In an effort to combat coastal erosion in Grand Cape Mount, UNDP Liberia has dedicated ten new eco-friendly ovens for use by residents in the towns of Latia and Tala. The use of the ovens will significantly reduce the amount of wood residents cut from nearby mangrove swamps.
According to theCountry Director of UNDP Liberia Kamil Kamalludeen during the dedication ceremony held in Latia: “The women in these communities rely on drying fish to supplement their family income. These ovens will not only help the environment by reducing the need for wood to fuel the drying process, but they will also enable women to dry more fish and earn more income. Families will have more money to buy medicine and send their children to school.”
The ovens were provided after successful pilot projects in neighboring communities, which demonstrated the value to local communities. During the dry season the nearby mangrove swamps provide a rich environment for palm-sized fish known locally as “Bonnie fish”, and the catch is usually larger than the local market can absorb. The fishermen therefore travel from village to village selling their surplus catch so that it can be smoked and sold dry.
Siafa Sombai is the spokesperson for Sembehum village which received 10 ovens last year. He explained that smoking the fish over an open charcoal flame used to require 30-40 bundles of mangrove wood each day. But with the eco-friendly ovens the villagers can smoke the same number of fish with only five bundles of wood.
Throughout the year, the villagers grow cassava, which they grind and cook into a traditional Liberian porridge known as “gari”. In the dry season, the 360 families have organized a schedule so that they can share access to the eco-friendly ovens and supplement their incomes by selling dried fish.
It is also healthier for the women to use the special ovens because they produce much less smoke, leaving them less vulnerable to respiratory and eye problems. The greater fuel efficiency helps the preserve the mangrove swamps which both protect against erosion and provide carbon sequestration, which helps the global environment.
The Liberian coast is very vulnerable to erosion and storm damage because of the abrasive currents, high energy wave patterns and frequent storm surges. Sea erosion is already a major threat to all Liberian coastal cities. In Robertsport, about ten miles from the town of Latia, the airfield has been completely submerged by rising sea water and a sub police station was recently washed away.
Global climate change and its attendant sea level rise, combined with increased intensity of storms is likely to accelerate this dangerous erosion. People living in coastal areas are generally amongst the poorest and most vulnerable with a large proportion of the population living in temporary or poorly constructed housing that offers little protection from storm surges.
The eco-friendly ovens project is part of the Enhancing Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Areas to Climate Change Risks in Liberia (Coastal Project for short), is aimed at helping coastal communities in Grand Cape Mount, Monsterrado and Grand Bassa counties develop defensive mechanism against the effects of climate change.
The Coastal Project funded with a $2.9 million grant from the Global Environment Fund/Least Developed Countries Fund. UNDP is providing a further $400,000 to the fund to combat coastal erosion, as well as improve economic development with eco-friendly ovens and solar panels.-Press Release