According to child development experts, a 40-month old can “carry drinks without spilling, ride a tricycle, is getting better at handling small objects, knows number concepts of one and two, has an attention span of four to eight minutes, is interested in playmates, plays alongside other children, wants to please adults, but is often independent.”
The Charcoal Project is now 40 months now but we like to think our development curve is a bit steeper than that of a toddler at this age.
We’ll keep this birthday review short and sweet by summarizing it in two sentences: (1) we’re learning from our mistakes, and (2) we’re still growing.
For starters, we’ve learned that launching a non-profit is easy. Keeping it alive and making it grow is not. This is especially true when your cause is not exactly sexy, has no charismatic mega-fauna attached to it, is not as simple to explain as “clean water,” or “mosquito nets.” In fact, just talking about three stone fires, charcoal, and woodfuel can actually make your eyes water and make you want to cough!
But it’s fun watching the “aha” moment when people “get it.” They get it that better cooking fuels and technologies for people who depend on wood and charcoal means, more kids in school because the don’t have to spend as much time collecting firewood or the parents don’t have to spend as much money buying cooking fuels. They get it that better technology and fuels means fewer women and children will sicken and die from exposure to indoor air pollution from wood smoke. They get it that making better stoves and fuels can mean an important route out of poverty for families and small entrepreneurs. They get it that when you spend money on “energy poverty alleviation” (as it is called in the jargon of the development world) you are actually taking action on a range of issues, like health, poverty alleviation, children’s education, women’s empowerment, local environment preservation, national economic development, and climate change. I feel strongly that better fuels and technology is as close to a silver bullet for improving the livelihoods of half of the world’s population as any other intervention out there.
Another lesson we’ve learned is that fundraising for a cause and projects like ours is really hard work.
People get the need for clean cookstoves and better fuels but the issue doesn’t yet draw enough attention from governments, private foundations, individual donors, and the public. Fortunately, the launch of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in 2010 has done a lot to put the issue on the radar screens of major supporters. Kudos to the UN Foundation, the Shell Foundation, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for this! Still, I feel there is disproportionate attention being paid to clean cookstoves without taking into account the entire energy supply chain, including the clean, sustainable production of charcoal and solid biomass fuel alternatives like briquettes and pellets for gassifiers.
What’s up in 2013 for TCP, doc?
For starters, we plan to unveil two, possibly three, visionary projects over the coming months. I can’t say anymore right now but we’ll be blogging about them very, very soon! So stay tuned!
We’re also continuing our on-the-ground work with our partners, the Rubaare Education Foundation (REF) schools in Uganda. Thanks to your financial support, we were able to launch a briquette-making operation at the high school and build a shelter to house production and operation. Our next step is to swap out the inefficient cookstoves at the school now that we’ve settled on the right stove type. Our plan for this year is to continue working with Henry Twinemasiko to make sure the REF model can soon be replicated in that part of the world.
We will also continue to work on policy reform and on improving our online communications. We plan to revamp our website later this quarter to include our two new big projects.
More than anything, though, I want to thank you all for your words of encouragement and your continued support. I look forward to walking side by side with you as we kick off our next 40 months!
Wishing you all a great 2013!
Kim (and Sylvia, Nina, and Christina)