Walking around a village in a cocoa-growing region, you can invariably smell the smoke coming from traditional cookstoves. Placed in the open air near houses, the stoves are fuelled by wood chopped from nearby fields and forests.
The stoves are used every day to prepare almost all the meals the family will eat. Large pots of stew seem to be constantly on the boil. A central part of village life, the traditional cookstoves consume a lot of fire wood. Even before dawn, you can see women carrying loads of firewood back to the village.
Working with Cocoanect, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan has helped to distribute 836 new cookstoves, benefiting over 4 000 people. Nathan Bello, Nestlé Cocoa Plan Manager for Côte d’Ivoire, explains “the improved cookstoves heat up better and maintain the heat for longer. They also produce less smoke and use less wood for fuel. And of course, by using less wood, we reduce the pressure on the forest and the environment.”
The cookstoves are introduced to the villagers in group demonstrations. Amongst the people who decided to invest in a new cookstove were Cecile Goho Bonahin and her daughter, who told us about the workload involved in using traditional cookstoves to prepare meals for their family of eight.
“It’s always women and girls who do the cooking and it’s us who fetch the wood. Before, we could find wood easily nearby. But now, we can’t find any, we have to walk really far to find wood. So we have to buy firewood to make our family’s food in time.”
Stirring her pot of stew, she tells us “I like this new stove, it doesn’t smoke too much. And it costs us less to run as we don’t need to buy as much wood. With much less wood you can cook more food.”
Tackling deforestation is complex and needs to be considered from all angles. However, any initiative will be more successful when communities benefit along with the forests.