A pioneering carbon offsetting project in South Africa’s townships is saving lives, reducing emissions and enhancing the quality of life for vulnerable communities.
Reliance on coal is part of daily life for many South Africans. Approximately one million people are using it as an affordable way to heat their homes and cook their meals. The health impacts of this are far-reaching: a quarter of hospital admissions for respiratory problems and disease are caused by deadly fumes from cooking fires. These are also an important trigger of climate change. The usage of coal stoves is also time- and labour-intensive as it can take an hour to reach suitable cooking temperatures.
The Basa Magogo Alternative Ignition Technique initiative is a unique carbon offsetting project that seeks to change coal-lighting behaviour. This integrated programme trains locals to show local households the Basa Magogo way to light a coal fire. These are fires that use less fuel and burn cleaner, thereby reducing carbon emissions and negative health impacts.
Basa Magogo means ‘Light it up! Grandmother’ in Zulu. The technique was named after Granny Nebelungu Mashinini, a community member from eMbalenhle near Secunda. She was the one who perfected the method when the Nova Institute introduced and tested the technique in communities in 2004.
Conventionally, coal fires are started by lighting firewood at the bottom of a stove, after which coal is added on top. The Basa Magogo carbon offsetting project places at the bottom and firewood on top. The technique results in a more effective top-down ignition process that’s quicker, cleaner and cheaper.
To teach the new technique whilst shifting mindset and behaviour, a comprehensive programme of small group demonstrations, surveys, monitoring and maintenance was rolled out. It is taking place throughout the year, across South Africa.
The Basa Magogo carbon offsetting project is registered under the Gold Standard. This allows companies to credibly offset their carbon footprint and make a sustainable social impact in South Africa. Basa Magogo’s social, environmental and economic impacts are measured and monitored by internal and external researchers. Finally, independent auditors audit these as required by the Gold Standard guidelines.
Coal savings average R800 per household per year, allowing additional time for economic activities as well. Savings in health costs are trickier to quantify. However, based on well-documented surveys, health savings are estimated to be ten times the amount saved on coal spend.
Studies by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa show that the time needed to reach cooking temperature using Basa Magogo is ten minutes. Conventional fires require 60 minutes.
The Basa Magogo cooking method reduces indoor smoke and ambient air pollution by res[ectively 90% and 80%. This results in better visibility and better health.
Basa Magogo fires use 50% less coal to produce the same amount of heat as conventional fires. This saves households 300kg of charcoal per year. This works out to 1.3 tons of CO2 reduced per family, per year!