LUSAKA – It was almost mid-day and Katherine Sibanda, a resident of Kabelaka Village situated southeast of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, was busy collecting twigs from the trees near her house to prepare a meal for the family.

Placing a pot on a stove, the 35-year-old mother of three proceeded to prepare Nshima, a staple meal in Zambia made from maize flour. 

“With this stove, I no longer experience teary eyes or have challenges breathing when preparing food,” said Sibanda. For women and girls in rural Zambia, cooking has traditionally been both time-consuming and a health hazard.

Things are beginning to change with the introduction of eco-friendly cooking stoves that are being distributed by those working to end deforestation. 

“Eco-friendly stoves are known to produce less smoke and use up far less wood compared to traditional stoves. It is for this reason that households in this village are using them,” said Elizabeth Nsokoshi, the village secretary.

Nsokoshi said that women in the village no longer spend loads of time collecting firewood to fire up older stoves. Kabelaka Village is one of the places in rural Zambia where eco-friendly cooking stoves are common and in almost every household. Several residents of Chongwe district, a rural area located about 45 km east of Lusaka, said that they are happy with the switch to eco-friendly stoves. 

“Cooking was such a laborious and health-threatening undertaking prior to the advent of eco-friendly cooking stoves. Not only did women cover long distances just to get firewood, but they also had to endure a range of other discomforts associated with traditional cooking stoves,” said 48-year-old Muketwa Sabao, a villager in Chongwe district.

Eco-friendly stoves enable women and girls to have time for other things to enhance their wellbeing, he said. The introduction of eco-friendly cooking stoves has helped reduce demand for firewood in Zambia where the deforestation rate is among the highest in the world, according to United Nations data. 

Rural communities in Zambia heavily depend on forests for firewood and the practice is identified as one of the most significant causes of forest decline and a major source of indoor air pollution. – Xinhua News.