Uganda: Stoves save fuel and forests (IPS)

| June 13, 2011

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The mouthwatering smell of stewing beef drifts through the congested streets of Nkere, on the outskirts of Kampala. The tantalizing odour comes from Susan Nanpiima’s newly-acquired stove. Sitting on the veranda of her one-room home, Mrs. Nanpiima says, “You can’t compare this stove to the ones I have used in the past. It uses so little charcoal.”

Mrs. Nanpiima had been using a 60-kilogram sack of charcoal every month. She says, “But the sack I bought this month is not even half empty.”

Mrs. Nanpiima’s new and efficient stove was constructed in a factory right in the midst of this densely-populated part of the city. Ugastove – Uganda Stove Manufacturers Ltd. – reports that they have supplied stoves to over 300,000 families in Uganda’s major towns. They plan to scale up production to 20,000 stoves a year.

The stoves contain a thick clay lining that retains heat 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 families the equivalent of 80 dollars a year.

More than 98 per cent of Ugandans rely on charcoal or firewood as an energy source. This has taken a massive toll on the country’s forests. Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority says the country has lost two-thirds of its forests in the last 20 years and will lose it all by 2050 at present rates of destruction. More efficient stoves could reduce charcoal use, saving tens of thousands of hectares of trees.

Mr. Kawere says, “We are not saying that we shall fully stop deforestation, 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. Each stove costs 26 dollars, which is too costly for many families. The scrap metal stoves most commonly used in Uganda cost just two dollars, though a Ugastove lasts longer – up to three years.

To bring the price down, and achieve recognition for the stove’s environmental benefits, the company was keen to get credit for the reductions in carbon emissions due to the higher efficiency of the stoves. They contacted Impact Carbon, a U.S. non-profit organization that specializes in quantifying emissions reductions and developing business models for projects exactly like Ugastove. Impact Carbon helped the company obtain the certification which guarantees the environmental benefits. Each Ugastove saves about one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions compared to a conventional charcoal stove.

With certification, Ugastove is able to sell carbon credits to businesses, such as car manufacturers who pay to offset their own carbon emissions. Ugastove receives nine dollars for every tonne of carbon dioxide offset by one of their stoves. This carbon financing has funded a new factory and increased production from 50 to 300 stoves per day. It has also reduced the cost of a stove. A small domestic stove now costs the equivalent of eight dollars.

The stoves don’t simply reduce Mrs. Nanpiima’s fuel costs. More efficient stoves can also save Uganda’s forests.