| Boiling Point No. 27 - April 1992 |
by Apollonia Lugemwa, Co-ordinator, Women's Programmes, UGANDA
These are the results of the follow up I made with my women's groups who have installed improved cookstoves. The stove accommodates 2 cooking pans at the same time. It is raised and smokeless. It uses a maximum of 4 pieces of wood and retains heal for at least 6 hours. Wood fuel collected over the weekend can last for the whole week so children do not miss school to search for firewood. Mothers are capable of preparing 4 meals a day i.e. breakfast, tea break, lunch and supper, while those with a 3 stone fire get only one meal a day - lunch-supper at 6.00 pm.
The one meal a day affects people so much that they become handicapped mentally, physically and economically. At school, children can neither follow in class nor get involved in physical exercises. They are always weary and miserable when the time comes for going back home and so they would rather linger on the way and just be in time for lunch-supper. But then they will not have the food before collecting firewood for the next day's use. If it is too late, then they miss school the following day to collect firewood. When they go to school they are punished for being absent. The poor children get confused but they find their own way of solving the problem: they decide to satisfy both ends by coming to school very early and leaving earlier than usual so that they can go home to search for firewood.. During the exercise they are tempted to pick fruits from other people's gardens or anything to kill off the hunger. This is a block to a bright future. These kids can be caught and end up getting severly punished or, if not caught, they get used to picking unauthorized commodities and as they grow they become habitual thieves.
Because of fuelwood scarcity women in some villages move in a group walking 12 kms or more, spending the whole day searching for firewood. They carry heavy loads of wood which affect the back bone. This is very dangerous, especially to pregnant women. Hospitals have developed a habit of admitting pregnant women so as to keep them away from heavy work
In places nearer to big towns and shopping centres, the use of biomass stoves is proving highly beneficial to small holder families. A bag of charcoal which lasted only one week now lasts two and half weeks! This is a big financial relief especially to female-headed families which are so numerous in pert-urban areas (as many lost their husbands during wars in Uganda).
The improved biomass stoves save so much firewood. This is a positive development in that children visit forests and thickets much less often. This has reduced cases of rape and attempted rape by unscrupulous gangsters who way-lay these girls on the way to collect firewood.
In a nutshell, we can say that introduction of improved cookstoves is a psychological liberation in the minds of the rural women and children. It has instilled hope among rural women that even better developments will come about to alleviate their domestic burdens in the near future.
Ed Note: An excellent report produced by WSG: Wood Energy Systems Group for the Uganda Ministry of Energy in 1987 describes a series of improved stoves which have been developed in Uganda during the last 20 years. They include simple, mud stoves for the villages, burning wood, to more complicated ceramic and metal stoves burning charcoal and briquettes for the rural areas and large, institutional stoves.