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WFP stove initiative to help protect women and environment

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WFP's SAFE stove project sets out primarily to reduce the amount of time women in two African countries spend looking for firewood and hence to reduce the chance that they will be attacked or raped. At the same time, the project will also offer a concrete way of protecting the environment from desertification.

COPENHAGEN -- WFP on Wednesday launched a pilot project to provide fuel-efficient stoves to women in Sudan and Uganda, to reduce the risk they run of being attacked while gathering firewood and to help take pressure off the environment.

"Women and girls should not have to risk their lives and dignity - and precious trees should not be lost - in the simple act of trying to cook food for their families," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran during a press conference at the COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen. "The SAFE stoves launch will help protect them and the environment with practical and urgently needed solutions."

Chop down trees

Refugees and women living in drought conditions are forced to walk farther and farther into the bush to collect firewood. They chop down trees and uproot grasses, harming the fragile eco-system. They venture out into unsafe areas, making them vulnerable to attack and rape.

WFP researchers found that, to avoid searching for wood, some women spend a full day's wages on firewood alone. Others sell off food rations to purchase fuel.

WFP's Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (SAFE) project will scale up distribution of fuel-efficient and "improved mud" stoves to assist almost 100,000 women in North Darfur. These stoves consume less firewood and lower health risks associated with smoke.

Schools and households

WFP is providing two main types of stoves: institutional (Jiko) stoves for schools and mud/clay stoves for households.

In Uganda, WFP will focus on refugees and pastoralists in the drought-hit Karamoja region. It will provide more than 35,000 households and 50 schools with fuel-efficient stoves, as well as helping women to find other sources of income.

Due to begin in January, this is the first time a comprehensive project of this kind has been launched on this scale. WFP plans to feed 11.8 million refugees, displaced persons and refugees in 36 countries in 2010, and it plans to reach half of that population with the SAFE initiative over the next two years.

Project partners include Women's Refugee Commission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment programme (UNEP).