Nigeria ranks among the top ten countries in the world with the highest wood removals. According to Forest Resource Assessment 2015, Nigeria removed an estimated 72 million cubic metre of woods — and 87 percent was used for fuel (2011).
Depending on the size and design, it can take a minimum of two to three hours to heat traditional bread oven. The heat is generated inside the oven by burning a lot of wood from cut down forest trees. The idea is to have sufficient heat stored up in the walls of the oven; enough to warm the air inside the oven and maintain a temperature range that is appropriate for baking bread after the embers and ash are removed and the oven door is shut tight.
With over 300 bakeries currently registered in Jigawa state in the northern part of Nigeria, traditional bread ovens are intensifying pressure on the area’s fragile forest ecosystem. Essentially, only 5 percent of the state’s total area is covered with forest. What is more, there is threat to human health and livelihoods. While respiratory infections and eye irritations are some of the effects of breathing in smoke from burning woods, firewood and charcoal purchased regularly is a substantial expense.
It was my first trip to Jigawa state of Nigeria. Hannah and I traveled by car from Abuja for about seven hours and on that Saturday in June, we would visit 3 bakeries located in -Duste (the state capital), Gumel and Hadejia. Prior to this trip, Hannah was on the team which had engaged, trained, supervised and assisted the bakery staff. The outcome was fuel efficient ovens constructed from cheap and available local materials.
Even though I went to the bakeries primarily to see the traditional oven and the fuel efficient oven, I could not ignore the experiences shared by the bakery staff. While talking with us, it was obvious that when there was a challenge with operating the new improved ovens, they contributed to resolving it. In fact, instead of complaining they discussed with one another to find practical solutions to implement. ‘What kind of persons would do this and why?’- This was the question on my mind that day.
Because they had started to use the fuel efficient ovens, there was proof that it required less wood for heating. According to them, the difference in the weight of wood used was significant – burning a few stacks of firewood was enough to heat the oven, and also bake extra breads. Equally significant, was the reduction in the amount of time required to heat the improved oven due to the insulating materials that was in the construction.
Money saved from the purchase of woods was accessed to support the increasing costs of basic needs such as housing, water, food, health etc and possibly grow the bakery business. The bakery staff also agreed that the knowledge gained through constructing and operating the fuel efficient oven could be passed to younger generation.
With chimney installed on the improve oven, the smoke produced during the firing process is vented outside, hence staff noticed among themselves a reduction in the incidences of watery eyes and frequencies of cough to say the least.
‘Na who no like beta thing’ is a saying in Nigeria’s Pidgin English which suggests that everybody likes good thing. In short, relative to the traditional type of oven; the ‘good thing’ about using fuel efficient oven therefore includes the following:
Trees are conserved
Livelihoods are protected; and
Health is protected
As I recall the journey from Abuja to Jigawa state, there was no mistaken in the gradual change in vegetation type. The land was drier, trees were fewer and the grasses were more dispersed. If I had not learnt in my secondary school agric class that most part of Jigawa state was situated in the Sudan savannah belt of the country, I would have thought the prevailing deforestation activities in the state was indeed creating a ‘new world’ just like the slogan for the state. Or is it?
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