Bold environmental choices from Togolese workers
They are poor, making a living by cutting wood, and they know it's a suicidal strategy. While the president's plane took off from Lomé in Togo, to the climate summit of the United Nations, the Togolese Trade union for forestry workers and charcoal producers took the first steps to stop their destructive environmental practices.
In Togo there is no one discussing whether climate will change. It is already changing. The question is how to adapt and avoid that it gets worse.
The rainy season has changed, and it does not come as before. The country's food production is threatened. Most people blame the extensive and ongoing deforestation. In addition, the desert moves closer from the north, and increased sea level threatens from the South.
The Trade union's dilemma
Over 90 percent of the population relies on charcoal or firewood for daily cooking. An endless stream of vehicles loaded with charcoal comes from the remaining forest areas to the cities. The industry provides vital income to thousands of charcoal producers and to women who counts for sales and distribution.
Over 3000 of the charcoal producers are organized in the union SY-THREE-BACT, an association that defends the members' right to cut and sell timber. But they also realize that if the country shall be able to feed itself, deforestation must be halted. Now they are eager to find new income opportunities for their members through sales of efficient stoves, establishment of small plantations of energy forests and rehabilitation of natural forests.
Prioritize environmental solutions over growth
The partner organization of Norges Naturvernforbund in Togo, the environmental organization JVE, signed last week an agreement with the SY-THREE-BACT on the production and sale of new efficient stoves and development of sustainable forestry.
- We know that our industry is not sustainable and cannot continue as today, said the Trade union leader Kodjo Dansrou during the signing of the cooperation agreement. Knowing that the measures can hit the activity of their members, Dansrou and his members have made a bold choice.
They want to be part of the solution instead of every day to contribute to greater environmental problems.
An African problem
Charcoal industry is a threat to forests all over Africa, with cutting of wood at a far higher rate than the reproduction. Enormous quantities of wood are going into the production of charcoal, but the energy yield is low. At least 75 percent of the energy in the wood disappears in the production process itself. Cooking at inefficient fireplaces gives additional losses.
- We can not only to protect the forest, without giving those who makes a living of the forest and those who are dependent on the energy a good alternative, said John Lineikro, Africa coordinator of Norges Naturvernforbund. He sees the cooperation between trade unionists and environmentalists in Togo as an important pilot project.
- If the timber was used directly in efficient stoves the forestry could be reduced significantly.
Norges Naturvernforbund supports JVE’s work to develop new energy solutions. Among other things, this happens through establishment of an energy centre and pilot projects in 13 villages with efficient stoves, sun cookers, solar lighting, pasteurization of drinking water and new income-generating activities.
Artikkelen ble sist oppdatert: 29.09.2009