World Wetlands Day 2024
To mark World Wetlands Day 2024 under the theme ‘Wetlands and Human Wellbeing’, Eric Izerimana our Data and Training Coordinator shares insights on the correlation between clean cooking & wetlands preservation.
In October 2023, I travelled to The Gambia & Sierra Leone and witnessed first hand, the degradation on wetlands and what impact it has had on neighbouring villages. Communities in these districts are forced to rely solely on these wetlands for more than their environmental benefits. These wetlands are also a source of firewood used for cooking, among others. Due to the unsustainable increased demand for firewood over the years, this has led to mass deforestation in the wetlands.
Wetlands are essential for water purification, acting as natural filters that remove pollutants. They also protect surrounding communities against flooding by absorbing excess water during heavy rainfall seasons. Wetlands support diverse ecosystems, fostering biodiversity, and contribute to carbon absorption, playing a vital role in mitigating climate change.
Lower River Region in The Gambia, for example, has several wetlands on the banks of River Gambia in Kiang West, Kiang Central, Kiang East, Jarra West, Central and East. DelAgua has distributed more than 75,000 high quality improved cook stoves across The Gambia so far in efforts to slow down wetland degradation that has caused longer dry seasons over the years.
In Sierra Leone, I visited Bonthe district which is known for its unique mangrove swamps that are home to unique species of birds, mammals and fish. Residents of Bonthe access these mangroves for income activities like fishing & ecotourism and so there is a need to ensure that they are preserved. In this district, DelAgua has deployed 2,992 clean cook stoves and subsequently 26,750 across the country.
Alongside distributions, we conduct education and training for all beneficiary households on the environmental and health benefits of clean cooking. This aspect of our programme is what we believe teaches communities the importance of preserving wetlands, therefore driving long term behavior change.
The households I visited and interacted with, both in The Gambia & Sierra Leone, confirmed that the DelAgua stove has reduced their demand for wood. They said the number of trips they made to collect firewood in a week had significantly reduced, therefore minimising destruction of wetlands in those areas. Beneficiaries like Boto living in the Lower River Region are happy that their villages can start recovering from deforestation.
Ultimately, the adoption of clean cooking, by rural communities, contributes to the conservation of wetlands by addressing the environmental impact of traditional cooking methods. By conserving wetlands, we ensure they can serve generations.