Even the best planned journeys can follow an unexpected course. A wrong turn spelled the start of an adventure that brought Malawi a simple cookstove capable of saving lives. And trees.
The cookstove massively reduces the amount of smoke created during cooking, and also saves wood and reduces the risk of serious burns
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.