IUCN Save Our Species

Improved cooking techniques to improve livelihoods while decreasing the pressure on natural habitats around Zakouma National Park

Update: 13 April 2021

In the recent past, Zakouma National Park was facing tremendous pressure from poachers, but 10 years of partnership between the Government of the Republic of Chad and African Parks has seen security restored, trust built with local communities, and poaching dramatically reduced, instilling stability in the landscape so that both people and wildlife can thrive. Yet the threat of habitat degradation still remains, with agriculture, bushfires, the creation of new villages and the use of fuelwood as the primary source of energy serving as ongoing sources of pressure on the ecosystem. The degradation of natural habitat has a profound, long-term impact on the viability of Zakouma’s wildlife populations, including antelopes, elephant and giraffe, in particular during their annual migration cycle and in buffer (feeding) areas. Zakouma is home to nearly 600 elephants and over half of the world’s population of Kordofan giraffe (listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), making it essential to address these threats at their source.

One very effective way to decrease the pressure on fuelwood is to improve the efficiency of cooking techniques, since local communities often use “three stone cooking fires” (when the cooking vessel is placed very close to the fire) to prepare their meal. African Parks, supported financially by the European Union through IUCN Save Our Species, organized 16 training sessions in villages and three training sessions in the main nomad areas on the use of an improved mud stove technique (with stoves made of soil and straw), as well as the use of improved metal cooking stoves. With the help of a local female trainer, these sessions reached nearly 250 women in total. Two thirds of the villages in the immediate vicinity of Zakouma benefitted from this initiative.

In addition, African Parks identified a local blacksmith who produced three different prototypes of metal cooking stoves for the project to test in real conditions. The best performing prototype was then procured by the project and 90 nomadic households benefitted from 90 of these new cooking stoves.

 “The use of fuelwood not only represents pressure on the natural habitat outside of the park, but also when people harvest wood from trees within its boundaries. We expect that the adoption of these improved techniques will help to decrease the consumption of fuelwood per household. In addition to contributing to our goal of maintaining healthy habitats around the park and in migratory areas, this should also benefit women, who are likely to spend less time harvesting wood, thereby reducing this burden” said Mahamat Moussa, Community Coordinator for Zakouma National Park.

Since women are primarily responsible for the use of the cooking stoves in these households, a key aspect of our approach, “women talking to women”, was to have a female community trainer lead these sessions.

Fatimé Adoum Babala, the community trainer, explains “women are very much used to their three stones cooking fire technique, and initiating change is therefore difficult. It is only possible if you can show them in practice how to use these more efficient techniques, and demonstrate that the improved stove is using less wood, thus improving their lives”. Mahamat Moussa adds, “We will need to track progress over the next few months to see how many people have adopted the technique, while continuing to engage them and the village to expand its use”.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union through IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of African Parks and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or the European Union.