Tubeho Neza Million - 26th October

What a memorable day, 26th October 10.00 am Rwamagana District.

From the moment the Chairman Neil McDougall, Hon Minister of Environment Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Vice Mayor of Rwamagana, Governor of Eastern Province CG Emmanuel Gasana and a host of DelAgua partners and supporters including from the British High Commission, BRD, Bboxx, Burn, and Harambee, arrived to the sound of music, there was real joy in the air. The whole community had come together to celebrate the milestone distribution of the Tubeho Neza one millionth stove.

More than 600 villagers had gathered to witness the occasion, and for them, as well as it being a morning of festivity, it was also going to be a day that changed their lives as they would be receiving their own DelAgua stove, freeing them from the 3 stone fire which causes so much damage to health, wellbeing and the environment. The DelAgua team including our local Community Health Workers were out in force and the day’s events were compered superbly by Training Analyst Musa Hakizimana, including translating English to Kinyarwanda so that the real VIP guests, our stove families, would understand DelAgua Chairmans’ opening address.

Neil spoke powerfully about the DelAgua journey which began a decade ago in Rwanda, bringing his pioneering approach to delivering a major long- term clean cook stove project using carbon finance, the only way to provide the very large capital sums needed to deliver at scale and to be self- sustaining. Neil’s vision was to bring clean cooking to the rural poor most in need, by providing a free, top quality efficient cook stove:

“We passionately believe that everyone, rich or poor, should have access to clean cooking. Clean cooking is a right not a privilege. We appreciate that in many countries people survive on $1/day, particularly in rural areas. After paying for food, education, housing and medical costs it is inconceivable that households can afford to pay $40-$50 for a high quality to stove. In LDCs even subsidised programmes fail time after time. Therefore, at the heart of our programme all stoves shall be provided free of charge to households together with ongoing education and support.” – Neil McDougall, DelAgua Chairman

He explained that ongoing education and support is the most important factor in the success of the project, with each family receiving an initial 1 hour training in their home followed by twice yearly visits. Neil explained that this level of support is the key differentiator from all other retail, subsidised or free of charge projects. It is a massive financial commitment as the investment in education and support is double that of the cost of the stove. Neil highlighted the role of the Community Health Workers:

“To achieve this support we employ 5,000 Community Health Workers. Next year – 10,000. We will become one of the largest private sector employers in Rwanda. These are high quality, long term employment opportunities over a period of at least 10 years and DelAgua is providing these jobs and so injecting funds directly into the poorest rural communities where such employment is scarce. The approach works: independent audits show that 2 years after use 99% of stoves are in daily use .” – Neil McDougall, DelAgua Chairman

DGC_1187

Neil emphasised the exceptional partnership with the Government of Rwanda and its forward- thinking approach and policy that every household should have access to an improved cook stove. This ambitious goal requires a vast undertaking and can only happen with truly supportive government partners. Neil thanked the Ministry of Environment and also Ministry of Health, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Local Government. All have stood shoulder to shoulder with DelAgua through the bad as well as the good times. Neil emphasised that “without that GoR support we would not be here today celebrating the distribution of 1 million stoves”. To cheers from the crowd, Neil concluded by explaining that DelAgua will continue to accelerate beyond 1 million and by 2024 2.3 million households, that’s every rural home, will have a DelAgua stove.

Neil was then joined by the Hon. Minister of Environment Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya. Together they presented the 1 Millionth stove to Emeritha and her baby, sleeping peacefully, oblivious to the history of the moment but who will live a life free of the hazards of the 3 stone fire including smoke inhalation causing lung disease, burns, sore eyes and throat, and will be able to play and attend school rather than spending hours hunting for wood.  We are particularly grateful to Burn who manufacture the exceptional stove for us in Kenya, and it was very special to be provided with a specially engraved stove by Trevor Ruto, Burn Product Manager, to mark the occasion.

It was inspiring to then hear from Chantal Muhongerwa whose family received a stove some years ago. She talked about how the stove had really changed her life. As a girl, she bore the brunt of wood gathering and cooking duties and her health and education suffered. Now she is able to cook and eat well and can use her time more productively. She later explained how the stove is also encouraging more men to get involved in cooking duties because it is so quick to light, easy to use and cooks in half the time.

The audience was then treated to the most dynamic, joyful and skilled Itorero Rwanda cultural dance display from an incredible troop. Not surprisingly there was some audience participation led by a beneficiary toddler who knew all the moves and then the Minister and Neil, who did not know all the moves, but made up for it with enthusiasm, all greeted with cheers and applause. 

The Governor of Eastern Province CG Emmanuel Gasana spoke about the real impact the Tubeho Neza programme is having in his communities and then introduced the Minister.

The Minister addressed the villagers and explained the multiple benefits Tubeho Neza is delivering to rural Rwandans. She asked families about to receive their stoves to “take care of these stoves and I promise they will take good care of you. It will protect you from smoke that damages your health. We need to continue to reduce pollution in the air and carbon in the air. I plead with you to take good care of them because they will be maintaining the air that we breathe.” She continued by emphasizing the gender benefits: “These stoves help ladies to get time to develop themselves and start small businesses instead of going out into the countryside looking for firewood. These stoves help develop the family and help children who are as vulnerable as old people so that’s why I ask you again to take care of them”.

She concluded by thanking DelAgua, celebrating the millionth stove and the partnership with DelAgua that has made this possible and looking forward to ongoing future success.

So, while that concluded the celebratory event, it was just the beginning of the stove distribution and the CHWs began their careful work, gathering data on each family, scanning the stove and uploading the stove and family data on the bespoke DelAgua app before giving the beneficiary the stove. This ensures the stove can always be accurately located with just one family and that family visited, educated and supported throughout by our CHWs, and accurate stove usage data gathered to ensure the absolute integrity of the Tubeho Neza carbon credits that fund the programme.

By the end of the day, in that one location, 1200 stoves had been distributed. Across the country DelAgua staff have been distributing an extraordinary 10,000 stoves each weekday. So, they are the talent that makes it happen and the real heroes of our Million celebration. Murakoze.