Today is Earth Day, the global movement that started back in 1970 to educate and activate the environmental movement and get us all to drive positive action for our planet and combat climate change. The theme for 2021 is Restore Our Earth™ — exploring natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems- which is exactly what our team in Rwanda are doing.
This year we passed the half-million stoves milestone and to date our Tubeho Neza project has distributed 640,000 stoves which is particular cause for celebration today as this has such a significant and positive impact on climate change and protecting our planet. Our stove reduces carbon emissions by 10 tons over its 5- year life and later this year we will be launching an improved model which will reduce carbon emissions by 35 tons over its 10- year life. On project completion when 2 million stoves have been distributed, the annual carbon emissions reduction will be 8 million tons per year. That’s the equivalent of removing all the cars from the streets of London and New York.
Cooking on traditional 3 stone fires is a largely unknown but very significant contributor to global carbon emissions so raising awareness of the issue and developing innovative solutions, at scale, to help provide clean cooking to some of the 3 billion people who still cook on open fires, is at the heart of what we do.
As well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our stoves help restore our earth by keeping trees in the ground. Over six million tons of firewood for cooking is used per year in Rwanda and more than 90% of the rural population rely on wood for fuel. There is a severe and increasing gap between wood supply and demand and this shortage of firewood drives serious forest depletion. Our stove cuts wood consumption by at least 50% which means deforestation is reduced significantly. When our project is complete we will be reducing pressure on forestry for cooking fuel, saving 64km2 annually, that’s an area the size of New York, or, 8,000 football pitches.
Preserving Rwanda’s forestry means saving the remarkable diversity of plants, insects, birds and mammals found there. Despite being small in size, Rwanda has one of the richest varieties of flora and fauna in Africa. This biodiversity is under threat from the pressure on their environment from a large and growing population and in particular from the harvesting of firewood. Our stove distributions in the Ruhondo and Burera lake areas and the Rugezi wetland have been vital in reducing damage to trees, which in turn stops soil erosion and run off into the lakes and maintains the biodiversity in the lakes and the wetlands. Most famously, Rwanda’s forestry is home to half the worldwide population of Mountain Gorillas, the world’s most endangered ape. Only about one thousand remain in the wild and they are on the IUCN Red List of wildlife threatened with extinction. More than two thousand DelAgua stoves have been distributed to local communities here, helping preserve this vital habitat for the gorillas.
Maintaining forestry also builds Rwanda’s resilience to climate change and adverse weather events. Flooding and landslides are already a major hazard. Rwanda, known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” is small, hilly, and densely populated so deforestation and heavy rainfall is a destructive combination. Landslides occur where heavy or sustained rain falls on the steep, clay slopes, in particular those that have been destabilised through deforestation. Saving trees minimises the number of landslides, maintains road networks, saves homes from being damaged and prevents a crop harvest from being inundated with mud thereby reducing the crop yield for that season. Reducing deforestation is also key in maintaining soil quality. Trees are the first line of defence in reducing soil erosion: taking away trees increases soil run off which in turn reduces the nutrient value of the soil for cultivation. And more trees allows greater levels of CO2 to be captured from the atmosphere.
It’s wonderful that doing something as simple as providing a stove can change a family’s life, drive sustainable development and help restore our earth. If you would like to take action on Earth Day by offsetting your own carbon footprint and purchasing carbon credits which fund our project click here. To find out more click here, and to see live reports from the field follow us on Instagram.