LOW CONSUMPTION ECO-STOVES
In Mongo, in the Guera region, the project of low wood consumption eco-stoves, aimed at combating desertification and improving the living conditions of the local Christian and Muslim population, is a concrete example of how peaceful living together, mentioned in the document on Human Fraternity, becomes reality in people’s daily lives.
On 1 December 2019 started the multi-year project “Fight against desertification in Chad through the production of low wood consumption eco-stoves”, which is co-financed by MAGIS and – with a six-monthly funding – by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco.
The project, which aims to protect the environment, combat desertification and improve the quality of women’s lives, is managed locally by the Apostolic Vicariate of Mongo (in the Guera region) which in recent years, with the support of the entire Muslim and Christian population, has carried out various economic and social development projects, including the planting of trees and the creation of nurseries, wells, dams and grain banks.
The AURA Association (equivalent to the diocesan Caritas, operating in the three sectors of education, health and rural development) and the ACDAR Association (whose name in the local language means “green”, founded in 2000 by the Jesuit fathers of the Apostolic Vicariate of Mongo for the protection of the environment and the fight against desertification) collaborate with the Vicariate. Thanks to the valuable contribution of the Jesuit Pietro Rusconi, it provides technical and professional skills for the construction of stoves and the training of local technicians.
The local context
Chad is a country four times the size of Italy, located in the heart of Africa, in the Sahel. Two thirds of its territory consist of the desert. Recurrent political-military crises, combined with extremely unfavourable environmental conditions (drought in the dry season and flooding in the rainy season) have seriously compromised its development. Chad is, in fact, one of the poorest countries in the world, where basic services are not sufficiently guaranteed. It has an essentially agricultural and subsistence economy, based on the cultivation of agri-food products (in particular millet). The secondary sector, which accounts for only 20% of GDP, is underdeveloped and suffers from the high cost of energy and oil.
The ecological system is seriously threatened by deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, aquifer depletion, illegal and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, rural exodus and unregulated urban sprawl. Such degradation exposes the most vulnerable groups to poverty and internal and external migration.
From traditional hearths to low consumption eco-stoves
Women are particularly disadvantaged due to illiteracy, close pregnancy and heavy housework. One of the most onerous tasks is that of finding and collecting wood for cooking, which takes a long time because of the scarcity of shrubs, and which forces women to move further and further away from their homes, sometimes even exposing them to the risk of aggression. Moreover, the continuous destruction of bushes, together with the illegal felling of trees, favours the annual advance of the desert.
The traditional hearth used for cooking (a hole in the ground filled with large pieces of wood and topped by three stones that support the pot) requires a lot of wood, disperses a large amount of heat and is harmful for the high temperatures and smoke produced. Solar cookers have had little success in Guera because of the novelty of the technique and because they have to be used outdoors, while women prefer to cook in closed and protected spaces.
Hence the initiative to develop and produce “improved” stoves, eco-stoves that consume little wood and allow women to cook in their homes. These are small stoves built with locally available materials such as metal sheet and gravel. They are transportable, easy to build, maintain and repair, and able to maintain heat for a long time.
The project’s direct beneficiaries are 250 women from 20 villages in Guera – both Christian and Muslim – who will be able to devote the time spent looking for wood to other important activities such as studying or educating children, or carrying out income generating activities (growing vegetables, sewing, etc.). The indirect beneficiaries are not only the members of the 250 families concerned (about 2,000 people) but also the local population of the Guera region, who will benefit from the environmental improvement resulting from the reduced uprooting of bushes and shrubs (population estimated at about 10,000 people).
The project, whose general objective is to help reduce the desertification process by introducing new sustainable technologies and reducing the use of wood, does not have the sole specific objective of producing, distributing and using more functional stoves. The initiative also aims to provide students in Mongo and the villages concerned with development education through communication, awareness raising and environmental protection education. Moreover, the training of two local technicians, the local production of stoves, the diffusion of new techniques and the maintenance of new products contribute to create new job opportunities for the local population.
At the same time, the project includes awareness raising and development education activities aimed at students in Italian schools.
The technical training given by the Jesuit Pietro Rusconi ensures the continuation of production of stoves adapted to local needs. Awareness raising and training encourage the population to buy and use the eco-stoves, for the benefit of the environment.
The project also aims to encourage the creation of environmental multipliers and “good practices” to serve as a model for other countries where the Society of Jesus works with the priority of safeguarding Creation. The stoves – that will continue to be produced and sold – will contribute, in part, to the self-financing of the project’s continuation.