Zimbabwe: Nyanga Women Lead the Way in Energy Saving

Zimbabwe: Nyanga Women Lead the Way in Energy Saving

Date: March 9, 2012
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For most urban dwellers in Zimbabwe, one of the Herald headlines during the month of February which read “Maputo threatens to switch off Zim” was not surprising. The article alleged that Mozambique, which supplies Zimbabwe with about 500 megawatts to cover shortfalls, had threatened to cut off power supply to Zimbabwe over a US$5 million debt.

Similar news headlines have preceded this and in some suburbs, people have become accustomed to this to the extent that they were not perturbed, as they have always been cut off for long periods on a daily basis.

Whilst power cuts are despised by business for interrupting transactions, or by men for preventing them from watching football and other forms of entertainment, women have felt the far-reaching effects of power cuts as they need power to prepare meals.

Those women, who live in rural areas where there is no electricity, are now well advanced in their search for solutions to the energy crisis and it is perhaps time for the urban woman to follow suit.

Whilst wood has been the next alternative source of energy for many households since time immemorial, supplies are not readily available in cities and the cutting down of trees for wood is a serious environmental hazard and crime.
In a bid to save forests and woodlands and also adapt to the impact of climate change, scores of women have recently installed a wood-saving cooking device popularly known as “Chingwa Stove” in their traditional kitchens in some parts of Nyanga district.

About 20 women, belonging to Chitsanza Development Association, a community-based organisation in Wards 19 and 22 in Nyanga District, Manicaland Province, are now able to build the stove on their own after being trained by specialists from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

The Zimbabwe National Environmental Trust, a non-governmental organisation based in Harare, also facilitated the training.

Another 10 women are set to benefit from the next phase of training to resume in March this year.About 250 households are expected to install this cooking device by the end of the year in their traditional kitchens.

“The stove is mainly built using locally available materials such as pit and river sand, anthill sand for cement and locally moulded bricks measuring about one-two and a half metres long by one metre in width,” said Gladys Makombe, one of the beneficiaries of the training.

“However, materials such as iron grates and plates have been provided with financial assistance from the Global Environment Facility- Small Grants Programme,” she said.

The projects manager for CHIDA Caroline Chigwanda added, “The introduction of this stove has been very timely indeed, in view of the need to protect our forests and biodiversity and also adapt to climate change.”

She added that given its popularity, many more women would benefit from the programme, turning the drudgery of looking for firewood in distant places to become a thing of the past.

Wood fuel has been the predominant source of energy in communal lands likeNyanga and with the advent of this new technology, women will be empowered within the domestic economy.

“The stove consumes very little firewood, with a 30kg bundle lasting for a month, making this technology a long-term strategy of empowering women economically,” said Diana Sedze, CHIDA director.

The advantages of the stove are that apart from using less firewood it also retains heat for a long time enhancing incubation and hatching of chickens and eggs, another favourite income-generating project for women in these wards.

According to Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre there are several types of energy- saving stoves that are being used in Zimbabwe apart from the Chingwa Stove.

These include the three-stone stove, the metal grate stove – pseudo-named the Mbare Stove, the hollow-core cookers, the tsotso (small sticks) stove, the “Yugen” mud stove, jengetahuni/quedidubo stove, among others showing the level of effort that is being invested in saving energy.

“Women need to be empowered to manage things on their own thereby creating sustainable local economies,” said Virginia Kapembeza-Muwanigwa, chairperson of Women’s Coalition.

The Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network is an information-based organisation advocating for gender equality and equity.


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