Tuesday, May 24, 2022

How Sustainable Fuelwood Management Built Nigeria’s Domestic Industry, Stakeholders’ Capacity

UNDP SFM Expo
An efficient cookstove sales consultant (second from right) educating school children on the stove at the just concluded science, technology and innovation expo in Abuja.

“For me, one of the greatest successes of the project is that I do not have to introduce the energy-efficient cookstove anymore because people are already informed and becoming used to it. When we market the product there is always someone who has used it or knows someone who has the cookstove.

“It was unlike when the project started in 2017 when we tried to convince people who were ignorant of the import and benefit of using a more sustainable fuelwood cookstove for cooking. It is a different story now,” said Nenu Cookstove sales consultant, Joseph Abah.

Nenu Cookstoves is one of the beneficiaries and participants of Sustainable Fuelwood Management, a five-year project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched in June 2017. The project was implemented by the UNDP with support from the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and other stakeholders.

The project, implemented in Kaduna, Cross River and Delta states, with four main components – sustainable fuelwood supply, sustainable fuelwood consumption, building domestic industry for clean cooking solutions and financing for clean cooking solutions – officially ended in April 2022 and has been adjudged a resounding success by stakeholders in the fuelwood sector. They unanimously believe the project was able to address identified problems revolving around health, environmental pollution, climate change and cost of energy to women and the issue of access to funds.

Speaking exclusively to our correspondent, Abah recounted how the cookstove reduced the burden for women who spend a bulk of the gain from their businesses buying firewood.

“We met a woman cooking awara (made from soya beans milk curd). We interviewed her then and she told us [that] she makes like 300 after-sales. Our major concern was the part of the process that takes more finance. She said it was the purchase of charcoal. So, we looked at how important charcoal is in our society but cutting down trees is also another menace. This project has helped in slowing down the cutting of trees through sustainable cooking.

“This means that if the traditional cookstoves use 200 charcoal [balls], the stove will give the same result with just 50, thus saving 150. Our stove reduces the emission of carbon because the clay liners do not allow for heat loss. It traps the heat and sends 95 per cent of the heat produced as ‘usage’ heat. You remember that it is not fire that cooks your meal but the heat. So, with what we have today as an improved cookstove you can use less to get more,” he narrated.

Abah said that given the level of success recorded by the project, Nigerians would be able to walk into the market and get a cookstove from every store if the project had continued a little longer.

Touching on the key components of the project, the UNDP GEF SFM, national project coordinator, Engr. Okon Ekpenyong said it succeeded on all fronts.

According to him, the project brought the domestic industries (which were almost non-existent before now) to the limelight and cookstove manufacturers who participated in the project have been able to expand their factories, build the basic facilities they need and are now on their own.

He said the finishing of the product has taken a new dimension as they have been able to improve the product design after feedback from customers and, by the end of the project, the product’s packaging had improved a great deal, with superb finishing.

Ekpenyong also said, apart from that, the project was also to create an avenue for funding, pointing out that all the fuelwood value chain actors (sellers, manufacturers and others) in cooperative societies, were given seed money to start the cooperatives.

“They have different cooperative societies registered by the government and they operate it. So, in effect, they are the ones ordering these stoves from the manufacturers in bulk and even the manufacturers have also formed cooperative societies. As the project ends those who were actively involved are scaling up,” he said.

In terms of awareness-creation, the project coordinator said various channels, were explored to educate Nigerians and the STI Expo organised by the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation was one of such avenues.

“Once we observed that most of these stoves are used mostly in the rural areas, we had to support them to go and hold sensitisation awareness campaigns in community markets and design the training [sessions] for their distributors. So, as they are here now, there are some people the project has trained to market these stoves. They are now like their distributors,” Ekpenyong said.

Similarly, the director-general, ECN, Prof. Eli Bala, said the project which evolved through the commission’s collaboration with UNDP has helped Nigeria’s drive to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

He restated that the introduction of the SFM project has been able to curtail the indiscriminate felling of trees for fuelwood by introducing a more sustainable method of cooking.

“We are promoting some private sectors that evolved through our collaboration with UNDP in our sustainable fuelwood programme because there’s no way we can stop a lot of Nigerians from using fuelwood. However [if they must do it] it should be used efficiently. Some SMEs came out of that programme, they built clean cookstoves and they are marketing it and making money out of it, employing people,” he said.

The ECN boss added that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently accredited Nigerian cookstove manufacturers for carbon credit, pointing out that this means that they will earn some carbon credits and make extra money for each of the improved fuelwood cookstove they produce.

“I think the programme has not only created awareness amongst people about sustainable fuelwood use but brought about the evolvement of SMEs. As long as they make money and conserve the environment on the other hand it becomes sustainable. The idea is [that] profit drives sustainability,” he added.

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