HRNW REPORT: Thirty three-year-old, Fatmata Cole never imagined she could end up hawking charcoal on the streets of Freetown. Sixteen years ago, Fatmata was a junior secondary school pupil with hopes of a brighter future in Freetown.  But instead she dropped out of school and joined her aunt who introduced her to charcoal trading.

“I am not happy, this isn’t the life I dreamed of” she said. “I had a dream. To complete school and get to the university. Selling charcoal was the only option I had when I quit school.” since then, Fatmata knows only one thing – hawking charcoal. That is what she and her family of six now depend on for their daily sustenance.

Most of the energy production and use in Sierra Leone is concentrated in the household level, where biomass, in the form of fuel wood and charcoal is used for cooking – mostly by women.  Even in urban households with access to electricity, some women still prefer to cook using charcoal.

Hawa Sesay, another Freetown resident, also uses charcoal for cooking. As she points to her neighbours who were busy in the crowded kitchen preparing their evening meals, she notes that “all of us in this compound either use fire wood or charcoal for cooking”.

In view of the dangers that the use of charcoal poses to the environment and human health, a project was initiated by the Ministry of Energy with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)   with the aim to cut the use of charcoal by 70 percent. The project will produce a total of 15,000 energy-efficient household cooking stoves, as well as 700 institutional and 300 industrial stoves to serve almost 20,000 individuals across 14 districts.

The USD 1.8 million project, titled “Sustainable Energy Production and Utilization of Charcoal through Innovative Technologies and Private Sector Involvement” was officially launched with an Inception Workshop in February 4th.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Mrs. Zainab Buya Kamara, stated that the sustainable production and use of charcoal through proper management, rational trade, market infrastructure and efficient use would have a significant positive impact by helping to conserve resources, reduce migration from the rural area and improve people’s income.

UNDP Country Director, Sudipto Mukerjee, stated that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported project is geared towards reducing greenhouse emissions for a more efficient charcoal production and consumption. “I believe very strongly that by promoting cleaner and more sustainable energy the government of Sierra Leone can combine and address a range of issues such as global security, climate change, local pollution and very importantly, job creation” said Mr. Mukerjee.

UNDP works in vulnerable communities to reduce the impacts and risks of natural and man-made disasters in Sierra Leone by reinforcing and supporting stabilization of livelihood protection and empowerment of vulnerable people especially youth and women.



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