Lorna Felgate, LWF Uganda, 2010
Loy lives in Katakwi, Eastern Uganda, where the majority of women cook using traditional three-stone stoves. As one of the oldest and most inefficient cooking methods in the world, the consequences of the stoves negatively affect the social and economic wellbeing of the women who use them, and severely impact on the environment on local and global levels.
Delicious cooking smells waft from Loy Adeke’s small mud hut, while she sits, stirring her food as it bubbles and boils in the pan. For Loy, cooking is now a pleasurable task, but this has not always been so.
Today in Uganda, deforestation is taking place at an alarming rate. In the past two decades, the country has lost almost a third of its forests. With 97% of Ugandans relying on firewood as an energy source tree-chopping is a major contributor to the deforestation. People across Uganda are destroying the natural resources on which they depend for survival. Due to deforestation there is land degradation and soil erosion, both of which reduce agricultural productivity. This means smaller crops to harvest, and fewer surpluses to sell, and less food to eat. On a global level, the inefficiency of the stoves means high amounts of greenhouse gasses are released. With rains becoming increasingly unpredictable, people In Uganda are unknowingly contributing to making their greatest fear – a changing climate – a reality.
In an effort to contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 7 – to ensure environmental sustainability – the Lutheran World Federation, Department for World Service, works in Uganda, addressing the imbalance between high levels of consumption and scarce supply of firewood. Communities participate in trainings on good environmental management practices, and local Community Environment Resource Persons (CERPs) are being taught how to construct locally sourced energy saving stoves. Consuming 50-60% less firewood, these stoves are dramatically reducing tree consumption for fuel.
Loy’s local CERP recently constructed a new stove in her home, and she is the first to admit that her life has been changed. “I used to walk for hours every week to collect a huge pile of firewood. But now, it lasts for over a month!” exclaims Loy. Time that used to be spent collecting and carrying heavy loads of wood can now spent doing productive activities; tending to the garden, washing clothes or engaging in income generating activities. Thanks to these stoves, the lives of hundreds of women are being transformed for the better.
Coupled with stove construction, LWF is promoting local reforestation projects. Tree nurseries have been established for communities to come and learn best practices of tree planting. They return home with seedlings in their arms and knowledge in their minds, equipped to create orchards of their own. Teak, neem, cassia, and calliandra trees are planted for fuel and timber. Lemon, mango and guava trees are planted to enhance nutrition and create income generating opportunities. Tens of thousands of trees are being planted each year, meaning the degraded land is being replenished and the local environment restored.
Through reducing their consumption of trees, and replacing the trees they consume, people in Katakwi are contributing to achieving environmental sustainability on both local and global levels.