A trip to Sao Tome et Principe

In October 2017, Dr. Elaine Forde and Dr. Charlie Dunnill made a research trip to Sao Tome et Principe, an island nation on the equator off the West coast of Africa. The research trip was funded by the EPSRC [funded by EP/R512722/1: EPSRC Global Challenges Research Fund Institutional Sponsorship Award 2017 - Swansea University] in order to further Elaine and Charlie’s proposal for a GCRF Interdisciplinary Research Hub on Hydrogen  Energy Research, Hydrogen Energy in Africa (HYENA) . If funded the GCRF Hydrogen Energy in Africa Hub will be an ambitious 5-year project that investigates the potential of Green energy smart grids based on hydrogen gas to answer the complex and cross cutting energy vulnerabilities faced by developing countries. It will bring together partners from 3 institutions in the UK, one in Spain and 2 partners from developing countries.

Elaine and Charlie‘s project garnered support from the Energy Minister, the Director of Energy, Director of Environment, University of STP as well as the Director of Health and the UNDP in Sao Tome. The project takes a phased approach which introduces hydrogen  cooking technologies that will be an alternative to the use of solid fuel for cooking. And will measuring the impact on local health and economy.

According the World Health Organisation 4 billion deaths a year are attributable to domestic use of solid fuels, including 50% of all deaths from pneumonia amongst children under 5 years old. The health implications of burning solid fuel in homes reveal deeper structural inequalities: smoke inhalation disproportionately impacts women and children.

Part of the purpose of the research trip was to speak to ordinary Santomese about their energy needs, and Elaine was able to visit one school on a number of occasions and discuss with the School cook how the HYENA project may work with her on the Phase One Pilot.

School meals are typically cooked in big pans over an open fire, or an improved wood stove such as the one pictured here.

Charlie and Elaine, alongside the other HHENA partners, across Africa and the UK wrote and submitted an Outline Proposal to GCRF to continue their research programme  and international collaborations.  The partners were STP, Imperial, Queen's Belfast, Swansea, BIEA Kenya and University Nairobi.

Unfortunately, our bid was unsuccessful however we thought our hub was an amazing idea and a fantastic opportunity to investigate the use of hydrogen as an alternative energy vector in the developing world. During our travels, we met loads of fantastic people and made some really positive relationships that are flourishing to this day.