Darfur Women Graduate From Safe Stoves Project

WFP's Safe Access to Cooking Fuel and alternative Energy program enables women in Darfur to make their own fuel-efficient cook stoves. Copyright: WFP/Pia Skjelstad

A group of women in Darfur say they’re ready to move beyond food assistance thanks to a set of skills they’ve learned through a WFP-supported project that teaches women in the troubled region how to make their own fuel-efficient cook stoves.

DARFUR—Nearly ten years of conflict and displacement in Darfur have created a complex humanitarian crisis. Combined with a series of droughts, the situation has led to the rapid depletion of natural resources and desertification. This has meant not only lost livelihoods for the most vulnerable, but greater difficulty in finding fuel to cook with.

As a result of the environmental damages and on-going conflict, women have had to venture far from their homes to collect firewood for both cooking and selling.

Such trips expose them to grave risks including physical and sexual violence.

To respond to the multiple challenges that people face in accessing cooking fuel, WFP has carried out a project called the Safe Access to Cooking Fuel and alternative Energy (SAFE) project in North Darfur.

In less than 3 years, beneficiaries are reporting that SAFE has not only changed their lives for the better, but they now no longer need WFP food assistance.

WFP Handbook on Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy.

Impact Assessment

Last month, Veronique Barbelet and Megan Gerrard of the WFP SAFE team travelled to North Darfur to conduct the 2012 project impact assessment. During their visit to the Shagra SAFE centre, they spoke with both women and men during separate focus group discussions.

Women and men alike reported that the most important aspects of the SAFE project are the fuel-efficient stoves, which reduce firewood consumption, and the community forests, which are a source of livelihood.

The cost of cooking fuel required for preparing one meal in North Darfur is reportedly half as much with the fuel-efficient stove as compared to the traditional three-stone fire. With the savings, women are buying other food items at the market thereby helping to improve the nutrition and diet diversity of their families.

Furthermore, they no longer need to collect firewood for selling. Thanks to the income generation aspects of SAFE, women are able to buy firewood at the market instead of trekking long distances.

New stoves

The new stoves have also helped to keep their homes cleaner and reduce the number of burn injuries, particularly among children. In addition, households with fuel-efficient stoves are reporting fewer smoke-related illnesses and ailments such as eye and chest infections, coughs, colds and headaches.

Shagra SAFE trainers are now providing Training of Trainers services for other centres asking for their support. This service is not only an excellent source of income for the trainers, but it also helps to spread the positive impact of SAFE and improve relationships across communities where tensions used to exist.

During the focus group discussion, the women highlighted how SAFE has allowed them more free time to socialize amongst themselves and with neighbours.The women at the centre in Shagra have even been able to develop a small "bucket fund" for social events (e.g. weddings, funerals, larger celebrations) thanks to the income earned from selling seedlings, briquettes, and handicrafts.

The women from the Shagra SAFE centre candidly asserted that they feel ready to graduate from WFP food assistance and ready to train women across Darfur. Their optimism and strength is infectious. After three years of implementing the SAFE project, WFP has reached 1.6 million beneficiaries in Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

In order to help WFP beneficiaries address the multiple challenges linked with access to cooking fuel in humanitarian, transition and development settings, WFP has recently published a WFP Handbook on Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy.