Having fled conflict in their own country, the Somalian women in the refugee camps of Eastern Ethiopia were provided with basic items and support. However, at first they were not provided with cooking fuel. As a result they spent many exhausting hours each day looking for firewood. The result was deforestation, and danger as many women faced attack.
Meanwhile the Ethiopian government was looking for a solution to the problem of pollution from the local sugar industry. Rather than dumping the molasses by-product, the government was encouraging producers to manufacture ethanol.
The Gaia Association, an Ethiopian NGO, saw an opportunity to provide cleaner, safer cooking to refugee families, using ethanol-fuelled cooking stoves. Working with the UNHCR, the main providers of support in the camps, they raised the funds to provide stoves to camp residents, set up a training and support network and agreed to purchase the ethanol off the government.
The benefits are considerable. By Dec 2009, 1800 households in Kebribeyah camp and 800 in Awbere camp were using ethanol stoves, avoiding the emission of about 10,000 tonnes/year of CO2. More importantly, the women no longer have to forage for wood and studies have demonstrated that the camps are less polluted and health problems reduced. All of which leaves more time for the education so critical to the long-term opportunities of the residents and their children.
Award funded by the Waterloo Foundation