The Toshiba Carbon Zero Scheme supports the ongoing activities to promote and disseminate improved cook stoves in Kenya. These stoves replace the traditional 3-stone fires, which require vast amounts of firewood and emit large amounts of greenhouse gases when cooking food or boiling water to purify.
Close to 2 billion people drink water daily that may be contaminated by faecal matter, because not all improved water sources can be considered safe.
75-year-old Patricia Okumu, who received a CarbonZero stove in 2012, lives in Kajulu East in Kisumu County, Kenya. As in much of rural Kenya, chronic water shortages are a fact of life in Kajulu East. Surface water supplies such as pools and streams are often contaminated due to the presence of pit latrines and animal waste, meaning that water needs to be boiled to make it safe to drink. This, in combination with the general high demand for firewood for cooking amongst the growing rural population, has contributed to deforestation in the area. Loss of tree cover has grave impacts in turn on water supplies, with wind erosion and the loss of shade and root systems reducing the water retention of the soils, causing surface water supplies to dry out.
Before CarbonZero stoves were promoted in her community, Patricia would spend the majority of her waking hours walking to collect firewood and water, both of which were becoming increasingly scarce. She recalls: “Going to the river to fetch water with my old age was very cumbersome, my feet would hurt from the long walk, and my back was very painful, to add to that I had to do other household chores.” Receiving the CarbonZero stove freed up hours of Patricia’s time each day, because the stove reduced her household’s firewood consumption to a third of its previous level, vastly reducing the amount of time spent gathering firewood. This additional time allowed Patricia and her husband to work on digging a well in their garden, which they fitted with a handpump to allow easy access to this precious commodity. She also reports how she has followed the advice of CarbonZero staff to plant trees around her compound, which has beautified the area and helps her crops by improving the soil quality.
Overall, the CarbonZero stove has had a vast impact on improving Patricia’s access to water. Removing the burden of spending hours every day collecting firewood has in turn enabled her to gain access to a safe water supply on her doorstep, and to plant trees which will help preserve groundwater supplies for her and her community. She finished by listing the ways her life has changed: “Relatives who never used to come to visit because they feared walking for over 7 km in search for water and firewood, now come as often as possible. My granddaughter has improved in her performance at school because the time she wasted going to fetch water is now converted into reading time and also chores are done faster like cooking, washing and doing dishes. Water is life, nothing else can move without it.”