielding women from indoor pollution.
“With this new stove, one single log is enough to prepare breakfast, lunch and supper for my family. I can also bake bread and scones using heat generated by the stove. The stove can also be used to warm food after cooking,” said Moyo.
Moyo said before she used the stoves, large amounts of soot used to accumulate on the roof of her thatched kitchen hut but the kitchen is now clean.
“I used to have serious challenges with smoke and soot. My children and I would cough frequently or have teary eyes whenever we made fire in the kitchen. Now these challenges are a thing of the past,” she said with an expression of relief.
A lot of people in the area who are also now using the stoves concurred with Moyo concerning the numerous benefits of the stoves as compared to open fires.
“In my area, I am already encouraging the community to use these stoves because they conserve wood which eventually leads to the preservation of our forests.
“The people in my wards used to cut more trees for firewood but now the situation has improved greatly,” said headman Dalington Siziba of Ward 10.
Forestry Commission spokesperson, Violet Makoto said her organisation values every energy saving initiatives in the country.
“As (the) Forestry Commission, we support any individual or institution that develops alternative energy efficient technologies. We are very much interested in these projects as these technologies assist us with reducing pressure on an already over burdened forest resource,” said Makoto in an interview.
Makoto said about 54% of Zimbabwe’s population uses wood fuel as a primary source of energy but revealed the figure could be much higher due to energy challenges facing the county.
The spokesperson said although the parastatal is supporting the strengthening of linkages between the people who come up with energy saving technologies and a community embracing the technologies, their major concern is lack of large scale support for such initiatives.
“We get worried because most of these technologies just end up as concepts because no manufacturer takes them up for mass production. It requires a multi-sectoral response to ensure that an introduced technology that has proved its efficiency is produced and accessible at grassroots level for it to make measurable impact,” she said.
Zimbabwe Project Trust executive director, Tobias Chipare, hailed the stoves for curbing deforestation as well as alleviating indoor pollution.
“The good part about the energy saving stove is that it reduces the consumption of wood which means that the environment can recover from deforestation. It’s a way of coping and adapting to climate change,” he said.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) 2016 report, smoke from domestic fires kills nearly two million people each year and causes health complications for millions globally.