Upon entering Cecilia Aurien’s compound, one is greeted by an odd sight: an array of energy-saving stoves arranged in two rows. Cecilia displays them this way so that people who visit can view and purchase them. “I only have two stoves in my kitchen; these others I make for sale,” she says.
She uses locally available materials, such as soil, water, grass, and dry sticks to make the stoves. Like many other women her region of Uganda, Cecilia used to cook using a traditional three-stone cooking fire, which requires a lot of firewood. Now she is one of the lead mothers trained by the USAID-funded and ACDI/VOCA-implemented Resilience through Wealth Agriculture and Nutrition (RWANU) project in the construction of the energy-saving stoves.
Being a lead mother means Cecilia must pass on skills and information to women in her community that promote positive behavior. The stoves aim to reduce the amount of fuel used for cooking and lessen the impact of indiscriminate tree cutting for firewood and charcoal burning.
“Since I started using this stove, the firewood I would use for two days now lasts me four days. It saves me from looking for wood every day.” – Cecilia Aurien, RWANU participant, lead mother
By spending less time gathering firewood, women like Cecilia can participate in other activities like farming. In fact, that’s exactly why Cecilia decided to start making the energy-saving stoves. “I knew other women would also buy them because it saves firewood and also saves them time going to the bushes to look for firewood,” she says.
The RWANU project trained Cecilia and many others to identify dry branches for kindling, care and manage tree stumps to promote regrowth, and protect trees because of their importance to seasonal rains and the environment.
“We used to complain about lack of rain. We did not know that we should not be cutting the trees because they help bring rain; but now that I know, I keep telling my children and my neighbors.” – Cecilia Aurien
Cecilia’s passion for teaching others the benefits of protecting the environment does not stop there. She is also a member of a farmer training group that manages a regeneration site. “People think the stove is only about cooking, but trees are also important,” she says. “We should look after them and not think about money only.”
Adding to the environmental benefits, Cecilia also reaps the financial rewards of selling her energy-saving stoves. She makes small-, medium-, and large-sized stoves that cost between US$2.00 and US$10.00. With the money she earns from their sale, Cecilia has enrolled three of her children in a nearby primary school and bought iron sheets for her new home.
In Uganda, the RWANU project has provided technical assistance and a variety of activities to 180,000 women like Cecilia, so that they may be better positioned to take part in income-generating activities.