The International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development, (ICEED) has made shocking revelation. The group alleged that 95,000 people, mainly women and children, die annually as a result of smoke inhalation from cooking with firewood.
According to a study report of the World Health Organization (WHO) the deaths from firewood smokes is the third highest killer in the country behind Malaria with 225,000 deaths and HIV with 192,000 deaths which attributed to lack of access to cooking gas and kerosene.
In a bid to reduce drastically this alarming number of deaths being recorded annually in the country, ICEED in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID) came up with Energy Efficient Woodstoves Project in Nigeria with the aim of providing efficient energy woodstoves to Nigerian households.
Disturbed by the high rate of deaths caused by smoke from firewood ICEED in Ebonyi state came up with safe cooking energy programme and organized a-one day media training workshop in the state at the Clean Cook stoves Development and Testing Centre in Afikpo, Ebonyi state.
The Executive Director of ICEED in Nigeria Mr. Ewah Otu Eleri while speaking on the topic ‘expanding access to energy for growth and poverty reduction in Ebonyi state’ said that Ebonyi state as one of the poorest states in the country has about 100, 000 out of 531, 000 households connected to the national electricity grid.
He noted that about 86 percent of households depend primarily on traditional firewood stoves for cooking while 70 percent households buy firewood from the market and 16 percent 16 percent collects from the bush, saying that the retail cost of kerosene and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) was not favourable to households in the state because majority of whom are poor.
His words, “the over-reliance on firewood for cooking has the implications that over 95, 000 Nigerian die every year as a result of smoke from cooking wood, according to figures from the WHO deaths in Ebonyi state are quite significant. Accelerated forest depletion as a result of overdependence on fuel wood, increase cost for wood purchase. The research by ICEED shows that the average households in urban and peri-urban areas of Ebonyi state spend about 11 percent of family food budgets on cooking fuel. Boarding schools and other heavier users of firewood spend about 15% of the food budget on cooking fuel. For households that gather firewood, there is increased drudgery by women and children as a result of walking long hours to fetch the fuel”.
Eleri stated that the energy efficient woodstoves project in Ebonyi state has delivered 29 public boarding secondary schools supplied with efficient institutional woodstoves, adding that the stoves are consistently achieving at least 85% wood and cost savings and have completely eliminated smoke from the schools’ kitchens.
He said that 100 pilot households benefit from a pilot aimed at expanding access to efficient household woodstoves, stressing that the stoves are consistently achieving 50 percent wood and cost savings and significantly reduced smoke from their kitchens.
The Director further stated that the goal of the programme was to increase access to modern and clean cooking energy for households and small businesses and institutions in the state with an emphasis on the poor especially women and children.
“It seeks to achieve the following results; 265, 000 households, small businesses and 100 institutions in Ebonyi state have access to clean cooking energy and stoves by March 2015, domestic production of clean cook stoves in Ebonyi state by April, 2014, 1,000 new direct and indirect jobs created by March, 2015, reduced deforestation and improved health and safety conditions of poor households through reduced particulate matter emissions
“The goals of the project include improving health among female cooks in schools and pilot households in pilot states of Ebonyi and Lagos, reduce the quantity of wood fuel used for cooking and greenhouse gas emission in participating institutions and households; and create jobs for SMEs and marketers as ICEED will build a production plant in the state and train the youths on how to produce the stoves”, he said.
He commended the state Governor Martin Elechi for partnering with ICEED in the project which he said has seen the 30 boarding schools in the state getting the wood stoves free of cost.
Eleri however urged the state government to be committed to supporting the programme, allocate adequate financial resources in the state budget for the programme, and agree on subsidy level given per stove sold and to support the Centre for clean stove design and manufacturing. “The project aims at 80 percent wood energy cost savings in institutions and to help over 700 women achieve better respiratory health, create new jobs from stove production, distribution and retailing in Ebonyi, empower women by building stove sale networks and support Ebonyi to develop sustainable cooking energy policy frameworks” he stated. He stated that the manufacturers of efficient stoves would be encouraged, creating at least 1, 000 direct and indirect jobs and bringing direct investment to the state economy while urban and rural households, small businesses and institutions using commercial fuels as well as rural households gathering fuel will be addressed.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves will provide financial support to the Ebonyi state safe cooking programme through the Nigerian Alliance Clean Cookstoves while USAID who is currently partnering with the project in two states of Federation in Ebonyi state and Niger state which is expected to be expanded to other states for the safety of Nigerians.
Participants at the workshop called for sustenance and adequate funding of the project which they described as a very laudable one that will go a long way in enhancing the living standards of the people especially women, children and youths.