The lives of thousands of people living in the camps of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been dramatically improved thanks to the highly successful Fuel Efficient Stoves project.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo, for short) has suffered from years of conflict. A recent escalation left hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in large, barely habitable, camps. In the three territories where Mercy Corps operates — Goma, Rutshuru and Masisi — there were more than 850,000 displaced people living in thirteen sprawling IDP camps by the end of 2008. These camps were all located on the border of Virunga National Park, one the most threatened World Heritage Sites in the world. Not only is the park a bio-diversity hotspot but it is home to the last vestiges of the mountain gorilla. The Park was already under severe pressure from local population growth before the IDPs arrived.
When displaced families use traditional food preparation techniques, which typically consist of an open cooking fire, the daily firewood needs for each IDP household amounts to seven kilograms of wood per day. For the total displaced population in the area, this translated to a total daily need of over 900 tons of wood every day.
The fuel needs for these cooking fires was not only causing severe deforestation in the National Park but the collection of fuel wood in unstable areas was placing women at risk of rape and murder by some of the remaining rebel soldiers.
Thanks to funding received for this project, Mercy Corps has been able to construct 20,000 fuel efficient stoves for IDP families. The introduction of these stoves, together with training in improved food preparation techniques, has had a dramatic effect. Not only has firewood consumption been reduced by around 50 percent, but the use of the stoves has improved the security and health of women and their children. It has also reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated 24,000 tons to date.
Some of the IDPs are now beginning to return home. Many are intending to construct fuel efficient stoves in their home villages and Mercy Corps will be providing ongoing support in this transitional period.