Small Energy Efficient Stoves Protect Giant Panda Habitats

Posted on 02 September 2014   |  
“By helping build energy efficient stoves in the families of local communities, the relationship between local people and us is getting better, it is very helpful for our protection work in the Giant Panda Nature Reserve.” --Zhang Mianyue, Officer,  Mamize Nature Reserve, Sichuan province, China
Today, the last 1600 Wild giant pandas are only found in South West Central China, specifically in Qinling, Minshan, Qionglaishan, Liangshan, Daxiangling, and Xiaoxiangling Mountains of Shaanxi, Sichuan and Gansu Provinces. Their natural habitat is deciduous broadleaf, mixed conifer, and sub-alpine coniferous forests between 1200 to 3400 million hectares. Due to farming, deforestation, and other developmental factors, the giant pandas’ natural habitat is rapidly disappearing. 
Qeluo Nvxi is a young mother of Ni minority group living in a quite minority village close to Mamize natural reserve in Sichuan province, the southernmost area of the panda habitat. She can still clearly recall the interesting story that panda encountering human beings in her neighbour’s backyard at her teenage. Twenty years ago, it was no rare to encounter or track pandas if local people went into mountains for firewood.

However, the deforestation and forest degradation caused by massive firewood consumption tremendously destroyed the panda habitats in the last decades, leading to acute challenge of ecological biodiversity loss of the Giant Panda nature conservation areas.
The impact is obvious to both pandas and human beings. “It’s said there are about ten pandas living here, but I never discovered any of them, even when going into depths of mountains for hacking firewood.”Nvxi said. On the other hand, the time dedicated to collect and cut firewood for Nvxi and her neighbours increase to about 3 months a year, almost doubled than twenty years ago. “Sometimes you just have to get up before sunrise and spend whole day in remote mountains in order to hack a bundle back before sunset.” Nvxi explained. An average local family as Nvxi’s needs approximately 30 tons of firewood consumption per year, which means that 0.37 ha of forest is deforested.
Besides, another short come of traditional way of cooking is the low thermal efficiency of conventional cook stove, which is less than 10%. Nvxi has already taken granted, as most of her neighbours, for the heavy unhealthy smoke from the incomplete combustion of firewood while cooking.
Believing that forest protection is essential to panda and panda habitat conservation, WWF China together with Mamize Nature Reserve (located in Leibo County, Liangshan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan province in China) implemented the Energy Efficient Stove Project in those Yi ethnic minority communities in 2012. Nvxi’s family is among those first benefited from the project. The thermal efficiency of the new stoves is 30%, triple that of the conventional stoves. The stoves reduce firewood consumption by an estimated 10 tons per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 7 tons per year. WWF also arranged for the CO2 reductions to be traded in the international carbon market, creating an income used to fund expanding emission-reduction projects in the area.
This project not only provides ecological benefits to the diminishing forests that act as the habitat for the giant panda, but also greatly improves the lives of the villagers. The technological improvement to their everyday lives frees up the job of loggers to work on other forms of livelihood development and also creates a healthier environment for the housewives to cook. 
Till date, 1,600 stoves have been built. Another energy efficient stove project is launched on May 2013 together with Shaanxi Huangguanshan Nature Reserve in Ningshan County, Shaanxi Province. About 1300 to 1400 cook stoves will be rebuilt or modified in 14 community villages by the end of 2014. “Generation by generation we live here, and we are proud for living in the common home with pandas.” Nvxi said.


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