Gulsum*, a mother of seven, lives with her family in the rural province of Badakhshan. With five of her children studying at school, she and her husband do everything they can to support their young children's education. Gulsum's husband works as a daily wage labourer, despite struggling to find work over the past two years due to Afghanistan's ongoing economic crisis. 

In order to keep her family safe and well-fed, Gulsum has often been forced to cut down trees and other vegetation to collect firewood to cook her family's meals and heat their home, especially during the winter months, when temperatures can drop to as low as -30° in her area.

"My children were cutting trees in the cold season of wintertime, and they always got sick while cutting forest trees," Gulsum told us, "Usually, we destroyed natural forest because we didn't have enough money to buy warm clothes for them or gas to heat our rooms and cook the food."

Preventing deforestation in Afghanistan

With millions of families across Afghanistan struggling to meet their basic needs, and the price of fuel skyrocketing, households are often forced to cut trees down to heat their homes. Conflict and natural disasters have also damaged and destroyed Afghanistan's forests. According to the UN, trees now cover just 1.5% of the country’s land.

When Afghanaid came to her village, Gulsum immediately identified herself as in need of support, and enrolled on Afghanaid's project working to improve rural families' resilience to Afghanistan's climate, and finding climate-change appropriate fuel alternatives. As part of the project, Gulsum learned how to make bio-briquettes, a biofuel substitute made from leftover plant matter that can be utilised as an alternative to firewood, helping rural communities reduce deforestation & pollution.

I received training and supplies from the Afghanaid office on how to create bio-briquettes in order to lessen my reliance on firewood.

"One month before the previous winter, I received training and supplies from the Afghanaid office on how to create bio-briquettes in order to lessen my reliance on firewood. I made enough bio-briquettes for the whole winter, and we warmed our room by using those bio-briquettes in the stove, reducing our use of firewood and tree cuttings by 40%."

Now able to effectively keep warm and heat food, Gulsum no longer has to cut down bushes or vegetation in order to make fires, protecting the natural environment around her. Reducing deforestation also provides rural communities with increased protection against natural disasters, as the canopy cover and root penetration trees can offer better facilitates water absorption. This decreases the risk of flash flooding and helps keep water in hillsides, providing more irrigation water for agricultural lands.

Improving rural health

With almost four million people worldwide dying prematurely as a result of indoor air pollution, often due to diseases caused by inhaling smoke from wood and charcoal fires, promoting the use of bio-briquettes can also keep families safer when they heat their homes and cook food. As well as this, Gulsum's children no longer had to stand in the freezing cold to harvest firewood, and have since been able to avoid becoming ill in the winter months.

"Fortunately, none of my children got sick that winter and they were able to study, play and have fun comfortably on the floor of their room.” said Gulsum, relieved that her children could once again focus on their education and work towards a better future.

Strengthening livelihoods

Gulsum's family had previously struggling to make ends meet, due to her husband's insecure income, but since she has been able to utilise her skills in making bio-briquettes and sell these biofuel bricks to other households in her area, she has secured a sustainable income all whilst supporting her wider community to lessen their use of firewood, a great step in helping communities to be more resilient to the changing climate.

We need your help

With your help and led by local peoplewe can ensure more communities have the knowledge, infrastructure and resilience to tackle the complex challenges they face as the climate crisis intensifies. Stand alongside communities like Gulsum's and donate to support our work today:

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*Names have been changed. 

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