Thursday, July 16, 2009
Averting Deforestation in Southern Chad
by Titki D. Tarassoum
Chad is experiencing several environmental problems.
Lake Chad has shrunk to 1/10th of its size over the past 40 years as a result of climate change and human activity. The north-central African country's northern desert is encroaching upon its central Sahel zone due to overgrazing and overuse. While air and soil pollution in this landlocked country may be localized to specific areas surrounding industrial facilities and urban areas, the greatest short-term environmental health risk in much of the country is water contamination.
However, the most significant environmental problem in southern Chad has been and will continue to be, the deforestation of the tropical woodlands and forests.
Deforestation in southern Chad is caused by the lack of access to electricity, resulting in the continued dependence on firewood. Less than three percent of the population in Chad have access to electricity. Firewood and charcoal is the only source of energy for more than 97 percent of the country and for rural families that figure jumps to 100 percent.
The recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic and Sudan into southern Chad exacerbates the situation as displaced refugees now compete with local inhabitants over natural resources. This leads to more deforestation, soil erosion, and depletion and pollution of scarce water resources.
Barh Koh ESDA - an international non-profit charitable organization promoting poverty relief through environmental protection - is working to provide environmentally safe alternative energy sources to the disadvantaged inhabitants and refugees in the region of Maro in southern Chad. The group's efforts focus on cooking and indoor lighting, to help reduce dependence on firewood and thus, reducing the rate of deforestation.
A Three Point Action Plan
Barh Koh's three point action plan to avert deforestation in southern Chad involves providing solar cookers, lanterns and flashlights to villagers:
1) Providing solar cookers/ovens to poor rural families.
Solar cookers cost approximately $40 while solar ovens are in the vicinity of $300; which constitute a very small investment to help relieve poverty and save the environment at the same time. Solar cookers and stoves are safe; they cause no danger of fire, burns or smoke inhalation associated with wood burning.
2) Providing solar lanterns for poor families and students. A set of two solar lanterns can cost around $40 to $60, including shipping and handling. Solar lanterns are eco-friendly and will reduce the risks of fire hazards associated with kerosene lamps and firewood burning. A solar lantern will also enable a rural student to study and do homework after sunset. Solar lanterns also provide indoor lighting in the otherwise dark rural dwellings.
3) Providing solar flashlights to poor families and students. A single solar flashlight could save lives in a rural family that spends its evenings and nights in perpetual darkness, subject to all sorts of insects, reptiles and other elements. A solar-powered flashlight costs between $20 to $30 and can make a significant difference in a rural villager's life.
How Can You Help?
Averting deforestation and improving living conditions in southern Chad is a significant undertaking that will protect the natural environment, improve the rural built environment, and improve the well-being of local inhabitants as well as the displaced refugees.
This work simply wouldn't be possible without your support. For more information or to donate online visit us at: http://www.barhkoh.org