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Households embrace safer energy for cooking to protect health

By Phares Mutembei | November 25th 2021

Abothoguchi West MCA Patrick Muthuri (second right) handing gas cylinders to rural households at Githongo Vocational Centre in Meru.[Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Residents of different villages in Abothoguchi West in Meru County have started to embrace gas to cook, instead of firewood.

The villagers, surrounded by forests, have adopted gas to ease pressure on the natural resources, from where they had been finding firewood. Some also collected firewood to sell to hotels nearby.

They said inhaling smoke from burning wood exposed them to various respiratory problems.

The increased gas use has been courtesy of Patrick Muthuri Foundation, in partnership with Twaweza Programme, which is being spearheaded by Priscillah Murungi.

Mrs Murungi is wife to the Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi.

The two entities came together to distribute three-kilogramme gas cylinders to members of the Abothoguchi Women Empowerment Community-based Organisation. The cylinders were distributed filled, complete with a burner and grill.

While issuing the women the cylinders, Abothoguchi West MCA Patrick Muthuri said: “The idea to introduce gas cylinders for local community was inspired by goal to reduce respiratory and heart complications. The aim is to have all households in the ward get clean fuel for cooking.” He distributed 700 cylinders at Githongo vocational centre.

Mr Muthuri said empowering families with clean energy would help curb respiratory diseases and other complications.

Health risks

He said the health risks and inconveniences rural households faced as a result of relying on firewood were enormous.

“My ultimate goal is to have all rural households that use firewood shift to clean energy, as a health and environmental protection strategy. Forests have been degraded, worsening effects of climate change. Rain patterns are erratic, hence the need to do away with firewood,” he said.

Muthuri said his target 5,000 of households that use firewood in the ward. “This will, to a degree, address environmental degradation, health risks and inconveniences,” he said.

Beatrice Mburugu, the chairperson of the women’s group, said when it rained, even getting firewood was a challenge. “We are happy because it is the women and girls who suffer most looking for firewood, exposing themselves to various dangers in the forest. We urge our members to plant more trees in their farms and spaces,” said Ms Mburugu.

Gladys Nkatha, a beneficiary, said for a long time her family had depended on firewood, as it was cheaper, compared to gas and kerosene.

“Inhaling the fumes for long periods by adults and children is not pleasant, especially when we are huddled in a room with poor ventilation. But with the gas we are now happy,” she said.

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