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close this bookBoiling Point No. 33 - May 1994 Number 33 (ITDG - ITDG, 1994, 36 p.)
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RESCUE - A development approach for emergency relief by Agnes Klingshirn, domestic energy adviser in the Section 'Agricultural Farm and Household Systems', GTZ, Germany.

RESCUE is the acronym for a GTZ-assisted project in Kenya's refugee camps. The Rational Energy Supply, Conservation, Utilization and Education programme, which GTZ is operating on behalf of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), is rooted in a development approach, even though the refugees from Kenya's neighbouring countries are living in a state of emergency.

By the end of 1992 nearly half a million people had settled in refugee camps in north-east Kenya. This area of arid and semiarid lands is characterized by a fragile eco-system and an underdeveloped infrastructure, barely supporting the nomadic people already living there.

While at first only dry wood was collected, soon green trees were cut and bare circles appeared around the camps. The threat of long-term environmental damage, plus the physical danger to women collectors, resulted in UNHCR requesting technical assistance from GTZ. The resulting RESCUE programme is scheduled to run until February 1997. The goal of the project is to assure the most rational use of the available resources and at the same time reduce the heavy and dangerous workload of women. This is to be achieved through the introduction and use of energy-saving stoves, efficient kitchen management, and tree planting to redress part of the damage already done.

Long-term objectives

The long-term objective of this development approach is to have the refugees firmly adopt the improved technologies, rather than have the stoves distributed to them in the hope that they will use them. To this end, RESCUE will therefore conduct:

· A baseline study carried out by local Kenyan consultants and NGO's, giving information on the demographic composition of the refugee household groups, their traditional cooking and eating patterns, the socio-economic situation in the camps, and their energy needs and methods of meeting them;

· a survey of measures already taken by the refugees to reduce fuelwood consumption, and of their existing skills and knowledge that might be used for project implementation;

· a two-track programme for buying improved stoves from local Kenyan producers and selling them in the camps for quick impact, and for setting up production workshops that would eventually replace purchases from outside. Parallel to this, an artisan-training programme will be run for workshop production and management.

Early results

The pilot implementation showed an overwhelming acceptance of most of the stoves introduced; only one stove, which was made of metal, was not liked. An indicator of the success of the stoves was, for instance, that a family would wait for their neighbours to finish cooking, so that they could use the same stove.

The principle underlying the UNHCR/GTZ project is that in emergency relief, as in other situations, only a long-term approach to development can guarantee the 'success' of any new measure. Fuelwood-saving stoves are to be introduced, on the one hand, to reduce the workload of the women who gather the fuelwood and, on the other, to help conserve the country's scarce timber resources. UNHCR and GTZ now plan to disseminate the new cooking technology to other refugee camps.

Plant for Life - South Africa

Plant for Life is an organization recently formed in the Republic of South Africa to protect its forest, and to increase the supply of wood for fuel and other purposes. The following extracts from its mission statement show how it aims to tackle the long-term fuel problem in rural areas. Stove workers know that their role, in relation to fuel efficient stoves, is to act as a stopgap to help women with their cooking fuel problems until more fuelwood becomes available, and without contributing to deforestation.

The Biomass Initiative, or Plant for Life, was established in 1992. Although the initial funding was provided largely by the government, today Plant for Life is a joint effort by a range of NGOs, government departments, research and development bodies, training institutions and others. Rural communities play a key role in taking decisions about projects in their areas and, where necessary, are assisted by Plant for Life field-workers in capacity and institution building.

The broad goal of Plant for Life is to ease the woodfuel and environmental crises in rural South Africa, and so help the most poverty-stricken communities which rely heavily on woodfuel. This goal will be approached through:

· large-scale tree-planting in degraded areas;

· the development of nursery networks;

· the transfer of research findings and appropriate technology;

· an awareness-creation campaign;

· social forestry training courses;:

· the promotion of economically viable tree-growing activities;

· networking with development agencies and others.

The rural predicament

More than one third of South Africa's population - mostly in rural areas - still depends on traditional energy sources such as wood and dung. Backlogs in the electricity supply will take at least 20 years to overcome, and even then people will continue to use wood, at least for cooking.

Trees play a central role in most rural households, being used for fuel, building and fencing, fodder for animals, wind protection, shade, food and medicine. Over the last four decades, there has been large scale clearance of indigenous vegetation in South Africa's rural areas. Large numbers of people have been crowded into areas with insufficient natural resources to support them. Soil erosion, desertification and deforestation are testimony to the severe depletion of these resources.

As it has become more difficult to collect wood from the veld, fuelwood is increasingly becoming a commercial commodity. Coal and kerosene are used widely by the better-off but, during periods of economic hardship, they also revert to burning wood.

Three million households in South Africa collect firewood daily. Based on an estimate of five hours per week, and a conservative rate of R2 per hour, this means an annual cost of R1.5 billion.

The crisis

The need for biomass, i.e. wood, crop residues and animal dung is particulary pronounced in the rural areas where electricity is not available or affordable. Such is the demand for biomass that unless the problem is addressed now, the environment will become irreversably degraded.

In the past, only dead wood was removed from the veldt Nowadays, even living trees are damaged. In degraded areas, up to seven hours can be spent on wood gathering excursions which means families have to forgo other productive activities, such as childcare and food production.

In some areas, environmental damage has resulted in soil erosion, silting up of dams, water pollution and health problems.

Rural people, already desperately poor, are forced, when their supply of 'free wood' runs out, to spend up to 20% of the meagre household income on wood from merchants. Plant for Life is addressing these issues.

The benefits of social forestry

'Social Forestry' is a broad term that covers a range of tree-related activities, from agroforesty to home gardens. Its distinguishing feature is the involvement of local people in growing trees and food for their own use. It is widely accepted as a way to:

· meet people's energy demands

· combat soil erosion

· improve the environment and therefore increase agricultural production

· provide employment opportunities

· enable people to grow trees for fruit, fodder, wind protection for crops and other uses.

Social forestry projects can provide wood for rural communities within three years from the time seedlings are planted, depending on the kind of tree. The main thrust, however, is on providing people with the tree products they want. Trees are best grown either by groups of people within a community - possibly in a cooperative or small business - benefiting the whole community, or by individuals to meet their own needs.