I'm in Oshwe, a small forest community of around 22 000 people who live deep in the indigenous rainforests of the DRC. Here people survive by hunting, farming, fishing, and gathering from the rainforest. For this community, the rainforest is both a supermarket and a pharmacy, and without it the people of Oshwe would be at a total loss.

Ringed by thick foliage and rivers, the village can only be reached by plane or boat. There is no electricity in Oshwe, so people have to burn firewood in order to cook their food.

This means that gathering firewood is an important activity in Oshwe, and as good firewood isn’t found close-by, people often end up travelling long distances with heavy bundles of wood on their backs. It’s no easy task.

Back home, the wood is used to cook many tasty dishes – but the wood also has its downsides. Cooks are forced to constantly blow on the wood to keep it burning, their noses are always running, and they often have red, irritated eyes. Not to mention how the smoke gives pots an ugly black colour.

14 June 2012 Preparing the clay for oven making


So it was decided that we’d run a workshop on how to build energy efficient clay ovens. Cooking with these would mean using less wood, which means less to carry. And as it burns more efficiently, there is also far fewer health issues. It’s a win-win situation for both the forest, and the people who rely on it.

We ran the workshop earlier this month, and the results are amazing. Twenty-eight people took part, where they learnt about energy efficiency, and built seven clay ovens for community use.

Here’s what two of the participants had to say:

14 June 2012 Shaping a clay oven

A woman learns how to shape the clay into a shape that helps to increase the oven's efficiency.


"The training was very interesting, especially for us moms who have an obligation to take care of feeding our families. We’ll definitely use these ovens as they will keep smoke fumes away and we won’t get sore eyes," said Madame Pélagie Bayongo.

"With this new oven, my wood will last longer and I won’t have to blow the fire all the time to keep it going. I also won’t have the horrible smell of smoke clinging to my skin. I pledge to pass on my new knowledge to other ladies of my village”, said Bernadette Nzeba.