Empowering refugees_ From Chad to El Salvador, WFP fires up clear cooking – rokodromo

Empowering refugees_ From Chad to El Salvador, WFP fires up clear cooking

Nadifa Ibrahim, a Sudanese refugee living in a camp in eastern Chad, proudly showcases her new household item: a compact gas cylinder and burner. This simple addition has revolutionized her cooking routine, allowing her to brew strong local tea without the need for firewood.

“It’s efficient and useful, and we avoid the danger of searching for firewood,” says Nadifa, originally from Sudan’s Darfur region. “The difference is significant. Gas leaves no ashes and eliminates the need for firewood.”

building with refugees welcome signage

Nadifa’s new cooker, powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is part of a clean cooking initiative launched by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). This project aims to benefit over 5,000 households and numerous local vendors across six refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad learn to use new LPG gas cookers as part of a clean-cooking initiative by WFP and UNHCR.

Expanding Clean Cooking Solutions Globally

From Chad to El Salvador, WFP is promoting cleaner, greener cooking solutions at both grassroots and governmental levels. These initiatives aim to address environmental, health, and safety concerns while saving time and resources in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

“Change happens when people realize how much easier their lives can be with modern cooking solutions,” explains Raffaella Bellanca, WFP’s senior energy adviser. “It’s also a significant gender issue as it frees up time for productive activities like farming, which many smallholder farmers are women.”

Scaling up clean cooking options, such as solar, gas, or energy-efficient stoves, can make a substantial impact in countries facing climate and environmental challenges. These solutions can reduce communal tensions and attacks, particularly on women who gather firewood.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that over 60% of energy needs are still met by burning charcoal or firewood, which produces hazardous smoke linked to respiratory diseases. This practice also contributes significantly to deforestation, exacerbating the climate crisis.

Progress and Challenges in Chad

Transitioning to clean energy takes time. In Chad, only 3% of residents currently use clean cooking technologies, according to a WFP study.

“Cooking demands a lot of energy, so the potential for improving efficiency is enormous,” Bellanca notes, highlighting the emissions-reducing impact of greener energy. “Each institutional stove for schools, for example, can save an average of 40 tons of carbon annually.”

In eastern Chad, where traditional three-stone fires are common, cleaner energy sources like gas are not only more efficient but often the only viable option. In the Kounougou refugee camp, finding firewood is a constant struggle.

“We have trouble gathering firewood,” says Dar Assalam Youssouf Adam, a longtime refugee from Sudan. “Sometimes we use cow dung. Sometimes we have nothing at all.”

WFP is also introducing clean energy solutions to schools. In southern Mauritania, WFP is piloting gas stoves in six schools, providing nutritious meals to nearly 1,500 children. Similarly, in southern Guinea, WFP has introduced solar-powered cookers to primary schools, training kitchen staff on better food storage and cooking techniques.

In El Salvador, WFP is piloting fully equipped, solar-powered kitchens in three large public schools, aiming to serve WFP meals to hundreds of students. If funding permits, these initiatives will expand both nationally and globally.

Long-term Impact and Government Collaboration

Beyond grassroots efforts, WFP collaborates with governments to foster a comprehensive cooking transformation with long-lasting health and environmental benefits.

In Tanzania, where a booming charcoal and firewood trade contributes to one of the world’s fastest rates of deforestation, a new government plan aims to transition to clean cooking and sustainable energy solutions over the next decade. WFP is working with civil society groups to support this plan, advocating for sustainable, clean, and locally sourced biomass energy options.

WFP has helped meet the energy needs of over 10 million people in 48 countries.

“We’ve established an open channel to the President’s commission, which is making recommendations for investment reform and clean cooking initiatives,” says Brian Bogart, WFP Tanzania deputy country director. WFP is also developing solar-powered irrigation and stoves for schools in Tanzania.

“WFP’s role is to provide a platform for advocacy at the national level and bring solutions to the communities we serve,” Bogart says. He emphasizes that food security encompasses more than just having enough to eat; it also involves ensuring that food is prepared in ways that protect both people and the environment.

“If we only focus on food consumption and not on its preparation and production, we might address short-term food security while inadvertently causing long-term food insecurity,” he adds.

Learn more about WFP’s work in energy and food security.

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