Eco-ovens helping to combat coastal erosion while boosting income in Liberia

Strong currents, high waves, and frequent storm surges cause regularly damage on Liberia’s coast line and expedite coastal erosion.  People living on the coast often live in temporary or poorly constructed houses which offer little protection from the storm surges.

Highlights

  • The USD3.3 million initiative, funded by UNDP launched a project to develop defense mechanisms against the effects of climate change that cause sea erosion.
  • The Global Environment Facility and UNDP, in 2015, provided 10 new eco-friendly stoves to residents of Latia and Tala in Grand Cape Mount County.
  • With the eco-friendly stoves, the villagers now use less wood to smoke fish.
  • 360 families organize a schedule for the use of the eco-friendly ovens.
  • The decreased need for firewood helps to protect the local mangrove swamps.
  • The dense roots of mangrove trees can help to trap sediments flowing down to the sea and off the land and helps to stabilize the coastline and prevent erosion.

In Robertsport, western Liberia, for example, an entire airfield was submerged by the rising sea level and a local police station was washed away.

To help the coastal communities in Liberia, and in particular Grand Cape Mount, Monsterrado, and Grand Bassa counties, the government, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched a project to develop defense mechanisms against the effects of climate change that cause sea erosion.

The USD3.3 million initiative, funded by the Global Environment Facility and UNDP, in 2015, provided 10 new eco-friendly stoves to residents of Latia and Tala in Grand Cape Mount County. The ovens were provided after successful pilot projects in neighboring communities, which demonstrated the value to local communities.

Residents of Sembehum village in Grand Cape Mount were among the first group of beneficiaries who received 10 Eco-ovens sometime in 2014.

Siafa Sombai, the spokesperson for Sembehum village says during the dry season, the nearby mangrove swamps provide a rich environment for palm-sized fish known locally as “Bonnie fish”, and the catch is usually larger than the local market can absorb.

He narrated that the fishermen therefore travel from village to village, selling their surplus catch so that it can be smoked and sold dry.

“Smoking the fish over an open charcoal flame used to require 30-40 bundles of mangrove wood each day.  But with the eco-friendly stoves, the villagers can now smoke the same number of fish with only five bundles of wood” Sombai said.

According to the Village Head, 360 families organize a schedule for the use of the eco-friendly ovens to supplement their incomes with the selling of dried fish.

“It is also healthier for the women to use the special ovens because they produce much less smoke, leaving them less vulnerable to respiratory and eye problems” he noted.

The greater fuel efficiency helps the preserve the mangrove swamps which both protect against erosion and provide carbon sequestration, which helps the global environment.

The decreased need for firewood helps to protect the local mangrove swamps. The dense roots of mangrove trees can help to trap sediments flowing down to the sea and off the land. This, in turn, helps to stabilize the coastline and prevent erosion.

The introduction of the eco-friendly stoves has also bolstered the local economy.

 “The women in these communities rely on drying fish to supplement their family income,” explains Kamil Kamaludeen, the Country Director for UNDP Liberia. “These stoves will not only help to reduce the need for wood to fuel the drying process, but it will also enable women to dry more fish and earn more.”

Since the villagers grow cassava throughout the year, they can now grind it, and use the new stoves for cooking it into traditional Liberian porridge.

Strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities and coastline ecosystems is important to ensuring sustainable and inclusive development.

The successful provision of the eco-friendly stoves has been coupled with other adaptation measures, such as raising awareness in the community on sustainable use of land and water and introduction of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to implement on-the-ground actions to further reduce, manage and transfer climate induced risks in Latia, Tala and other coastal towns in Liberia.

The initiative is part of the broader UNDP-GEF partnership which provides a crucial mechanism through which countries, such as Liberia, can access funding and the technical and policy support needed to identify and implement their nationally defined adaptation priorities.

 

 

 

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