Logo: Farm Radio Weekly

1404 Scott Street,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1Y 4M8

Tel: 613-761-3650
Fax: 613-798-0990
Toll-Free: 1-888-773-7717
Email: info@farmradio.org
Web Site: http://farmradio.org/

Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #159

FRW 159 – Cookstoves save lives and forests

Continuing our series on energy, this week we focus on improved cookstoves. In stories from Sudan and Uganda, we hear how two different types of fuel-efficient stoves benefit families as well as forests. In a follow-up to last week’s stories on solar power, we are proud to announce that the new Farm Radio International office in Arusha, Tanzania has recently installed solar panels. It is now powered by the sun!

Our third story is from Burkina Faso. Livestock keepers are not happy that gold has been found on their land. Their animals fall in the holes dug by miners and often die.

Thank you to everyone who suggested and voted for names for our new online community. Read the result below! We are currently working hard to get the site up and running. Watch this space for further announcements!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

Post your comment »

Uganda: Stoves save fuel and forests (IPS)

The mouthwatering smell of stewing beef drifts through the congested streets of Nkere, on the outskirts of Kampala. The tantalizing odour comes from Susan Nanpiima’s newly-acquired stove. Sitting on the veranda of her one-room home, Mrs. Nanpiima says, “You can’t compare this stove to the ones I have used in the past. It uses so little charcoal.”

Mrs. Nanpiima had been using a 60-kilogram sack of charcoal every month. She says, “But the sack I bought this month is not even half empty.”

Mrs. Nanpiima’s new and efficient stove was constructed in a factory right in the midst of this densely-populated part of the city. Ugastove – Uganda Stove Manufacturers Ltd. – reports that they have supplied stoves to over 300,000 families in Uganda’s major towns. They plan to scale up production to 20,000 stoves a year.

The stoves contain a thick clay lining that retains heat and cooks food more efficiently. According to Ugastove Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Kawere, the stoves use only half as much fuel as conventional stoves, saving families the equivalent of 80 dollars a year.

More than 98 per cent of Ugandans rely on charcoal or firewood as an energy source. This has taken a massive toll on the country’s forests. Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority says the country has lost two-thirds of its forests in the last 20 years and will lose it all by 2050 at present rates of destruction. More efficient stoves could reduce charcoal use, saving tens of thousands of hectares of trees.

Mr. Kawere says, “We are not saying that we shall fully stop deforestation, but we need to give people the technology that will reduce the felling of trees for charcoal.”

But selling the stoves has been a challenge. Each stove costs 26 dollars, which is too costly for many families. The scrap metal stoves most commonly used in Uganda cost just two dollars, though a Ugastove lasts longer – up to three years.

To bring the price down, and achieve recognition for the stove’s environmental benefits, the company was keen to get credit for the reductions in carbon emissions due to the higher efficiency of the stoves. They contacted Impact Carbon, a U.S. non-profit organization that specializes in quantifying emissions reductions and developing business models for projects exactly like Ugastove. Impact Carbon helped the company obtain the certification which guarantees the environmental benefits. Each Ugastove saves about one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions compared to a conventional charcoal stove.

With certification, Ugastove is able to sell carbon credits to businesses, such as car manufacturers who pay to offset their own carbon emissions. Ugastove receives nine dollars for every tonne of carbon dioxide offset by one of their stoves. This carbon financing has funded a new factory and increased production from 50 to 300 stoves per day. It has also reduced the cost of a stove. A small domestic stove now costs the equivalent of eight dollars.

The stoves don’t simply reduce Mrs. Nanpiima’s fuel costs. More efficient stoves can also save Uganda’s forests.

2 Comments - Post your comment »

Southern Sudan: Fuel-efficient stoves bring benefits (Action Against Hunger)

Ngong Tunc Malok’s home feels eerie and deserted. The smouldering ashes bear witness to the devastating fire that robbed the family of its livelihood. She says, “I was alone with some of the children when the tukuls [huts] caught fire from the open fireplace used for cooking. There was nothing I could do. Everything is so dry, it happened so quickly, and there was no one to let out the animals.” The family’s three goats died in the fire. The family also lost all their clothes, cooking utensils and stored harvest.

Ngong’s misfortune is not uncommon in households which cook on open fireplaces. Uncontrolled fires like the one in Ngong’s home are not the only hazard. According to the World Health Organization, the smoke from open fires kills an estimated 1.9 million people, mostly women and children, every year. Open fireplaces are one of the five most serious health threats facing people in developing countries, resulting in lung and heart diseases and low birth weight. Open stoves also lead to deforestation because of the quantity of firewood needed to create sufficient heat for cooking.

Many in southern Sudan know people who have suffered similar tragedies. Last year, the international NGO Action Against Hunger introduced fuel-efficient stoves to Ngong’s community. Household fires have become far less frequent.

