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How our support is helping to tackle climate change and transforming lives in Kenya

 

As the world’s leaders and top scientists have been gathering in Paris to discuss climate change and global warming, villagers in Fihoni, which borders the Gogoni Forest, are celebrating a successful switch to clean and renewable energy – thanks to WWF and Size of Wales.

Students can now study for longer thanks to solar lanterns. Image © Jeff DeKockStudents can now study for longer thanks to solar lanterns. Image © Jeff DeKock

I have written about Fihoni village in my previous blogs. You’ll probably remember that Fihoni is one of the rural villages in Kwale that has been benefiting from a changing to using sustainable energy through our Clean Energy Village Initiative.

The Clean Energy Village Initiative has now helped around 2,000 people in over 400 households to get access to solar lighting, while another 200 people in 50 households have been helped to install fuel-efficient stoves. That reduces the amount of firewood that’s needed for cooking by more than 50%! From improving education standards, to reducing time gathering firewood, to saving money, it’s amazing how a project can have such massive impacts on people’s wellbeing within such a short time.

The project’s main aim was to respond to local needs but it’s also important globally, as it responds to the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. You may have heard about the SDGs in the media recently. They set out countries’ shared ambitions for a world that is fairer, more prosperous for all, and more sustainable. What we’re doing in Fihoni is a great example of how that is happening at a local level.

A villager charging her mobile phone using solar energy © Elias Kimaru/WWFA villager charging her mobile phone using solar energy © Elias Kimaru/WWF

Traditionally, more than 85% of the community in Fihoni use firewood for cooking and kerosene for lighting. They both are bad for the environment and for people. By releasing carbon, they can also contribute to climate change.

It’s the changes in education that have impressed me the most – as a parent maybe I am biased! With guaranteed lighting, children are able to study longer in the evening, giving them enough time to finish homework and do extra reading. Recent surveys have shown that children who live in households where solar lighting has been installed have improved their marks by an average of 20%.

The mood in the community is well captured by one of the villagers, Fatuma Kassim:

It was hard for my two kids to study in the evening. We used tin lamps in most cases, but I did not have cash to buy kerosene meaning sometimes they would go for days without evening studies.Now I own three solar lanterns which are enough for my need. My children are performing much better.

 

The message from the students themselves is just as positive. Emily Jacob, a pupil in class 7, told me:

I am now able to read and complete my homework. Before the solar lanterns and energy saving cook stoves I never finished my studies. After school, I would go to a nearby forest to gather firewood and when I could study, the kerosene tin lamp smoke was choking – I could barely concentrate. “Thanks to the lanterns, I improved from 321 marks to 379 in only one year! I am sure to pass my primary examination next year and join a good high school. I would like to study forest conservation at university.

 
A tree at dawn in Kenya. Image © Fritz Pölking/WWFA tree at dawn in Kenya. Image © Fritz Pölking/WWF

The benefits aren’t just in education. We’ve found that because villagers don’t need to buy kerosene or pay to charge their mobile phones, the community is saving around $5,000 a month. That’s a huge saving, and the money is being used for things like food, clothes, and books.

The project has been so successful that the County Government of Kwale has committed to roll out the project in more villages – and I for one can’t wait to see the results!

Make a donation today to help put a stop to the destruction of east Africa’s coastal forests and Size of Wales will match it pound for pound.

Our work in Kwale, Kenya, is supported by Size of Wales.

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Comments


  • Joshua Maina

    This is great Elias! Kudos to the Kwale team.
    Keep it up.