Through the Kasungu Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Project, Heifer Malawi initiated the construction of energy-saving stoves using locally available materials in Kasungu district to address problems with accessing fuel wood for household use, such as cooking and heating, and contribute to the conservation of natural resources in the area surrounding the national park.
In Mphamba Village, Clara Phiri’s family has benefited from this initiative. Kasungu is a tobacco growing district and, as such, has used a lot of trees in the tobacco curing process, leading to a widespread fuel wood shortage. Local communities have long been engaged in the business of burning charcoal, further exacerbating the problem of tree cutting in and around the national park. An additional contributor to the fuel wood shortage is a traditional cooking method that uses three stones.
Before receiving an energy saving cookstove, Clara went through one head-load of firewood every three days to cook in her open three-stone fireplace. Now, with the more efficient cookstove, the same amount of wood lasts for eight days. This efficiency cuts down on the frequency of Clara’s trips to fetch firewood with her children 8 km away. The brick stove doesn’t require much firewood because, with two fire chambers working at the same time, Clara can use a few well-dried sticks and cook many things at once. Maize cores, twigs, branches, bamboo are often used as alternative sources of fuel wood. With heat being captured and conserved within the fire chambers of the new stove, there is less potential for accidents, and it is also a more hygienic method of cooking, as the ashes are contained and not blown about by the wind. Furthermore, the improved stove produces less smoke, which has resulted in improvements to human health. In the past, when using wet fuel wood in open fireplaces, the smoke caused many people to suffer from eye infections.
Heifer Malawi’s experience with improved cookstoves proves that this technology is not expensive because all resources used are locally sourced, quick and easily to build with only 26 standard bricks, and durable. With so many communities demanding these stoves, there is an opportunity for local artisans, who are being trained by Heifer Malawi, to earn a regular income by building and selling them.