As outlined in a World Food Programme report, over 90% of the energy produced in Uganda derives from wood burning and coal, and this creates various problems that make the current situation in Uganda particularly alarming: most notably deforestation and the impact that the pollution created by these fuels has on the health of the population.
In the last 20 years Uganda has lost 2/3 of its forests and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has declared that if deforestation continues at the current rate the rest of its forests will disappear within 40 years. Aryamanya Mugisha, the previous executive director of NEMA, has stated that the desertification caused by deforestation risks compromising food safety in the country as agricultural production will be heavily affected by the disappearance of its water sources. Inevitably, the most serious repercussions will be felt by the poorer sections of society.
Another huge problem underlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is the air pollution caused by the burning of solid fuels and the consequences that this has on people’s health. The smoke caused by cooking fuels kills 1.5 million people across the world every year – particularly women and children, who are more exposed – with a mortality rate higher than that of malaria (405,000 deaths per year). Cooking with wood, dung, coal and other solid fuels is a major risk factor for childhood pneumonia and chronic respiratory illnesses in adults, with over two thirds of deaths concentrated in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) programme in Uganda, which aims to provide sustainable energy solutions in local schools, has highlighted how the health problems deriving from the smoke from open fire cooking are a source of great concern for students and as an alternative solution has promoted the use of biogas systems, which would reduce the exposure of pupils and teaching staff to the smoke of open fires and, at the same time, reduce the pressure on the forests and slow the advance of desertification. This type of solution would also increase the percentage of the population that currently uses clean energy in Uganda (<5%), a figure unchanged since 2000.
In this context, the aim of the intervention is to reduce the environmental impact of the boarding school section of the Bishop Cipriano Kihangire (BCK) upper school through the promotion of renewable resources and the safeguarding of the environment. In fact, through the installation of a new human waste disposal system and new sanitary systems suitable for this purpose, it will be possible to supply clean energy to the new school kitchen and begin the process of replacing the wood fuel with biogas.
BCK Secondary is one of the best schools in Uganda, regularly ranked among the country’s top 50 schools. It is attended by 2,816 pupils and divided into two sections: a Daily school, attended by students from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a Boarding school where the children live in a hall of residence next to the school.
Every day the students in the Boarding section (1,402 in total, 708 boys and 694 girls) are served three hot meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) prepared in the kitchens by the school. As there are 260 days of lessons in a school year, this means that every year around 1.07 million meals are served in the boarding school. With so much food to prepare, the structure and equipment of the kitchen is therefore subject to heavy stress on a daily basis.
These rooms need structural works, on one hand to repair the parts that have been damaged by heat, wear and tear, and smoke, and on the other to replace the current coal-based system with a more environmentallyfriendly and efficient gas system. Coal burning is still the most common system in Uganda for cooking food. However, it produces high levels of pollution and CO₂ emissions, is a strong fire risk, and is more wearing for pots, hobs and ventilators.
In addition, this first measure is just the first step in a larger project which will see the kitchen’s gas system connected to two composting toilets in the dormitories (one for the boys and one for the girls). Through the conversion of the current toilets into composting toilets it will be possible:
– to substantially reduce the amount of water used by the WCs (these toilets are dry);
– to lighten the organic load on the structure’s septic tank (through the decomposition of organic material);
– to make considerable energy savings in the kitchens (though the production of biogas deriving from the decomposition of human waste).
Given its important role in the school, the kitchen must be transformed into a safer, more accessible and tidier place, and its energy consumption and harmful emissions must be drastically reduced.