Saving Trees – Saving Lives

14 September 2017

Saving Trees – Saving Lives
Jannine Ebenso, Head of Quality Assurance, writing from Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia is one of the 22 countries classed as high burden for leprosy by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their latest leprosy update. In 2016, there were 3,692 new cases of leprosy reported in Ethiopia. Sadly 419 (>11%) of these already had visible impairments when they were diagnosed. Among the new cases, 360 (almost 10%) were children.

It is 25 years since my first visit to Ethiopia in 1992 as a student at the All-Africa Leprosy Training and Rehabilitation Centre (ALERT). I have visited Ethiopia many times since 1992, mainly for physical rehabilitation activities related to the impairments caused by leprosy, and mainly to Addis Ababa itself. This week I have had the chance to visit a different part of Ethiopia, crossing the Blue Nile (such amazing scenery and wildlife!) and entering the Amhara Region to visit the Improved Cooking Stoves Project

The project is supporting five local leprosy-affected people’s associations (members of the Ethiopian National Association of People Affected by Leprosy – ENAPAL) in Amhara Region to produce and market energy-efficient stoves. The stoves use less firewood, cook more quickly and produce less harmful smoke. This contributes to several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It contributes to improved health for women and children (who are mostly involved in cooking) [contributing to goal 3 – good health and wellbeing], and saves them time and money (meaning children will be more likely to go to school) [contributing to goal 10 – reduced inequalities]. The production cooperatives will give an income to people affected by leprosy [contributing to goal 1 – no poverty], and by producing and selling the stoves they will contribute to their communities and change negative perceptions of leprosy.

An Improved Cooking Stove in use.The project also contributes to goal 13 (climate action) by reducing the carbon footprint through using fewer trees and goal 15 (life on land) through tree planting in each of its locations.

The stoves are made by people affected by leprosy or their family members and are sold as six interlocking concrete parts. The parts are then stuck together using either mortar or animal dung (a very functional local alternative that is also used to make houses).

Visiting three of the five groups this week, I was able to ask what changes they had seen since the improved cooking stove project started in February 2016.

“I now have a regular income that supports me and my family.”

(Guard at one of the stove projects: a man with leprosy-related disability.)

“Because we are together in a co-operative and doing something productive, we are taken more seriously in the community and have a voice. Previously we were not listened to.”

(Committee Member; person affected by leprosy.)

“The community can see that people affected by leprosy are able to work and produce things.”

(Female worker at the project.)


The Improved Stove Project is implemented by the Ethiopian National Association of People Affected by Leprosy (ENAPAL) with support from The Leprosy Mission Ethiopia. We are grateful to the people of Jersey who are funding the project (via Jersey Overseas Aid).

Improved Cooking Stove public sign.

Jannine Ebenso is Head of Quality Assurance at The Leprosy Mission International. She joined the Mission in 1991, living and working as a physiotherapist in Nigeria for 16 years before returning to the UK in 2008. In addition to her Physiotherapy qualifications, Jannine holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Biblical and Cross-cultural Studies and a Master of Arts in Disability Studies. She tweets as @JannineTLM