Smart cooking in Abala
Smart cooking in Abala
Improving stoves: improving household finances, preserving the environment and preventing conflicts.
At the beginning of October 2012, the refugee camp in Abala, managed and coordinated by ACTED for the last seven months, hosted more than 16,000 refugees. Following the social economic survey carried out last April by ACTED in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, certain needs had been identified, notably in terms of energy sources and income generating activities. As a result, ACTED in partnership with the French Embassy and the Dutch NGO SNV, decided to respond to these needs by distributing improved stoves (to be used with wood or coal) to the populations living in the camp and to the host communities. This project, that links energy saving and the preservation of the environment, also participates in the prevention of conflicts in the refugee camp at Abala and in the surrounding villages. In addition to the distribution of these stoves, training is also being carried out in order to ensure that the refugees know as much as possible about how to make these stoves and maintain them.
Clever cooking, calm cooking
In the shade of her tent Tazoua, a 30 year old refugee, waits, the UNHCR card in her hand, as the town crier, armed with his megaphone, calls people to collect their stoves. Abdou, the person in charge of the distribution explains that “Every family receives a stove adapted to the size of the family”. Having waited her turn, Tazoua, heads towards the camp shop where the new stoves are piled high and shine in the sunlight. “With this stove I can choose to prepare food either using wood or coal. We are lucky to have this choice as here, wood is very expensive for us.” Souhana, a sixty year old man is delighted with his new stove, “This is a great new addition to my household, because my wife will no longer suffer from the smoke when she cooks. Until now, her eyes were red from the smoke as she had to repeatedly light the stove as she prepared our meals. Now, all she has to do is put the logs under the pot.” His neighbour points out another positive aspect of the new stove saying, “Before, I used a lot of wood and it took me a long time to prepare my meals. Today, one log and a few twigs suffice.”
Mid September, 2, 648 improved stoves were distributed by ACTED’s teams for all of the families living in the camp. Faced with an increasing influx of refugees, the different partners working in the camp have discussed the importance of providing new stoves and therefore allowing for the needs of the population to be satisfied, relative to the maximum holding capacity of the camp.
In order to facilitate a significant sharing of resources without creating tensions, ACTED has increased the distribution of stoves to those living in the town of Abala (that is to say, ACTED has increased the distribution to a further 2, 556 households), as well as to 8 neighbouring communities (a further 1, 515 households in total). The distribution has already begun in Tamizguida, a nomadic village about 8 kilometres away from Abala, known for its houses made of straw and clay. At the beginning of October, 300 families were given these stoves under the watchful eye of the village leader. Women, men and children hurried home with their new stoves, truly a helping hand for these farming families.
In this way the farming families act together to fight against accelerated deforestation and the drastic impoverishment of this source of energy, from now on shared. “The objective of this initiative is dual”, insists the person in charge of the distribution of the stoves. “We aim at improving the quality of life and saving the flora from the abusive cutting of wood.”
Practice makes perfect
Blacksmith training, including how to make and look after these stoves, is being carried out at the same time as the distribution. The objective of this training is to ensure that the populations living in the camps can make these stoves themselves and so the hope is that this will become a source of revenue for the camp.
It is 8 o’clock in the morning and Ibrahim the teacher is already at work in order to teach, in less than a week, all that needs to be known about the stoves. Abdallah, a new intern, has joined the centre to learn how to make the stoves. He doesn’t quite yet have the necessary skills and hesitantly imitates the maneuvers taught by Ibrahim, despite being equipped with his new tools: a chisel and a hammer. Ibrahim draws the outline and cuts directly from the sheet metal. Next, its Abdallah’s turn! As his hands tremble, he cuts the four pieces of metal to make the mutli-use stove, « MaïSouki ». A few hours later, by 11 o’clock, Abdallah has got the hang of the job and demonstrates a certain dexterity in his gests. He cuts the sheet metal and bends it in order to make a stove. All that he has left to do is to add the handles and the shelf. Having applied himself to this training, he now says he is comfortable making these stoves and will do so in the future. These training sessions also take place in Abala for those living outside the camp who wish to learn how to make these stoves.
On to the next stage…
The distribution of these stoves also responds to the debt issue in the camp when families acquire household goods. However, the families must from now on use wood and coal that is expensive as resources are scarce.
Halima, a refugee in the camp in Abala said: “It is very practical. With coal that costs 50 francs I was able to make a sauce last night.” But she added that there is an ongoing need for fuel. As she pointed out, “not everyone has 50 francs to buy coal.”
The refugees are now equipped with stoves and trained to know how to use them and maintain them, but they will have to make these stoves last with accessible fuel and new pots, while purchasing power remains limited. ACTED is aware of the needs of this population and hopes to soon be able to develop income generating activites and mobilise actors who are prepared to provide the much needed fuel ressources.