What is the link between, and partial solution to problems arising from, the unlikely trinity of food security, sexual violence and deforestation? Residents – 114 to be exact – of Korok West Village in Juba are now in the know, and soon you will be, too.
“It is not only economical in terms of fuel consumption, but it will also reduce the incidents of rape or other sexual assaults, or wildlife attacks, that sometimes take place when we women walk long distances to collect firewood from the bushes,” said Scovia Ochieng, a women’s representative that participated in a two-day event organized by peacekeepers from Rwanda serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS.
“It” is of course the near-magical rondereza, a Kinyarwanda word from Rwanda which means “to economize”, which in a cooking context translates as a fuel-efficient stove, molded using readily available materials such as clay, grass and water. By using significantly less firewood or charcoal, the stoves help reduce the environmental degradation brought about by extensive cutting of trees for firewood, thus also slowing down deforestation.
But, since there is no use knowing how to operate a rondereza with no food to cook, the Rwandan military also taught community members how to make their own household vegetable gardens.
“We often patrol in the area and noticed a lot of malnourished children and heard stories about girls and women getting into trouble when fetching firewood. We thought we could make a difference here,” said Major Innocent Rugenerandekwe, who coordinates the civil-military activities of the Rwandan contingent.
Ms. Ochieng is the first to confirm that a difference has been made, for no less than an estimated 444 households.
“Just imagine the abundance of healthy dodo [not the less than healthy and abundant bird, but a spinach-like vegetable], tomatoes, cabbages, and okras I will get right here, in my own slice of the communal garden! I will save both time and money, and sell whatever produce I don’t need myself,” she said, adding that she believes that the collective nature of the gardening activities will strengthen social cohesion in her community.
Major Rugenerandekwe swiftly agreed with her and much village-wide rejoicing followed.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).