Launching of the National Clean Cooking Alliance of The Gambia

ECREEE organized also a Capacity Building Workshop for Media Practitioners, Capacity Enhancement and Sensitization Workshops for Biochar Systems and Sustainable Forest Management

Banjul, 08 SEP 2016.- The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) promoted three capacity reinforcement workshops in The Gambia. This event was also an opportunity to proceed with launching the Alliance for Sustainable Cooking Energy for The Gambia (ASCEG), a national alliance of stakeholders aiming to promote a viable market for sustainable cooking energy.

During the launching ceremony, chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Mr. Momodou O. Njie, the recently created national alliance was introduced to the general public as a not-for-profit membership based association open to any individual and organization interested in the field of clean cooking. ASCEG aims to strengthen the cooperation and synergies among stakeholders and to raise awareness about the importance of using sustainable cooking solutions.

The Executive Director of the ECREEE, Mr. Mahama Kappiah, highlighted in his opening statement the role of the West Africa Clean Cooking Alliance (WACCA) in facilitating this process of creation of national alliances. “With WACCA, ECREEE hopes to achieve a wide distribution of efficient, affordable, sustainable and safe cooking fuels and devices to the ECOWAS population through various intervention strategies that overcome barriers related to capacity and awareness, technical, economic, social and institutional barriers”, said Mr. Kappiah. Therefore, the approach is to ensure each member state establishes a national alliance to support the cooking energy sector.

The national alliances will be an extension of WACCA to make sure barriers are removed at the country level to achieve widespread adoption of clean cooking solutions. The highlight of Mr. Kappiah’s intervention was announcing ECREEE’s award of a sum of 1,500EUR to the newly-established ASCEG. This symbolic but important award will support the kick off and consolidation of this network. He also pledged the technical and financial support of WACCA to Gambian alliance for clean cooking towards the implementation of its national action plan and resource mobilization strategy. The Gambian Alliance is the fourth national clean cooking alliance officially constituted in the ECOWAS region, after the ones in Ghana, Nigeria (by the Global Alliance) and Cote d’Ivoire (by WACCA).

The launching of the National Alliance was followed by the Capacity Building Workshop for Media Practitioners, a key stakeholder group in the awareness raising activities to promote the use of efficient cooking fuels and devices.

The purpose of this Workshop was to build the capacities of journalists and other communication experts to support the promotion of sustainable cooking solutions. Their role in the awareness creation and advocacy through information dissemination to stakeholders along its value-chain has been underestimated for too long, according Siré A. Diallo, Coordinator of WACCA during his presentation. This help remove barriers (political and regulatory, technical and financial) that hinder the widespread promotion of clean cooking fuels and stoves.

The representative of the Gambian Press Union pointed out during his speech that the role of the media is fundamental as a constant source of good information on alternatives to mitigate climate change effects, such as clean cooking, and strategies to better adapt to it. He added that issues around sustainable energy and environment should be included into the curriculum of journalism program of the University of The Gambia.

The workshop was attended by over thirty media practitioners from local press, radio, television stations, community and online media and about fifteen participants from private sector, government and civil society. Through a fair, participants experienced firsthand some efficient cookstoves and fuels that are currently produced in the Gambian markets. This interaction of the media practitioners with local artisans and producers of cooking energy solutions provided an instant information-sharing opportunity. There were also presentations on the Cooking Energy Situation in The Gambia, the National Responses to the Cooking Energy Challenges, the West Africa Clean Cooking Alliance, the Regional Bioenergy Policy, and the Role of Media in education and awareness creation on the cooking energy sector. The final part consisted of a practical training in which participants produced a news report on Clean Cooking in different media formats. After the presentation of each group report, two of the best groups were awarded prizes for the quality of their work.

On the second day, the workshops on Capacity Enhancement and Sensitization for Biochar Systems and Sustainable Management of Forest (SMF) took place, within the context of providing the opportunities for creating awareness and reinforcing national capacities on sustainable management of forest and Biochar systems.

In an effort to strengthen Bioenergy service delivery, the ECOWAS Bioenergy Strategy was adopted by the ECOWAS Ministers of Energy in October 2012 and mapped out a way forward for accelerating sustainable energy access in West Africa through the use of Biomass resources and technologies.  This strategy has been developed into a complete ECOWAS Bioenergy Policy, which was validated in Dakar in October 2015. The Bioenergy policy gives prominence to providing knowledge and skills to enhance the efficient production and utilization of biomass resource to contribute to increase in sustainable energy access.

During the Sustainable Management of Forest sessions, in the morning sessions, there were discussions on how to start and manage a community forestry, how agro-forestry can support SMF initiatives, and the operations and usefulness of the Casamance Kiln for efficient production of charcoal.

In the afternoon sessions, the discussions about Biochar Systems led by Mr. Bah F. M. Saho – Head of the Renewable Energy Unit and responsible for Bioenergy at ECREEE, focused on the concept and innovations of the Biochar systems. He explained how this innovation could transform lives in our quest for a sustainable and healthy environment delivering clean energy for both power generation, cooking and heating with possibilities to increase agricultural productivity using the biochar in the soils. One of the components of the Biochar system is the Elsa Stove and its benefits and opportunities for local communities were presented by Mr. John Yeboah – Program Officer at ECREEE. The meeting was also informed about the establishment of the Africa Biochar Partnership to continue the promotion of Biochar Systems in Africa. The opportunity was also used to demonstrate locally based production of briquettes and biochar in The Gambia by GREENTECH and Renewable Energy Agency (REA). Innovative business models for producing sustainable fuels for cooking, including briquettes from groundnut shells and biochar from used charcoal, were showcased.

Participants left the workshop with a renew sense of commitment toward the issues of cooking energy and sustainable management of forest.

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