How cook stoves help to fight deforestation and improve farmer livelihoods
Gyadam, which translates as “set on fire” or “lit” is the perfect place for a cooking stove story.
Gyadam is a little cocoa farming community in the belly of the Ashante Region of Ghana, a place plagued with illegal gold mines, deforestation and mass migration of young people to the capital Kumasi and Accra in search of greener pastures. But not everybody’s story is so bleak.
Constance Sarfoa is a contented woman. At 48, her 28 year old son has acquired his Masters degree. Her second son is a student in the University of Cape Coast and the two younger daughters are also doing well in school. “Your children are very intelligent. Where do you think they got it from? You or your husband?” She smiled at the question, took one glance at her husband and said: “My husband”, and whispered under her breath with a big smile: “I don’t want trouble”. He played deaf at her little jab.
Constance and her husband, the man known by everyone as “Doctor” are cocoa farmers. He is not a doctor. He is the purchasing clerk for Nyonkopa and she has a provision store by the main road. She sells razor blades, biscuits, machetes, exercise books, slippers and pretty much anything one needs to survive in a little village.
I got my cooking stove sometime last year. I can tell you that it is so much better than cooking with charcoal or gas. The difference is night and day.
Now, because of this stove, when I buy 5 cedis (US$1) worth of firewood I will use it to cook what I needed 20 cedis to cook. This has helped me save money.
Constance speaks so passionately about her new stove, you’d think she’s being paid to advertise it. As if to quell any such suspicion, she cooks some plantain for lunch. In fifteen minutes, it was all cooked.
“When you put food on the stove it cooks very quickly. It uses little firewood and hardly smokes.”
If more people start using these stoves, she believes firewood sellers will be compelled to cut less trees in the forest.
Those who complain about the stove smoking don’t know how to light it. Because the stove is beautiful, some people buy it but only use it to decorate their home.
“My husband actually cooks more than I do. I spend a lot of time at the store and so he does the cooking since he works from home. If you look in my kitchen you will see a gas cylinder and stove. I have never lit it since it ran out last year. To fill the gas cylinder, you need about 100 cedis ($20) and it finishes quickly. To refill, my husband has to travel with the cylinder to another town. He has to pay for transportation to and from the gas station, and then it runs out quickly.”
“5 cedis worth of firewood now lasts me 2 weeks and a sack of charcoal sells for 25 cedis. I used to use a bag of charcoal every two weeks so this stove is even better than cooking with charcoal.”