West Nile schools embrace energy saving stoves to rescue environment

A cook at Barakala Seed Secondary school puts firewood in an improved cook stove in Yumbe District on June 22, 2024. PHOTO BY FELIX WAROM OKELLO.

What you need to know:

  • Further, cooks say traditional ovens are slow in cooking and require abundant use of firewood.

A section of schools across the West Nile sub-region have embraced the use of smart cook stoves in order to reverse indiscriminate cutting of trees for firewood.

Traditionally, most institutions like schools and prisons were stuck with using firewood in old cooking ovens. They emit dangerous smoke in the kitchen which is detrimental to the health of the cooks, according to science.

Further, cooks say traditional ovens are slow in cooking and require abundant use of firewood.

But a revolution to the use of the smart cooking energy saving stoves is taking centre stage as some schools like Barakala Seed Secondary School in Yumbe district and 10 others have now adopted its usage.

Speaking to Monitor on Saturday, Barakala Seed Secondary School head teacher Amin Hamid said: “Before changing to the Improved Institutional Cook stoves, we were spending Shs2.1 million to buy firewood every term. This was costly and you can imagine the number of trees that would be cut for our school alone.”

Amin noted that this would lead to losses of environmental cover in the name of obtaining firewood from suppliers. 

He added: “With the funding from the European Union (EU) that enabled the construction of this improved cook stove, we are only spending Shs 350,000 per term for wood fuel. This is a huge saving on expenditure and also trees.”  

Why use the smart cook stove?

The improved Institutional cook stoves cooks food faster, can allow schools to save money on wood and significantly reduces carbon emission. This is because visibly seen emissions from traditional cook stoves could cause respiratory problems, eye irritation and prone to accidents.

“Inside the kitchen, there is less emission of smoke because the smoke is well directed to be emitted through a chimney. Less emission of smoke also enables us to cook in a healthy environment,” cooks at Barakala Seed Secondary school told Monitor.

One of the cooks, Kalsum Adoru, said: “When we were using the firewood and open oven, the smoke would even chase you away. We could be coughing and having the flu every time. Sometimes you could feel your chest is blocked because of smoke. But since Save the Children constructed this oven for us, we are loving our job.”

Speaking about her experience with the cooking stove, Adoru narrated that: “We used to cook the beans for longer hours (six hours) but now we cook for three hours and the beans are ready. The cook stove is very efficient and I think there is a need to fund other schools to adopt the same to save the environment. We use less firewood now to cook.”

Students also said they are served in time because the cook stoves are faster. 

How the school benefited

Barakala Seed Secondary Cchool that was started in 2016, has about 300 students who are fed using the improved cooking stove.

Albert Okwai, the project officer for Save the Children said: “We constructed the stoves with funding from the European Union in order to save the environment, offer better health for the cooks and also make sure that the learners do not waste time in getting their meals.”

The project 

He said the European Union funding through the Ehas also benefited 11 other schools and a prison across West Nile and Kiryadongo District.

“We have 11 institutional stoves installed in Yumbe, 06 in Adjumani, 03 in Terego, 02 in Madi Okollo and 05 stoves installed in the schools in Kiryadongo District. The cook stoves shall conserve the trees that would have been depleted because we are targeting at least 44,000 households to reduce dependence on natural trees,” he said.

Since 2016, the support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) has committed over €540 million in development and humanitarian assistance to the national refugee response, working in a number of sectors benefiting both refugees and host communities. This includes humanitarian support of over €390 million and over €150 million in development assistance to work on longer-term needs for various projects.

The In charge of Environment, Francis Bwambale, said there was need for schools also to establish woodlots specifically for cooking in order to allow trees in other areas to regrow for a better environment.

“The cook stove has reduced the consumption of firewood and cutting of trees because we did not have a woodlot. And this has saved us from high expenditure. There is a need to sensitize more communities so that the environment is saved,” he said.