Protecting women with stoves

21 Apr 2015

Protecting women with stoves

New fuel-efficient stoves are helping protect women sheltering at the UNMISS base in Bentiu, Unity State, from hazards they face when collecting wood in the bush.

The stoves are being provided by the German non-governmental organization (NGO) Agro Action/Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (GAA/WHH), with funding from UKAID and the Danish government.

So far, the NGO has distributed 8,500 stoves to women – one per family -- in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site and should have handed over the remaining 500 by the end of April.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) survey, 73 percent of PoC households collect wood from the forest due to its high price in town. Some 90 per cent of the time, women are the ones who venture into the bush outside the camp in search of it.

Once in the forest, women may fall prey to harassment, attacks or sexual assault by marauding armed groups.

Raphael Ndiku, GAA/WHH project head for Bentiu, said lack of efficient energy sources for cooking would lead to even higher risk for IDPs, who may walk increasingly long distances to seek wood.

He said stripping the area of large amounts of vegetation would lead to forest degradation in the mid- to long-term. “The more degraded the environment becomes, the greater the likelihood that women will have to pass through hostile areas (further away) to find firewood.”

The fuel-efficient stoves would help prevent this, as they used far less than the normal quantity of wood or charcoal, Mr. Ndiku said, directing flames to a pot and preserving heat longer than traditional stoves.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting the NGO with training on selecting stove beneficiaries. It is also providing tools and showing people how to assemble firewood stoves. Stoves using charcoal come fully assembled.

Mr. Ndiku said initially 5,000 of the most vulnerable people had been slotted for stoves, but the number was later increased to 9,000, as every IDP was ultimately considered at risk.

Nyariaka Gatluak, who heads a family of six, said the fuel-efficient stove had helped her considerably. “It reduces the risks of women like me who are vulnerable to rape and killing. Some women I knew became victims when they went out in the bush.”

She said women now had to travel much farther from the camp for fuel. “The new fuel- efficient stove is saving my time. It has reduced the frequency of going for collecting (wood) by more than half.”

According to the FAO survey, household fuel collectors must make an average of four trips per week to collect firewood, walking some 4.4 kilometres each time.

Elizabeth Nyaboth, who heads a family of eight, said the new stoves used less charcoal or wood and were safer. “Besides saving fuel, one can attend to other activities at the same time with the fuel efficient stove, since it is safer than the traditional stoves I used for cooking.”

The GAA/WHH has carried out awareness-raising sessions on benefits of fuel-efficient technologies, including house-to-house demonstrations on good cooking practices.

Such practices include cooking food well to obtain a higher nutritional value and avoid diseases like cholera, rather than half-cooking it to conserve fuel.

Beneficiaries were also taught that fuel-efficient stoves were important in helping mitigate environmental degradation.