Supermodel takes action on energy
Gisele Bunchen swaps catwalk for charity work in Kenya
Gisele Bundchen swapped the catwalk for a dirt track as she carried firewood on her head on a recent visit to Kenya to look at the country’s energy needs.
The Brazilian model helped local women near Kisumu, Kenya’s third largest city, carry firewood several miles to their homes to learn first-hand how energy issues affect women and girls worldwide.
Firewood is their only source of fuel for cooking. Each day around 800 million women and girls worldwide can spend up to seven hours searching for their families’ fuel and carry loads of up to 90lb (equal to two full suitcases) many miles on their heads.
Ms Bundchen was in Kenya with UK charity Practical Action, which is providing fuel-efficient stoves that cook food more quickly and use less firewood.
Ms Bundchen, 31, said: “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Even though I’m from Brazil and we do have a lot of poverty, actually going to people’s houses and experiencing (what they go through) is indescribable.
“It’s heartbreaking and also heart-opening and there’s so much I want to do now. I always want to try and put myself in their situation and think what would it be like if I had no access to basic needs of survival.
“By volunteering to come to a place like this, where you are vulnerable and exposed to so much that’s different from the reality you live, it’s amazing.” Her tour of Kenya coincided with the United Nations launching the Year of Sustainable Energy For All.
Other Practical Action projects visited by Ms Bundchen, a Unep (UN Environment Programme) ambassador who also has her own charitable foundation, included a Pico-hydro power plant on the slopes of Mount Kenya, which has transformed the lives of the local communities’ children, who now have light to study.
She also visited revolutionary biogas centres in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, which turn human faeces into gas for cooking.
In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70 per cent of the population has no access to electricity. Some three billion people worldwide rely on traditional biomass – wood and dung – for cooking.
Indoor smoke from cooking causes around 1.6 million deaths per year, which is 50 per cent more than worldwide deaths from malaria.
Helen Marsh, lead campaigner for Practical Action, said: “If we don’t take action now, the same number of people will be in energy poverty in two decades’ time.
“But simple, small-scale solutions exist. Just three per cent of the total worldwide investment on energy would end energy poverty for good by 2030.