In Oshwe, a small forest community of around 22 000 people in the DRC, people survive by hunting, fishing, and gathering wood from the rainforest. As with many forest communities in the DRC, the rainforest is both a pharmacy and supermarket.
Without any electricity supply, people in Oshwe have turned to the forest for firewood as a means to cook their food and heat their homes. The result is that as thousands of families rely on the forest for wood, so the forest has been chopped down and depleted at an unsustainable rate.
For this reason Greenpeace Africa ran a series of workshops on how to build and run energy efficient clay ovens.
Cooking and heating with these ovens means less wood is burnt, which means less to carry and chop down. And as the ovens burn more cleanly and efficiently, there are also far fewer health issues. It's a win-win situation for both the rainforest, and the people who rely on it.
The workshop was held in early June last year and twenty-eight people took part, where they learnt about energy efficiency and built seven clay ovens for the community to use.
When we launched this workshop, we hoped it would make life easier for people and bring a sense of community to the village. The letter below really paints a colourful picture as to how much our hopes have been realised in Oshwe.
Dear Members of Greenpeace,
I am a nun who lives in Léhar (a village in Senegal), away from any city amenities. Access to energy sources haunt the daily lives of women in this community and ultimately cause enormous environmental damage.
I was pleased to meet with Mr. Philippe Ahodekon, one of your volunteers, who trained rural women in our villages on the manufacturing techniques of clay stoves.
The women were amazed at how these stoves have changed their lives. By using less wood, the cooking has become simpler with almost no harmful smoke affecting their health.
Thanks to Greenpeace for this training. These brave women today now have a greater opportunity to look into other income-generating activities for the well-being of their families.
A reality which was almost impossible due to the amount of time and energy they spent searching for wood.
Also, the necessity of such an action to protect the environment, which is already threatened by our daily activities.
Testimonies of women who have already benefited from the training lead me to believe in the importance of sharing this knowledge to other women in the community and even the surrounding rural areas in Senegal and Africa.
Admittedly, this is a very ambitious desire but I will continue to pray to God to increase applications to individuals and organisations like Greenpeace for this to become a reality.
I am convinced that the development of Africa will mean the improvement of living conditions for all women and families.