By Pamenus Tuso
The Ministry of Energy and Power Development has suspended the installation of energy saving stoves in Binga district in Matabeleland North following a low up-take of the project by villagers as a result of cultural beliefs and other factors.
Speaking at a climate change workshop in Bulawayo, the Principal Energy Development officer in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Robert Rukuni, said the Ministry‘s efforts to popularise locally produced wood consumption reduction stoves faced stiff resistance from villagers in Binga, an area that is home to predominantly the BaTonga tribe.
The BaTonga people who live along the Zambezi valley have their own unique systems to manage their natural systems. Since time immemorial, they have used their traditional system as an effective measure in the management of their natural resources.
“The Ministry was recently forced to suspend the construction of energy saving stoves in Binga because a lot of villagers there failed to embrace the concept. Some of the villagers strongly argued that it is against their cultural beliefs to have those stoves mounted in their huts,” said Rukuni.
Rukuni added that the other factor which forced the Ministry to suspend the project is that most of the huts in the area are very small and do not have enough space to adequately accommodate the stoves.
“We also realised that Binga huts are very small and cannot comfortably accommodate the wood saving stoves. In most cases, the huts need to be demolished and reconstruct bigger huts in order for the stoves to fit properly,” said Rukuni.
Rukuni said in an effort to market the stoves, the Ministry mounted free demonstration energy saving stoves at traditional leaders’ homesteads in the area but still the local villagers have not shown any interest in embracing the technology.
However, participants at the meeting felt that the Ministry should have done more educational campaigns before introducing the stoves in the area.
“Energy saving stoves are the way to go considering that wood forests are fast dwindling. The Ministry has any obligation to aggressively market such positive energy technologies before introducing it to the public. Again, I think the sample stoves should have been installed at accessable places such as growth points. In rural areas, a chief’s homestead is revered and it cannot be easily accessed by every ordinary person,” remarked a participant.
Wood saving energy stoves helps to preserve forests and biodiversity. The stoves have got a cleaner burning process and thus decrease indoor air pollution and associated acute respiratory infections in women and children.
Due to the efficiency of the stoves, girls can spend more time in school as they do not have to go and collect firewood for the inefficient traditional fire places.
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.