Clean cooking gets the (carbon) credit in Oromia
Mulane Jabessa is beaming as she lights her new energy efficient stove, one of 40,000 that are being distributed by Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union as part of a project to tackle one of the biggest challenges coffee farmers face – climate change.
Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union is based in the Oromia region of Ethiopia – the birthplace of coffee. It has been Fairtrade certified since 2002, with around 90,000 of its members growing Fairtrade coffee.
All six varieties of Oromia’s coffee are forest-grown, organic and bird-friendly. Producing coffee and living in an environmentally friendly way is important to the members of the co-op. But there are still pressures on the environment, such as deforestation for firewood and the need for new arable land.
In the Ghimbi region of Oromia, there is a project underway which will help slow the rate of deforestation and tackle that other big challenge to coffee farmers – climate change. Coffee is one of the crops most affected by changes in temperature and climate. As diseases and pests become more prevalent, and patterns of rainfall change it becomes harder to grow coffee successfully. Rising temperatures affect crop yields. Recent research has shown that coffee yields in the main producing countries are expected to drop dramatically by 2050. This will lead to difficult financial conditions for coffee farmers and eventually, entrenched poverty.
Oromia is one of the first producer groups to pilot the new Fairtrade Climate Standard. It means 20,000 coffee farmers can improve their living conditions and income, while also becoming more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Work is already underway to make and distribute 40,000 energy efficient stoves to 20,000 households in coffee growing communities in the Ghimbi region. These will replace the traditional three-stone fires used in Ethiopian cooking. Every household uses one stove for regular cooking and one to bake injera, a flatbread traditionally made from teff flour. No meal in Ethiopia is complete without injera. The farmers pay for the stoves partly in cash, and partly with the carbon credits that are produced by using the stoves.
Locally, four production centres have been set up to make and distribute the injera stoves, which has created jobs and additional income for the local community.
With more energy efficient stoves, women spend less time gathering firewood and can prepare meals more quickly, meaning they have more time for their families and other work. ‘In the old times we had to use so much wood but now a small amount is enough and I can go on with other work of mine,’ says Mulane Jabessa. Mabraat Kabbada, another woman farmer and member of the cooperative, is pleased too: ‘When we used the traditional stoves we had to collect wood every day. Since we use the new and improved cookstoves we only go three times a week.’
There are also health benefits to the new stoves. They produce less smoke, so families benefit from cleaner air. Mabraat says ‘the old cookstove has lots of smoke and harms our family, causes headaches and eye irritation.’ Mulane feels the new cookstoves are much safer too: ‘The difference is that the old way of cooking burned our legs and hands and our eyes got irritated. This one is much better.’
The new cookstoves also means less harmful greenhouse gases are produced when cooking. That makes the farmers eligible for carbon credits which can then be sold as Fairtrade Carbon Credits under the new Fairtrade Climate Standard. The reduction on carbon dioxide emissions with the new stoves compared to cooking over an open fire is up to 70%. It’s estimated that the project will generate over 30,000 carbon credits per year. The Fairtrade Premium from the carbon credits goes towards projects which will make the whole community better equipped to deal with the effects of climate change. Mabraat sees belonging to the co-operative as a double win, ‘we received the cookstove through our co-operative and also we are able to market our coffee through the co-operative.’