Eco-friendly stoves help combat coastal erosion while boosting income in Liberia

Oct 7, 2015

Photo: UNDP

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. In Robertsport, western Liberia, for example, an entire airfield was recently 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), has kicked off 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, recently provided new eco-friendly stoves to residents of Latia and Tala in Grand Cape Mount. 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 smoke the same number of fish with only five bundles of wood.
The decreased need of 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 Kamalludeen, 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.”
The eco-friendly stoves also reduce health risks by producing less smoke and making the women cooking less vulnerable to respiratory diseases and eye infections. With the new stoves at hand, 360 families in Latia alone, set up a schedule to share access to them. As 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 key 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 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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