Four thousand families in South Africa’s largest and poorest township now have safe supplies of heat and light through a green energy project.
Khayelitsha, a shanty town 30 km from central Cape Town, is home to half a million people about 40per cent of whom are children.
With no access to electricity, many families are forced to turn to firewood, coal or paraffin to heat their homes and to cook with. Fires were a constant risk.
But a backed project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of vulnerable people has given 4,000 families clean sources of heat and light.
Mother of six, Nodliwa Nozipho, is one of them. Nodliwa whose husband died of Aids was given a government-subsidised house with a solar water heater, ceiling insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs.
The domestic worker had been worried she would not be able to afford the heating bills on her salary but the new home has brought huge energy cost savings, among other benefits.
"I have also seen an improvement in the thermal performance of my house, reducing the need for indoor heating with fuels such as paraffin, which cause respiratory problems and are a fire risk," she said.
"This was a severe challenge to families when trying to heat or cool our homes. The resulting condensation in the buildings also meant that we were living with up to three litres of water dripping on our belongings every day," Nodliwa told Reuters news service.
A lack of proper ceilings and insulation meant families were spending around 10 South African rand, nearly a pound a night to heat their homes in winter, said Carl Wesselink from South South North Projects Africas’ Clean Development Mechanism.
"The condensation and warm, damp conditions also proved a breeding ground for diseases, especially tuberculosis," Wesselink said.
The project was set up under the Kyoto Protocol, and international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It has meant families in Khayelitsha, have not only managed to cut their electricity costs by 35 per cent a year, but are also doing their bit to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Their new homes are five per cent warmer in winter and five per cent cooler in summer, allowing a saving of up to 40 percent on electricity bills, he added. They also cut down air pollution, helping prevent pulmonary pneumonia, carbon monoxide poisoning and other respiratory illnesses. And there has been a drop in the number of fatal fires in the area.