|Homemade stoves reduce tensions in Burundi|
|Monday, 21 May 2012 16:14|
Jackson Vumiriya and his wife Pascasie now cook for themselves and their two small children without spending hours searching for firewood or living in fear of disagreements with others in their community in Burundi.
They are one of 700 families who have been learning how to make a ‘fuel efficient’ stove using free local materials - clay, ashes and dry grasses.
The couple received materials for building a house, along with mosquito nets and hygiene training from Cord. With seeds of maize, peanuts and beans and two hoes, they now also grow their own food.
Jackson, 25, and his wife returned to Burundi from Tanzania in 2010 where he had been living for 12 years. Now the family live in the rural area of Mura Hill in Giharo Commune. Their community is made up of people who returned from Tanzania after the conflict in Burundi and those who stayed. Locally, around 2,000 people depend on agriculture to provide for themselves.
In Burundi families typically cook two meals a day of beans, potatoes, cassava and vegetables, although not everyone can afford two meals. Despite having the knowledge and the skills to grow crops, Jackson and Pascasie couldn’t always find enough fire wood to cook with and their family often went hungry as a result.
“When we came back from Tanzania, there were many conflicts linked to tree cutting and wood theft among neighbours,” says Jackson.
People who stayed in Burundi during the conflict were also reluctant to share already limited resources with returning refugees. Unpleasant disagreements were common and created a lot of tension in the community. On a practical level women could easily spend an exhausting 8-10 hours a week collecting wood.
Deforestation and the resulting conflict over limited resources is a problem which is all-to-familiar to the communities we work with. For example, in Chad we have introduced the use of solar cookers (see page 6), which remove the need for firewood completely.
All situations are different, however. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach so before the team apply what we have learnt about this innovative and promising technology to our work in Burundi, they are committed to fully researching it’s practicality.
In the meantime, the ‘fuel efficient’ stove is helping alleviate the immediate potential for conflict and is still much better for the environment than cooking on an open fire.
The fuel efficient stoves retain heat better than conventional stoves and so use significantly less wood. Cord Burundi staff estimate that the time women spend collecting wood has been reduced to a third of what it was before – about 3 hours a week.
Some in the community were familiar with the stoves as they’d used them in refugee camps in Tanzania and so helped share their benefits with others.
Jackson discovered the fuel efficient stove through being involved in a Cord project, where returnees and the resident population have worked together in teams to build houses and form food co-operatives.
The all Burundian staff team showed people that the device could be made using free local materials.
“Now with the cooking stove, we need less wood and there are fewer conflicts. In an amazing way, the fuel efficient stove is contributing to building peace,” says Jackson having used his stove for a few months.
With the extra free time, girls are able to go to school and women can spend more time caring for their families and, importantly, spend time with other women, sharing ideas for the future.
Cord staff continue to visit people to reinforce the peacebuilding message of the stoves and the importance of caring for the environment too.
To support Cord’s work with returnees in building a brighter future please visit our Ways to give page.