OVO Foundation’s latest project with Cool Earth in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now well under way. If you read our April blog, you’ll remember that we’ve committed £100,000 to help reduce energy poverty in DRC through two different initiatives: energy efficiency and electricity provision.
Cool Earth is working in the Lubutu region, which covers 260,000 hectares of forest and has a population of 12,900. Our grant is helping Cool Earth increase people’s access to clean, sustainable and renewable energy.
Read on to find out how things are going and what you’ve helped us achieve so far.
Gathering fuelwood in Lubutu. | Photograph copyright Cool Earth
Around the world, 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity, while more than 2.7 billion people rely on wood or other kinds of biomass for cooking. And of all the people who live without energy, 95% are in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. In DRC, only 16.4% of the population has access to electricity.
By giving communities access to electricity and reducing their reliance on firewood, we can make a dramatic difference to their lives. When they no longer need to collect firewood, they can spend more time on income-generating activities, while their children have more time to study. Electric lighting means businesses can open later, which increases productivity, and children can do homework in the evenings. And of course it reduces the impact on forests, which is good for everyone, everywhere.
The Cool Earth partnerships support small communities. They build on existing local knowledge and skills, as well as training people in new skills.
We’ve started by introducing fuel-efficient stoves and new ways of generating energy.
Constructing a new fuel-efficient stove in Cool Earth's Lubutu partnership. | Photograph copyright Cool Earth
Traditionally, most people in DRC cook and keep warm by burning wood. This causes health problems, depletes local forests, and means people (usually women and girls) spend hours every day collecting firewood. Each year, the average household in DRC uses 1,658kg of fuelwood, and up to 40,000 square metres of Virunga National Park is harvested for heat and warmth.
We helped Cool Earth introduce and test three different kinds of energy-efficient stoves: wood gasifiers, solar ovens and mud stoves.
So far, 84 families have been trained to build mud stoves and are using them regularly, cutting their average firewood use by 50%1. This will make a huge difference to their lives, as it will reduce deforestation in the area and improve air quality in family homes.
The women who’ve been trained are sharing their enthusiasm for the new stoves. Their partners are busy constructing outside kitchen huts to house the stoves, so they can begin training the wider community. It’s hoped that with the men building and the women training, Cool Earth will reach 225 families with the stove programme by the end of this year.
Testing the new stove. | Photograph copyright Cool Earth
Cool Earth is carrying out feasibility studies into three solar energy ideas: lamps, micro-grids and mini-grids.
The people of Lubutu feel that large-scale solar systems would be too conspicuous at this stage, because of the current security situation in DRC. However, they expressed interest in using small-scale grids to charge phones and provide light. A full solar pilot project is on course to start in early 2017, once the studies have been completed and the political situation has settled.
Women and girls spend time collecting wood that could be spent generating income or in education. | Photograph copyright Cool Earth
We hope the lessons we learn from these projects can be replicated elsewhere, to transform people’s lives and reduce the demand for firewood that’s currently depleting forests.
We’ll keep you updated on how both initiatives are progressing. In the meantime, read more about the Lubutu region and Cool Earth’s work in DRC on their website.
Have you joined OVO Foundation? Make a small donation by adding 25p, 50p, £1 to your monthly bill, and OVO Energy will match it penny for penny.
1Thalia Liokatis, DRC Programme Manager for FFI.
OVO Energy Ltd, registered office 1 Rivergate Temple Quay Bristol, BS1 6ED, company no. 06890795 registered in England and Wales, VAT No. 100119879
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