Alor Kon Deng is one of the women who received training and materials to build her own fuel-efficient stove. She says, “Before, when we used open fireplaces, many houses burnt down and our children would have a lot of accidents.” Alor walks two hours to and from the forest to collect firewood. She spends another two hours collecting wood. She says, “With the open fireplaces, this [amount] would last me for five days. Now, with my fuel-efficient stove, it can last up to two weeks.”

The fuel-efficient stoves are made from local materials. They take one day to build and cost twelve US dollars. They look quite simple, but the stove has had a great impact on Alor’s household of eight. With the time saved every day, she can now cultivate more land. She can make a small income and save for the dry season by selling straw at the market.

She explains, “Cooking is quicker as the fire doesn’t go out or is affected by the wind, so now a meal takes about one hour [to cook], whereas before it took three hours, and you constantly had to be around to watch it.” She can now do other chores while the food is cooking.

Only a small number of households were involved in the project. But the benefits have been so obvious to Alor’s friends and neighbours that several of them were motivated to build their own stoves. Alor says, “I showed other people how to construct a fuel-efficient stove and helped them build it.”

Akuel Geng is one of these neighbours. Proudly showing off her own version of the stove, she says, “I saw how little firewood the fuel-efficient stove uses and how safe it is. With the open fireplaces, a lot of houses would burn down, and children would get hurt. I have never seen that happen with the fuel-efficient stove. Not once!”

1 Comment - Post your comment »

Burkina: The effects of gold mining on livestock owners (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

The landscape around Nobsin, a small town in central Burkina Faso, is almost lunar. The thorn savannah of yesteryear has given way to a bare and sandy landscape full of mounds and holes. Some craters are 40 metres deep and four metres wide. Gold mining is the main cause of the degraded environment in the village and its surroundings. The traditional method of digging for gold produces gaping holes in the ground.

In Burkina Faso, farmers view the discovery of the smallest gold nugget as a curse. Boukari Diallo raises cattle. He explains, “My cattle sometimes fall into the holes. Unfortunately, no one compensates [us] for the loss of animals.” If their owners are not able to save them, most animals that fall into the holes die. The animals which do escape the holes lose between 50 and 80% of their market value. Many have broken legs or are so badly injured that they must be slaughtered immediately.

As well as ruining the landscape, the miners dig for gold in grazing areas.  Amadou Diallo is a local farmer who raises cattle as his main livelihood. He says, “The miners dig holes in our grazing lands without permission. They do not respect anything or anyone.”

The miners are aware of the accusations, and do not deny the problems they cause. Tiraogo Fafando has been digging for gold for three years. He says the miners can do little to improve the situation for the farmers. “When we dig the holes, farmers ask us to close them. But given the depth of the holes, what can we do?”

Amade Kafando is a gold prospector. He says, “We do not close the holes because we move quickly to other sites when we hear gold has been found. We cannot stop our business simply because farmers complain.” Mr. Kafando builds thorny fences around the edges of the holes to deter animals from approaching. But this is the only effort miners make to lessen their impact.

Farmers in Nobsin are not alone. Two years ago in the nearby village of Mankarga, 37 cows died after drinking water contaminated with the cyanide that is used to wash the gold. Farmers alerted the Provincial Animal Resources department, but the department could do little.

Gold has an important place in Burkina Faso’s economy. With gold’s value rising on the international market, domestic and foreign investors are pumping billions of francs into the area. Gold was the country’s primary source of foreign exchange in 2009, with 177 billion CFA francs in export earnings. In 2009, the mining sector employed 300,000 people. Small-scale, artisanal mines are often unregistered, and the state loses money in unpaid taxes. But the state tolerates the mines.

There is no end in sight for the farmers. New gold deposits have been discovered recently, and are attracting large international firms as well as small-scale miners. But for the farmers in Nobsin, gold does not bring prosperity or happiness.

Post your comment »

Notes to broadcasters on cookstoves

Finding energy for cooking requires time, effort or money. In rural Africa, the majority of people use charcoal or wood for cooking. But wood is a finite resource and is often used faster than it can grow back or be replanted. In addition, open fires are hazardous, and long-term exposure to cooking smoke can be deadly (for more information see http://www.unfoundation.org/our-impact/stories-of-impact/decreasing-child-mortality/time-to-tackle-one-of-the-worlds-deadliest-killers-cookstove-smoke.html ). Fuel-efficient cookstoves are one way to address these issues. There are many variations of cookstoves available. Some are built with local materials, enclose the fire, and provide a stand for the cooking pot, while others are made from metal or other materials. Solar ovens are also available, although they tend to be more expensive. The ceramic jiko stove is popular in Kenya: http://ces.iisc.ernet.in/energy/paper/tech101/jikostove.html

To see pictures of the stoves referred to in the story from southern Sudan, visit: http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/pressroom/features/acf-introduces-fuel-efficient-stoves-communities-southern-sudan

