Fighting deforestation; one stove at a time

by tybmmjourno

Located in East Africa, Tanzania is a country with a agricultural economy. That said, the country is also rich in natural gas reserves, minerals and exotic flora and fauna.

As a country with rare species of flora, a major concern for Tanzania is to protect it’s forests. One of the Millennium Development Goals set up by the United Nations is to Ensure Environmental Sustainability. As a part of the initiatives taken up by the United Nations to ensure the achievement of this goal, one of the initiatives is the introduction of new cooking stoves for Tanzanian households.

The United Nations is working with the government of Tanzania to provide every house hold with more efficient cooking stoves. The traditional method of cooking in the Tanzanian households was by using fire wood. The average rural Tanzanian woman spends about 12 hours twice a week in the forests collecting firewood. About 94% or above 40 million households cook using either firewood or charcoal. As a result of which, the country’s forest cover has reduced from 6.3 hectares per capita to 0.8 hectares  in 50 years, thus damaging the environment greatly. 

Apart from the damage done to the environment, cooking using wood and charcoal also leads to the emission of an unbearable amount of smoke. This kind of a smoke emission inside the house can prove to be extremely dangerous for all the members of the household, especially the children.

In 2009, when the United Nations began working on this project, they trained 80 young men and women to build these special kinds of stoves using clay and sand. By 2011, this team built around 7500 stoves and in addition to that, they trained around 350 more men and women into building these stoves. These stoves use half the amount of firewood used by the traditional methods of cooking, thus emitting lesser smoke. Apart from being health friendly, the firewood used in these stoves also burns out slower compared to the traditional stove, thus making it all the more environment friendly.

According to a Tanzania United Nations forest expert Bariki Kaale, “If the 7,500 improved stoves are used well they will reduce annual firewood consumption from 27,000 tonnes to 13,500 tonnes. If all households in the country started using improved firewood stoves, deforestation could be reduced from the current 412,000 hectares to around 206,000 hectares per year. This would enhance the conservation of water resources and biodiversity, and reduce deforestation’s contribution to climate change.

Tanzania is a country that needs to desperately conserve it’s forests. Tourism as an industry is gaining importance in Tanzania because of it’s biodiversity. In a situation like this, the efforts taken by the United Nations in collaboration with the government of Tanzania is a small, but effective step to conserve and enhance the biodiversity and the natural beauty of Tanzania. Apart from conserving the environment, this initiative is also doing better for the general health of the people of Tanzania. Thus achieving another goal, that of improving maternal health, set up by the United Nations in their Millennium Development Goals.


Shruti Shenoy