March 13, 2020
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sierra Leone, Dr. Samuel Doe, has stated that Sierra Leone is among the most deforested countries in the world, and that over 533,000 acres of forest area is required every year for meeting the current charcoal needs of the country.
He made the above observation yesterday 12th March, at the Government Technical Institute (GTI) ,Kissy Dockyard in Freetown, during the handing over ceremony of a modern testing laboratory to the institution.
UNDP, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) constructed a modern cookstove testing laboratory worth thousands of United States Dollars at the GTI campus in Freetown.
The UN diplomat stated that the coordination and management of the activities leading to the establishment and commissioning of the testing facility and training was carried out under the support of the UNDP/GEF project- Energy Efficient Production and Utilization of Charcoal through Innovative Technologies and Private Sector involvement in Sierra Leone.
He said energy access and cooking energy issues remain an important policy objective to the Government of Sierra Leone, stating that 99.7% of the population depends on solid biomass fuels, and that the use of charcoal has been increasing in Sierra Leone.
“It is estimated that about 289 tons of charcoal are consumed on a daily basis in Freetown alone. This charcoal produced inefficiency using traditional charcoal making techniques and yield low amounts of charcoal. The charcoal stoves used in Freetown and other urban areas mostly have low levels of efficiency and are often fabricated in temporary and makeshift facilities,” he said.
He said the inefficient production and use of charcoal were resulting in large scale deforestation in the country.
Samuel Doe said it was possible to reduce almost 40 to 70% of the charcoal consumption through the use of efficient charcoal stoves alone, adding that some local manufacturers such as West wind Energy, has already made efficient local stoves.
He said the establishment of the cook stove test facilities at GTI will allow for enforcement of standards for charcoal stoves in Sierra Leone, and that it would encourage more local manufacturers to do more and produce higher efficiency.
He also encouraged the Ministry of Energy and Sierra Leone Standards Bureau to establish a national framework for testing and certification of charcoal stoves, which would encourage manufacturers to increase the efficiency of cooking devices and utilize the facilities.
Minister of Environment, Prof. Foday Jaward, thanked the UNDP for the laudable initiative to construct a new building and provide laboratory equipment for testing and certification of charcoal and cook stoves to improve efficiency in charcoal use and lower emissions.
He said Sierra Leone is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, although the country’s contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases was negligible.
He said Sierra Leone became a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in April, 1995, and the Kyoto Protocol in June, 2006.
He said in Sierra Leone, fire wood and charcoal remain the most important sources of energy among both the rural and urban population, adding that 95% of rural households cook on an open fire whilst urban households tend to rely on inefficient charcoal stoves.
He further stated that the said methods of cooking have a direct impact on deforestation, and climate change and their unsustainable use have contributed to the degradation of the environment.
He said deforestation is occurring at a much quicker rate than the forest was growing, which resulted in an ever-decreasing forest stock, stating that deforestation is responsible for numerous issues affecting agriculture and ecosystem services for water and forest services.
He said the increasing use of inefficient cook stoves in the city of Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Makeni, and other urban towns represented not just an environmental problem, but also cause of a range of serious health problems.
“Women and children are particularly vulnerable due to their high amount of time spent cooking. The inhalation of smoke from the stoves can lead to serious respiratory illnesses. Smoke can also cause damage to eyesight and stunt the growth of children. The carbon monoxide emission from solid fuels used in these inefficient cook stoves contribute to climate change,’ he said.
Deputy Minister of Energy, Dr. Eldred Tunde Taylor, said it was the government’s vision that all Sierra Leoneans have access to electricity and to clean cooking technologies and fuels by 2030, to achieve the Global Sustainable Development Goals.
He said over 99% of the people in Sierra Leone today rely on biomass to meet their cooking needs and the usage is increasing at a steady rate, noting that the large volume of charcoal is mostly produced through traditional methods with low productivity, and that cooking is mostly done using inefficient charcoal stoves in homes, restaurants and eateries.
He said the increasing use of charcoal in Freetown and other urban areas was also resulting in large scale deforestation of community and reserve forests was causing environmental damage resulting in depletion of water resources and landslides.
“We also need to increase efficiency of our fuel use starting with charcoal and fire wood so that our precious natural resources are utilised optimally. It is also possible to replace charcoal with alternatives such as LPG, biogas and biofuels to meet our cooking energy needs although relevance of these options will also need to be examined in the context of Sierra Leone,” he said.
He said the development will also make it possible for MDAS and donor partners to ensure that all charcoal stoves be used in future programmes and initiatives were tested and certified for higher efficiencies.
He said the cook stove test lab will help to use the scale and power of public procurement to drive the market for efficient charcoal stoves.
He said they already have companies in Sierra Leone manufacturing charcoal stoves, noting that the test laboratory will allow them to develop more efficient and superior cook stoves.