It sounds too good to be true, but in making a cook stove out of simple mud bricks, families in Malawi are not only reducing the threat of dangerous burns, but slowing the rate of deforestation.
– which translates to "fast, fast fire". Over the past three years, the simple yet revolutionary mud brick construction has been introduced to nearly 41,000 homes in the country's northern Nkhata Bay district.
Made for efficiency, it has resulted in a 67 percent reduction in firewood for cooking needs. In other words, those households equipped with the new technology are collectively using 80,000 fewer bundles of firewood every week. RIPPLE Africa believes it will ultimately "save millions of trees."
And in the meantime, the stove implies greater self-sufficiency for women and girls by shaving up to ten hours a week off their time spend collecting wood. It also helps reduce the number of serious burns and the rate of premature deaths due to smoke inhalation.
Despite all the benefits Charlie Knight, UK General Manager of RIPPLE Africa, says the introduction process has not always been easy. "There has been some skepticism," he said. "They have used three-stone fires for generations and it's been difficult to change habits."
But determined to see the simple cookstove become the centerpiece of the nation's hearth, the organization has come up with strategies to ensure integration, not only into the home, but into the mindset. That means offering training to householders, and being prepared to make multiple return visits to ensure it is being properly used and maintained.
"We have a community volunteer living in each village," Knight said, adding that householders are involved in the construction process. "We needed to get them involved so they would take greater ownership."
And they have. In the words of one user: "I love it. And I like it very much."
RIPPLE Africa employs 150 Malawian staff and some 2,000 volunteers involved in conservation committees. The charity actively encourages others to make the cookstove by following the instructions found here.