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As a direct result of our internal carbon fee and Microsoft’s commitment to carbon neutrality, our carbon offset strategy is not only reducing GHG emissions, but it is also helping us reach nearly 3 million people through projects which improve health, protect ecosystems and provide income and employment to local communities. As you saw here on the Microsoft Green Blog a few months ago, two of the projects we are contributing to in Madagascar and Indonesia are focused on ecosystem conservation and community development.
Today we’re taking you inside the home as we look at three projects which are using carbon finance to deliver health benefits while reducing GHG emissions through more efficient cookstoves and water filtration.
Globally, more than 2.7 billion people, or one-third of the world’s population, rely on burning biomass such as wood fuels, charcoal and dung in traditional stoves for their daily cooking needs. These traditional cooking methods are inefficient in their fuel use and create indoor air pollution, leading to significant health problems for families, and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Exposure to smoke from indoor cooking using traditional stoves or open fires which use biomass fuel is a major risk factor for disease in developing countries, causing more premature deaths globally than malaria or tuberculosis. In rural areas, time spent collecting fuel could be spent on other productive or family activities, while in urban areas families often spend more than 20 percent of their income on traditional biomass fuels for cooking.
By providing improved cookstoves to communities around the world as part of our carbon neutral program, we have an opportunity to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, alleviate pressure on forests and energy resources, reduce harmful smoke and indoor air pollution, and save families money and time acquiring fuel.
As one of our neighboring countries, Mexico doesn’t seem very far away and many people have traveled there to enjoy the sunshine and beaches.
But despite its recent economic prosperity and rise into its current middle income country status, in 2012 over 60 percent of people in rural areas were living below the national poverty line according to World Bank Data. The poorest regions of Mexico include states like Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas where the typical wage in communities is between six and 10 USD per day.
Through our partnership with The CarbonNeutral Company, we are supporting the Improved Mexican Cookstoves Project as it works to make efficient cookstoves affordable to low-income households and reduce fuel use by as much as 60 percent. Carbon finance is used to help develop the project’s capacity for production, sales and marketing, installation, and ensuring that households have access to support after they have received their new stove. The project works closely with HELPS International and more than 30,000 stoves were sold in south and central Mexico by the end of 2013.
The high-quality, affordable plancha wood stoves being sold by the project have been specifically designed to be locally appropriate for the communities in Mexico, with an enclosed fire chamber with a metal surface suitable for cooking local foods like beans and tortillas. The stove also uses a galvanized chimney to remove particulate matter and toxic emissions from the home.
According to Elvira Aquino Ordaz, who uses the new, more efficient stove in her home, “It helped a lot because we save in firewood and most importantly, I do not breathe the smoke as it goes out. It saves firewood because when the pot gets hot, it keeps it hot and the food is cooked faster; even the embers stay warm until the next day. What I spent in fuelwood for three to four days in cooking in open fire, now last for more than 8 days.”
Though thousands of miles from Mexico, Ghana faces similar problems from the use of traditional cooking methods. The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to indoor air pollution is responsible for 16,600 deaths per year in Ghana. Charcoal is the most common cooking fuel, which is produced using the earth mound method, a wasteful process that has a carbonization rate of eight tons of wood to one ton of charcoal.
Through the use of carbon finance it is possible to manufacture and distribute more efficient cookstoves to some of Ghana’s most populated regions. Stoves are produced at five facilities in Ghana and are driven to major towns and markets, where they are distributed through independent retailers and salespeople.
One woman, Patience ‘Pat’ Yevu, a 27-year-old mother of three, began selling cookstoves and eight years later, has significantly increased her own wages while helping her community. Women who purchase cookstoves from her say they’ve cut their spending on charcoal almost in half and have improved the health of themselves and their children.
The cookstoves used for this project are 33 percent more fuel-efficient than a traditional stove and by using less charcoal to generate heat, it relieves the pressure on Ghana’s forests from the threat of deforestation. Annual production of the cookstoves has grown more than 12 times from 2007 to 2012 with more than 270,000 produced and distributed in total.
In Guatemala we are supporting a project which has combined the distribution of efficient cookstoves with another essential household requirement – water filtration.
Despite almost 90 percent of Guatemala’s rural population having improved access to water, water-borne diseases is still a major issue and is considered a national priority. About 35 percent of the country’s rural population drinks water before it has received any treatment while 39 percent boil their water. Between less efficient cookstoves and the need to boil water, there is a heavy use of wood as fuel.
The water filters enable households to access safe drinking water through the purification process of a gravity fed ceramic filter. The filter treats two liters of non-potable water per hour and removes 99 percent of pathogens. A goal of the project is to increase the number of households treating their water while reducing the need for fuel to boil it.
One young mother whose grandfather also lives with her, Esperanza, said, “We were so thankful when we were able to get the stove and water filter. My grandfather noticed an immediate improvement in his vision. His eyes are not red and watery now. I think he will keep his vision a little longer now that the smoke is gone.”
Guatemala image: Copyright 2013 Rodney Rascona for The Paradigm Project.
This is truly impressive and inspirational. Thanks for starting with the essential basics!