Community Technology Worker Program
95% of households in Shirati use firewood and charcoal for cooking. The smoke from burning these fuels is harmful for human health as particulate matter is retained in the lungs and is linked to respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Households often cook indoors which leads to indoor air pollution which contributes to 20,000 Tanzanian deaths per year . This is roughly the same as AIDS related deaths in Tanzania.
Clean cooking is also a gender issue as women are traditionally the main cooks—and thus suffer more severe health outcomes. Collecting firewood and charcoal also keeps young girls out of school. Finally, clean cooking is a climate issue as the burning of firewood and charcoal releases black carbon into the atmosphere.
To help households transition households from using firewood and charcoal to clean liquified petroleum gas (LPG), we implemented the Community Technology Worker (CTW) Program in 2018. This program was initiated by volunteer Annelise Gill-Wiehl.
On Annelise’s first trip to Shirati in 2017, she was a sophomore studying Environmental Engineering and International Development Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Since then, Annelise has spent around 10 months total in Shirati, over four trips. She is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. Her Ph.D. work is evaluating the impact of our Community Technology Worker Program.
Our project trains local residents from the Shirati area to teach families how to use the gas stove, to check in regularly, and to provide any technical or maintenance support to the households.
Our CTW teaches the family how to use the stove safely, leaves resources and their phone number in case there are issues, and revisits to check in. Our CTWs thus provides a three-fold objective to help transition the family: to help with any technical issues, to remind the family to be saving up for the next cylinder, and to reinforce and encourage the adoption of gas.
We provide the initial stove, coordinate the CTWs, and empower the families to refill on their own by changing their saving mechanisms around cooking fuel. Our program stands out as it relies on community-based empowerment to reach households. In the first year of the program, researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Notre Dame found that that 80% of families consistently refilled their LPG stoves and ~40% of households exclusively used LPG. Households reported appreciating the CTWs’ visits for providing education and maintenance support, giving them confidence to use LPG safely, reminding them to save for their cylinder, and providing a community driven effort to use clean fuel. This intervention of CTW is about people in the community supporting their community. Every barrier the community faces, the CTWs address it, listen, and adapt.
We plan to expand the program to 500 households and provide households an option to have a micro savings bank account to save up for their LPG refill. We’ve partnered with UC Berkeley to evaluate this program in a year long study.
Where to Learn More:
The Community Technology Worker Team from Reach Shirati (from left: Linda, Annelise, Fred, Mary, and Nayome)
CTW received training on the gas stove, enabling them to empower their community and their own households to confidently use gas safely.
CTW Mary teaches a Shirati mom how to use the gas stove.