A quarter of humanity today lives without access to any electricity and almost one-half still depends on solid fuels such as unprocessed biomass, firewood coal, or charcoal for its thermal needs. These people depend heavily on firewood for their cooking, heating, and basic home appliances, an approach that comes with multitude of impact detrimental to their health, welfare and the environment.
Rural area and urban slum dwellers’ activities of depending on firewood have negatively affected the environment leading to deforestation and negative health effect such as acute infections of the lower respiratory tract (pneumonia) in young children, the chief killer of children worldwide and the disease responsible for the most lost life years in the world; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema in adult women who have cooked over unvented solid fuel stoves for many years; cataracts; low birth weight in babies of exposed expectant mothers, and other health conditions.
As part of its outreach projects to tackle the negative effects of heavy dependence on fuelwood for cooking in rural and urban slums, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under its Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched the UNDP-GEF sustainable fuelwood management (SFM) project to sensitise women on using efficient fuelwood cookstoves to conserve the environment and preserve their health.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP at a four-day clean cookstoves’ awareness, sensitization and capacity building workshop convened by the UNDP-GEF and Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) in collaboration with the Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Uvwiama community, Delta State, a woman leader, Gift Obukowho of Uwiama community expressed delight that the project was brought to the community to train them on more sustainable ways of cooking.
“Before this period, most people in the community were using firewood. Even though we use stoves, we still depend heavily on firewood, I spend between N250 to N500 on firewood depending on what I am cooking that day. And if I don’t have money to buy then I send my children to gather firewood for me. The firewood gives serious eye problems and we inhale a lot of smoke, responsible for incessant cough. The children are always sick, associated with inhaling the smoke.
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