Switching to Good Health: Nigeria’s Mama Put turn to LPGas use
By the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
A 2018 report by the World Health Organisation indicates that about four million people die every year from diseases related to the use of inefficient cooking practices and a lot of children less than five years old die from pneumonia caused by smoke inhaled from air pollution in the house.
One of the major sources of household air pollution, especially in developing countries, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, is fuel used for cooking as well as heating practices.
Homes from developed countries and many houses in the developing world use electricity, natural gas, or clean Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for cooking, whereas houses in rural communities and some houses of the developing world use biomass fuel for cooking.
In many urban and rural communities in Nigeria, the sources of cooking are still like that obtained in most developing countries.
A Non-Governmental Organisation, Gas To Health Initiative (GTHI) has taken up the gauntlet of matching words with action in ensuring the wide use of LPG by Nigerians.
Its primary targets are those that produce food for most people in the urban and rural areas: food vendors who sell food to low and medium income earners living and working in these areas.
GTHI started its campaign with over 600 local food vendors (Mama Put, Akara/yam fryers, Garri fryers and Mai Suyas) in Abuja, Bauchi, Sokoto, Enugu, Awka and taught them the benefits and safe use of LPG and empowered them with cylinders and industrial single/double burners and all associated gadgets.
“Our main objective is to improve people’s health by substituting other fuels for Liquefied Petroleum Gas, particularly firewood and kerosene and also to ensure that LPG becomes affordable and competitive as well as safe for consumers and workers,” Engr. Betty Ugona told NAN.
Ugona, who is the Secretary, GTHI Board of Trustees, said that the organisation took up the onerous campaign called “Operation Mama Put/Local Food Vendors Conversion to LP Gas” to change the narrative among these class of Nigerians.
In Abuja, at least more than 200 people, just as in the other states it visited, benefitted from the GTHI programme and were asking for more of the gestures to be extended to other Nigerians.
Mrs Victoria James, who sells food at Dutse Market in the Federal Capital Territory, told NAN that the distribution of more gas to vendors would encourage women to venture into the lucrative food selling business.
“My neighbour, Rejoice, says she won’t wake up very early in the morning again to start cooking like before since she started using the LP Gas to do her cooking.
“She told me that getting more time to sleep from the previous day work has boost her health and given her time to attend to some other family issues,” she said.
Malam Adamu Talle, a tea seller at Wuse Market, also said that seeing the health benefit of the use of LP Gas on their colleagues has made them yearn for such.
“Our chairman was among those given the gas cylinders. In terms of customers, he now serves more people because the time he takes to prepare tea and make noodles has reduced drastically.
“More customers even prefer to go to his stall because there is no smoke like mine,” he said.
Mrs Christians Dim, Chairperson of the FCT Market Women Food Vendors Association, told NAN that her members had benefitted immensely from the GTHI project.
“We thought it was one of those campaign things that politicians use to get our support. Until we saw that these people are serious and ready to give us freedom.
“Most women have seen the advantage of gas use in cooking and seen how it has improved the health and business of beneficiaries,” she said.
Mrs Rejoice Damian, who sells food at Wuse Market, told NAN that the health benefit of cooking with gas far outweighs firewood use or any other sources for now.
“I used to have poor eyesight before. But after using gas in the past six months, it has improved and I no longer use eyeglasses. Again, my skin has lightened up and is glowing not like when I was using firewood.
“It’s just that we need the government to step in and make the gas accessible and affordable so that we will continue to use it without too much stress. Buying firewood cost more because I use about N1,000 daily for firewood while for gas I pay about N6,500 per month,” she said.
Why go into gas project for food vendors
The Secretary of the GTHI, said that the motivation to change the landscape of cooking for ordinary food vendors emanated from a childhood experience.
“I recognise the culture of waking up early in the morning, gathering firewood, the smoke, the soot in your body and clothes. I started wearing glasses at the age of seven and I know it was due to the impact of the firewood smoke.
“So far, we have empowered a number of ordinary folks across the country. We have gone round 14 states and gave them a full package of free gas-filled cylinder, regulator and hose. We gave them according to their level of business.
“To allay the fear of using the gas, the GTHI conducts workshops on safety of handling. This is a prerequisite before the distribution. Every beneficiary must go through this workshop and a team is on ground to conduct this aspect of the project.”
She said to sustain the project; stakeholders in the oil and gas industry as well as individuals that want to give back to society were contacted to contribute to the initiative.
Notable oil and gas industry giants like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Oando, Omapet, NigerianAssociation of LPG Marketers and Access Bank among others are in collaboration with the GTHI as partners and sponsors.
“Before embarking on this project, we conducted research to find out the sources of energy used by households. We impress on most participants the financial and health benefits of switching to use of gas in their cooking. This continue to be a strong point in converting most of them to this environmentally viable source of energy.”
She added that about 60 per cent of Nigerians need empowerment in order to switch to LP Gas use due to their low economic status, especially the local food vendors/Mama Puts who provide food for Nigerian workforce.
Mr Anthony Ajuzie, Training and Logistics Officer at the GTHI, said that many states have been covered in their campaign with many Mama Put embracing the change.
“We have left our footprints in Sokoto, Katsina, Anambra, Benue, Bayelsa, Enugu, Edo, Borno, as well as in Abuja and each campaign successfully empowered more than 200 beneficiaries with a full package of filled gas cylinders, hose, regulator and burners,” he said.
He said that the campaign has been successful due largely to the availability of gas in the country, adding that Nigeria produces enough LP Gas to satisfy her local consumption.
Ugona told NAN the success of the programme was remarkably enhanced by partners who buy into their idea.
“When we approached our partners, they saw the advantages of working with us because it serves their interest as well as being a part of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR). Other wealthy individuals that joined our initiative came in with funds that we used in buying the accessories for beneficiaries.”
Addressing the safety and accessibility fears
“At a particular campaign outing, a woman said she cannot use gas because of fear of its safety at home due to her little children. So, I asked her if she actually lit her firewood and then left her children without taking precautions.
“We, however, convinced her that the risk of firewood is more evident than gas use and that it depends on individuals,” Telemairi Darego, GTHI Research and Statistics Officer told NAN.
She said that such misconceptions and other similar ones associated with changing habits were, however, addressed during the safety campaigns aimed at providing a guide on safe usage/handling of gas in homes or markets.
Ugochi Obidiegwu, founder of the Safety Chic Ltd, said that with all the advantages associated with the use of LPG, more caution was needed to ensure safety.
Fundamentally, she urged users to always keep cylinders in properly ventilated areas in order to ensure that even if there is leakage, dispersion occurs and the air is not concentrated enough to cause a blast.
“Best practice is to avoid keeping cylinders indoors. Where this is not possible, ensure it is in a highly ventilated area, cylinder is in good condition and valves are turned off when not in use.
“If you step into a space and perceive cylinder content, do not turn on the light. Instead open doors and windows to increase ventilation. Your priority is to reduce the concentration not to turn on the light,” she said.
The accessibility and cost of gas in the country will have to be addressed in the country especially in rural communities in order to strengthen the possible impacts of the use on the wellbeing and economic condition of vendors and other low income Nigerians.
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