Gomba residents embrace use of solar stoves to curb deforestation

Ms Rhoda Kulabako (right), the GODFA project coordinator shows how a portable solar-powered stove works. Photo | Brian Adams Kesiime

What you need to know:

  • Currently, Gomba District Farmers Association (GODFA) with support from Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) are training the youth on two types of solar-powered cooking stoves; portable and non-mobile stoves.

A section of residents in Gomba District is embracing the use of solar-powered cooking stoves to curb the alarming rate of tree cutting in the area.

Currently, Gomba District Farmers Association (GODFA) with support from Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) are training the youth on two types of solar-powered cooking stoves; portable and non-mobile stoves.

Both types of cooking stoves use a combination of magma rocks (70 per cent) and briquettes or charcoal (30 per cent) to produce heat and energy.

“These stoves are supported by a solar-powered air system that pushes air in the rocks to drive combustion. They are designed in a way that they use less charcoal and more stones/magma rocks. Once the charcoal burns and the heat is transferred to the stones with the help of the air system or fan, one doesn’t need more charcoal, it’s the red stones that keep burning with the help from the fan which uses solar to run,” Ms Rhoda Kulabako, the GODFA project coordinator, explains 

Over 90 per cent of Ugandans rely on wood fuel for cooking, with the urban population using mainly charcoal while their rural counterparts use firewood, an indelible fact driving up deforestation in the country.

However, the rate at which trees are cut down is unmatched with the planting and replanting of more trees.

The solar energy cooking stoves, Ms Kulabako says save up to 60 per cent of cooking fuel bills and is one of the new technologies they have adopted to empower both youth and women.

Currently, 250 households in the district are using the new technology.

“Our people need more support to meet local energy demands and we are trying to address that,” She adds 

So far, 25 youth have been trained on how to make solar-powered stoves.

According to Ms Janat Nakanwagi, a resident of Kanoni Village, one of the beneficiaries of the project, the new technology has already started registering a positive impact.

“Before I got this solar-powered stove, I could use a sack of charcoal within two weeks because I have a big family, but since we started using the new technology, I now use a sack for two months," she said.

She added that the stoves also help to save the user from the ravaging smoke-related diseases since they emit no smoke during cooking.

Mr Nelson Ssali, 52 and resident of Bunyiywa Village said he started using the new technology four years ago and it is time-saving and user-friendly.

“You incur costs while installing it of about Shs400,000 but when that is done,  no more expenses are incurred,” he said.

Ms Kulabako said that initially, the uptake of the technology was low as some residents could not afford materials used to make the stoves, but through cost-sharing, many have adopted the technology.

“Through cost-sharing, which is supported by Food and Africa Organisation (FAO) and European Union, we provide residents with the solar air system and the latter bring the others items which include one bag of cement, and about 50 pieces of bricks.

Mr Allan Muwanga, the Gomba District forestry officer said the innovation if rolled out in all districts, has the potential to sustainably employ hundreds of jobless youth in the country.

“I am happy that residents in Gomba are abandoning the traditional biomass for cooking to more modern alternative and sustainable options,” he said.

Gomba comprises 17 forest reserves and the majority of them have been depleted by charcoal burners, farmers, and timber dealers.

Forests and woodland account for 15 per cent of Uganda’s territory, but the country’s forest cover has dwindled from 24 per cent in the 1990s to 8 per cent now.

With new markets for charcoal in Kenya and Rwanda, in addition to logging for timber and agricultural land, the pressure on forests can only increase, authorities warn.


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