Another useful source of information on the variety of stoves available is HEDON, the Household Energy Network: http://www.hedon.info/

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was launched in late 2010. Their website states that the aim of the initiative, led by the United Nations Foundation, is “creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.” For more information, visit: http://cleancookstoves.org/

Here are links to other recent stories on the use of more efficient cookstoves and their relevance to climate change issues:

Stoves, seeds could save African forests http://af.reuters.com/article/tanzaniaNews/idAFN2711500320110529

Energy-saving stoves help protect Nairobi forest http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/energy-saving-stoves-help-protect-nairobi-forest/

-Uganda: Sun Smiling on Renewable Energy Initiative


Scripts from Farm Radio International on cookstoves include:

-Improved Cookstoves Make Life Easier for Women. Package 73, Script 2, January 2005.


-An Improved Stove Can Change Your Life. Package 36, Script 8, April 1995.


The topic of cookstoves would make an engaging rural radio program, as it touches so many people’s lives. As it is most often women who do the cooking, make sure you include women in the program, through interviews and features. The adoption of new and efficient cookstoves has been hindered in some regions because those responsible for cooking were not involved in decisions and information sharing.

Try to find women who use different types of cookstoves, whether they are fuelled by gas, charcoal or firewood, and ask why they women use that type. Find out if they have experimented with other types of stoves or fuels. Ask them what are the most important factors they consider when choosing a cookstove.  You could even set up an experiment by asking one or more women to try a more efficient cookstove for a week, and then report their impressions on your program. And don’t forget to let us know about your program at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org !

1 Comment - Post your comment »

Notes to broadcasters on small-scale mining

Much of the small-scale gold mining in West Africa is informal, artisanal and seasonal. Children are often used as labour. It is usually physically demanding and can be hazardous, with risk of exposure to mercury, for example. Mining is generally very destructive to the environment, and can have other negative effects on the local people and economy, as in this week’s story.

For more information, see:

-Child labour in gold mining


-Small-scale mining in Burkina Faso, by Djibril Gueye (research report from 2002)


Here are some stories from Farm Radio Weekly on mining:

Ghana: Farmers say gold mine would disrupt their livelihoods (FRW 17, April 2008).


Sierra Leone: Former diamond miners seek new treasures from the earth (FRW 60, March, 2009).


Does small-scale mining affect a region or community near you? If so, you may want to produce a program examining the issues involved. Some small mines are unregistered and/or illegal, so be aware that miners might not be welcoming to visitors, or willing to talk to journalists. But if they are, ask them their motivation for the work, whether they are local, and how long they have been mining.  Does the mine affect local communities in any way? How? Try to talk to community members and leaders. You may also want to contact the local government to check on the legality of operations.

Post your comment »

Write a blog: Youth, agriculture and ICTs

The United Nations International Year of Youth runs from August 2010 until August 2011. In celebration, the e-Agriculture Community and YPARD (Young Professionals’ Platform on Agricultural Research for Development) invite you to share your thoughts in a blog which addresses the issues of agriculture, young professionals and Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D).

Selected blogs will be published and shared with the combined networks of e-Agriculture and YPARD, consisting of nearly 9,000 individuals from more than 150 countries and territories.

To read contributions and submit your blog, go to:


Post your comment »

Minority Voices Newsroom

The Minority Voices Newsroom is an online library where you can access stories on minority and indigenous communities from around the world. Interviews, reports, audio and video are available for journalists to use under Creative Commons licences. The stories cover many topics but the common thread is minority groups. Members of minorities and indigenous communities are encouraged to upload materials.

Visit the Minority Voices Newsroom website at http://www.minorityvoices.org/?lang=en

Post your comment »

Announcing the name for the online community!

Thank you to all who voted for their favorite name in the online community naming contest. The results are in and, the winner is…Barza.

Just as reminder, barza is a Kiswahili word which means “the place where eminent persons in a village met under a tree to talk and sort out questions concerning the community. Barza is a symbol of unity and reconciliation. Without discrimination, members of the online community are now part of one worldwide barza.”

A big thank you goes out to Modeste Shabani Bin Sweni and Mutere Kifara , from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who both suggested  Barza as a name.

The online community site is currently in development. In the coming month, we will be contacting those who mentioned they were interested in testing the site. If you haven’t yet contacted us to register your interest in testing the site, please contact nbassily@farmradio.org.

2 Comments - Post your comment »

An alternative fuel source: Make charcoal briquettes from banana peels

The script of the week was chosen to complement the two stories on cookstoves in this week’s FRW. As firewood becomes scarce, people search for alternative fuels. This script tells the story of a women’s group in Uganda who make charcoal briquettes from banana skins. This innovation uses easily available resources, and could save many trees.  To find out  how to make banana briquettes, read the script here.

Post your comment »