Brazil Fights Pollution and Deforestation with Thousands of Ecological Stoves

Extract taken from, written by Marianne Osterkorn

Woodland in Brazil is being cut down, day after day. The local people say they need it to make a living. This is not the Amazon rainforest deforestation, but the woody landscape of Caatinga in the North Eastern corner of Brazil. Caatinga's inhabitants are cutting wood for cooking.

The wood is burnt for cooking and brick making or used for fence production. Today more than eighty percent of the scrubland in Caatinga, an ecologically rich and sensitive area within the Ceará region boasts a biome comprised of trees and bushes up to seven meters in height, has disappeared.

However, what remains is still home to around 932 types of plants, 148 types of mammals, 510 bird species and countless insects and other creatures. Unlike the rainforest, Caatinga's climate is semi-arid and subject to long lasting droughts and a short, but intense rainy season.

Using the power of television, for the first time people all over Brazil heard about efficient cook stove technologies which drastically cut the use of wood as a fuel. Something clicked in the consciousness of Brazilians, as better ovens in the home meant less wood consumption, which in turn spares thousands of trees.

Enter four key players in a story that has blossomed from a small pilot of 20 stoves to a sweeping reform affecting thousands. IDER - Brazil's Institute for Sustainable Development and Renewable Energy - is the NGO that initiated the program. The Global Village Energy Project (GVEP) is the London based organization that funded the initial pilot project.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international partnership focused on policies, regulations and financial mechanisms in support of clean energy, provided the cash for the project's second phase, funding its development to a further 200 stoves.

Last but not least is Joaquim Cartaxo, Ceará's State Secretary for urban and rural development. Cartaxo's involvement has ensured that, a couple years after the pilot, another 4,000 stoves have been paid for by the state's government, with investment in a further 18,000 currently under construction. The total funding amounts to over US$ 4.5 million.

Why did this project succeed, when so many others grind to a halt? One reason is that IDER found a major ally in Cartaxo, a politician who immediately saw the benefits of the cook stoves and took action. Dangerous smoke from basic wood stoves used in many developing countries can cost lives and many people have developed serious lung diseases as a result.

Hospitals have to treat villagers for respiratory illnesses and eye infections, which costs public money. Studies from the World Health Organization say that worldwide two million people per year die from indoor pollution caused by inefficient cook stoves.

By installing efficient cooking stoves, hundreds of thousands of dollars may be saved. Not only will people's health improve as the project workers scrap the ashen slabs bearing their iron pots perched on rickety props, but local businesses will benefit. The new Brazilian stoves consist of a metallic hob and oven frame surrounded by a case of new brickwork that is laid on site.

IDER and their colleagues aim to roll out the mass production of the metallic component while providing income for local masons. The homes that will benefit are occupied by families generally in the poorest section of the populace that are unable to afford this type of equipment themselves.

The stoves are located all over the region and their use varies according to family size and cooking habits. These discrepancies mean that it is important to use an adequate monitoring methodology. The methodology needs to establish credible baseline data for comparing traditional stoves with efficient stoves in order to calculate the resulting carbon savings. Data collection techniques need to be consistent in order to ensure quality project monitoring.

REEEP achieved its objective as a catalyst to reduce poverty through clean energy solutions. REEEP Director General Dr. Marianne Osterkorn states, "This REEEP project demonstrated our strong commitment to improved access to clean energy for the poor. We are very pleased that IDER was able to attract state financing for dramatic scale-up. This is an excellent example how REEEP projects can have significant impacts."

Cartaxo himself has praised the project as a major improvement on previous efforts: "This cook stove project has a greater impact and lasting effect than other social projects" he says. It was the project workers' attention to detail, he explains, that made a significant difference.

"The cook stoves have been perfectly adapted to the habits of the rural women, who are their main users. This was sometimes not the case in other projects." As a result, the local state government says it is confident that this technology has a future, hence its promise to a major roll-out of additional 18,000 in 2010.

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IDEAAS: Clean Energy Solutions for Brazil's Poor

Extract taken from, written by Francisco Noguera

"IDEAAS works develops a wide variety of projects throughout Brazil, which may be classified under three main streams of activity: energy access (bringing energy to off grid homes through solar systems that provide energy for lighting purposes as well as use of small appliances); efficient use of energy (promoting the use of renewable and clean technologies in activities that previously used dirtier and more expensive alternatives), and social entrepreneurship, promoting the advance of a new entrepreneurial class in clean energies through a Learning Center for renewable energies in Brazil."

"I began my trip at the main office of IDEAAS in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. From the main office, IDEAAS oversees its different projects and tracks the performance of and payments coming from each of the close to 260 installations running so far. IDEAAS staff does so through a software specifically designed for that purpose, as well as detailed information sheets that indicate the precise location and details of each and every client."

"Next stop was Santo Antonio da Patrulha, where IDEAAS' Learning Center in Renewable Energies is located. Fabio welcomed us with a tour of the different technologies installed (solar, wind and small hydro), which provide most of the energy for the house that will serve as a training location for up and coming clean energy entrepreneurs in Brazil."

"IDEAAS' home kits consist of a set of solar panels (mounted on the roof in the picture below), a set of batteries, a charge controller (manufactured by IDEAAS) and a set of LED lightbulbs. They may also include dedicated connections for appliances."

"The goal of the project is making solar energy a viable alternative to replace the kerosene lamps currently used by shrimp farmers to attract their catch during the nights. Not only are IDEAAS' lamps cheaper and safer (they are not made out of glass, for instance) but they also turn on and off automatically depending on the presence or absence of sunlight."

"In spite of their success in becoming a reference for rural electrification in Brazil and worldwide, IDEAAS faces challenges related to government policies in Brazil and strategic questions related to the true scale potential and profit motive of its operation. In effect, the federal government in Brazil recently announced an agressive initiative to bring "energy to all" in Brazil, through traditional centralized generation systems. Although that's great news in its own right, it leaves no space or private sector solutions like IDEAAS, unless utilities decide to partner with them in the purpose of reaching remote areas like the state of Amazonia in the far north of the country."

Read the article in full here

Find out more about the work of IDEAAS here