Humane: Do Some Good
Smoking 2,000 cigarettes a day
Would it be okay with you if someone lived in your house who smoked 2,000 cigarettes a day - indoors? Sounds crazy, huh? And it is. Do the math. That person would have to smoke two cigarettes a minute on average for seventeen hours per day.
Now take yourself to a refugee camp or a village on the other side of the world where people live in huts, cooking over an open fire. The smoke from preparing three meals a day fills the lungs of family members in and around that hut as if they had inhaled the smoke from 2,000 cigarettes.
3 billion people cook meals over a fire each day, creating pollution that kills 4.3 million people each year. Did you know that more people die from this health hazard than all the people who die annually from AIDS, malaria and tuberculous combined?
Now take yourself to the Lawrence Berkeley Lab at the University of California. Scientists took this problem and came up with a solution. They designed a stove that uses 50% less wood, thus creating less smoke. That helps a lot. Consider another angle to this issue. Women gather the wood. This means that they have to leave the safety of their home to venture beyond the camp or village to forage for burnable wood. This takes 5-6 hours out of their day - time that they could spend with their families, or work to earn income. Aside from that, the greatest expense though, is the risk to their personal safety. Women are routinely accosted, assaulted, raped and robbed on these treks for wood.
From the lab at Berkeley, an organization came into being: Potential Energy, which oversees the manufacture, distribution and educational components necessary to make this efficient stove usable within a variety of cultures.
Here’s more information from their website:
Since 2007, Potential Energy and our partners have distributed tens of thousands of fuel-efficient cookstoves to Darfuri women. These specially designed cookstoves decrease women’s exposure to violence by reducing their need to collect firewood; eliminate the need to trade food rations for fuel; create a healthier cooking environment; and lessen the destructive impact cooking has on the environment.
User-Centered Design: The cookstoves were developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Engineers without Borders. Women in Darfur provided feedback at every step of the process, ensuring the stove design fits their needs. As a result, the Berkeley-Darfur Stove is specifically tailored to the windy climate, the sandy terrain, the pot size and to the cooking style of stove users in Darfur.
Cost-Effective Supply Chain and Local Employment: Each stove starts out as a flat sheet of metal in Mumbai, India. Our manufacturing partner stamps the stove design into the metal sheets to make “flat-kits.” These “flat-kits” are shipped by boat to Sudan, then taken overland to Darfur where they are assembled by a local organization, Sustainable Action Group.
Creating Sustainable Markets: To ensure quick delivery in a humanitarian crisis, we distributed the first 20,000 stoves for free. Now we are applying business approaches to help our local partner sell the stoves and build a sustainable business. Because each stove saves a woman almost $1 per day in firewood expenses, it pays for itself in less than a month.
These three women live in a crowded displacement camp where the simple stoves on which they cook define their days – days filled with treks for firewood that expose them to attacks and sexual assault, with dangerous hunts for work to earn money for fuel, with painful decisions about selling some of the food donors give their families so they can use the cash to buy fuel to cook the rest. This photo was taken at a stove demonstration, where the women gave the stove its Arabic name, Kanun Khamsa Dagaig, or “Five-Minute Stove” because it is seen as such an efficient way of cooking. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove was designed in collaboration with Darfuri women, who helped us ensure that the stove meets their needs: it has been specially adapted to the pot shapes and sizes, the types of food, cooking methods, and the windy conditions and sandy terrain in Darfur. Treating the women as consumers and listening to their preferences helps us ensure they will continue to use their stoves for many years.
To learn more about the success of this little stove that costs $20, and find out how you can help get more of them into the hands of the women who need them, click here.