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Improved Cookstoves and bio-charcoal

improved cookstove in Madagascar

The improved cookstove is built by hand, exclusively with locally available resources, that can be gathered in and around the community where people live. Nothing needs to be bought or brought in from the outside.

May be in these strange COVID-19 times a movie documenting our work in Madagascar, now finally available with English subtitles as well, might provide a welcome insight into a rural village in October 2019. But that you can seeour improved cookstoves in action if you click on the ARTE in English documentary Madagascar: fighting poverty.

Building an improved cookstove is taught in hands-on workshops in the community. They bring people together for a common goal: Learn how to make your own cookstove, and also ‘hang out’ and have fun in the process. Building improved cookstoves and building community.

But that’s not all. In keeping with the Zahana’s philosophy, we address more than just a single issue, in this case an improved cookstove, at the same time.

Three major elements cross fertilize each other in this big plan:

  1. Build improved cookstoves for every household.
  2. Teach techniques to produce bio-charcoal from sources other than wood, further reducing the need for firewood.
  3. Participants in the workshop need to commit to personally plant trees, or on a larger level, participate in our reforestation efforts.

The challenge:

The majority of kitchens in Madagascar, rural areas and cities alike, use cookstoves to prepare their meals. Traditionally they use firewood, in urban areas charcoal. With a rapidly growing population, the immense need for firewood and/or charcoal is a major contributing factor to deforestation. Indoor air pollution from open cooking fires is a public health threat, especially for children and women. Charcoal burns almost smoke free and alternative carbon sources to wood are urgently needed.

Improved cookstove as game changer

The biggest immediately noticeable impact: that improved cookstoves reduces the need for biomass to be burned by 50 to 75%. The Ingenious idea behind improve cookstoves is: due to it efficient construction food can be prepared by using twigs, or dried corn stalks, reeds, or other agricultural dry ‘waste’.  Even if people continue to use firewood, they also need up to 75% less. Or in other words they can cook four times more with the same amount of wood.

Impoved cookstove in Madagascar in action

Our immediate goal

Every household should build two or three improve cookstoves. Most people in rural Madagascar use at least two or three cookstoves in their kitchens. One to cook rice, and the other one to cook a soup (lauka) that is traditionally eaten with the rice.  The third one could be used to cook something else, if they are lucky enough, to have something else to cook. Sweet potatoes or cassava come to mind. Or in rare occasions, fish, chicken or meat. Probably even the most stubborn person, resistant to change, will understand, that saving up to 75% of the fuel required to cook is a good idea.

Old cookstove traditionally used in Madagascar