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DRC: New stove saves forests by saving fuel (Global Press Journal)

When Sandra Zuena’s old wood-fired stove finally became so worn out that it needed to be replaced, she decided it was time for an upgrade.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, traditional stoves used for cooking are typically metal cylinders punctured with small holes that allow oxygen in to fuel the flames. Recently, however, a new type of stove has gained popularity in Kisangani: a round stove made of clay or brick, with a small metal opening to hold the embers.

This new type of stove is more expensive than traditional stoves. Ms. Zuena purchased a small version at the market for 10,000 Congolese francs (about $5 US). Larger models can cost twice as much, or more. Traditional stoves, by comparison, typically cost between 2,000 and 5,000 francs (between $1 and $2.50 US), depending on their size. But the design of the new stove makes it far more energy-efficient. Whereas traditional metal stoves allow embers to burn out quickly, requiring large quantities of charcoal, the new stoves require far less fuel.

Ms. Zuena says, “I have been using this stove for six months now. I am so comfortable, because it is faster and consumes less embers.”

This is an advantage not just for people like Ms. Zuena, but also for the environment. The use of traditional stoves has led to significant deforestation in the area around Kisangani in northeastern DRC. 

More than 225,000 bags of charcoal are sold in the city’s markets every day, according to Hippolyte Nshimba Seya Wa Malale, a professor and environmental researcher at the University of Kisangani. On average, residents of Kisangani consume 16,200 tons of charcoal per year, which is the equivalent of about 200,000 cubic metres, or about seven million cubic feet, of wood.

According to scientists, that level of wood consumption is an environmental disaster. Prospère Matondo is an environmental specialist at the University of Kisangani. He says: “Cooking in the Democratic Republic of Congo in general and the city of Kisangani in particular signs the death warrant of thousands of hectares of forest, reinforcing the adverse effects of climate change.” 

The new type of stove is now being manufactured locally and supported through a project funded by the Belgian development agency Enabel. The stove was introduced to Kisangani in recent years by the Nande people fleeing insecurity in eastern DRC and is what the Nande people have always used. But it’s the stove’s practical advantages, more than its environmental benefits, that are driving its popularity among local residents.

Housewife Fatima Abdoul says she now spends far less on fuel. She adds: “I am very relieved by the use of this improved stove, because during a month, I used to spend at least $30 for embers. Today, I am blessed, because I only spend $10 to $15 per month.”

Rachel Nkonzi, another Kisangani resident, feels similarly. She says, “I am happy with the stove, because it helps me cook very quickly compared to the old one.”

Some people are dissatisfied with the higher cost of the new stoves. But Ms. Zuena says she saves money by using less charcoal. She explains: “I had to spend a lot of money buying charcoal for the ordinary stove, because one bag of charcoal lasted two weeks, sometimes a week and a half. But today, with this improved stove, I save more charcoal. With one bag of charcoal, I manage to make it to the end of the month.”

This story is adapted from an article written by Zita Amwanga, published by Global Press Journal, and titled: “New stove saves forests by saving fuel.” To read the full story, go to: https://globalpressjournal.com/africa/democratic-republic-of-congo/new-stove-saves-forests-saving-fuel/ [1]

Photo: Sandra Zuena with her new stove. Credit: Zita Amwanga for Global Press Journal.