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Aprovecho / ProBEC to receive Ashden Award

An Ashden Award has ben honoured to Aprovecho / ProBEC for the ‘rocket stove’ that spreads throughout southern Africa dramatically reducing the use of fuel wood
The ‘rocket stove’ is an innovative, fuel-efficient stove design that significantly reduces smoke production and can be manufactured by local stove builders.

The ‘rocket stove’ technology is spreading in institutions such as schools and prisons throughout southern Africa with thriving stove production businesses in Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda.

Southern Africa is not alone in the challenges it faces in terms of severe deforestation, soil erosion and food insecurity. However, in this region these challenges are particularly acute due to high population density and large areas being dedicated to growing crops such as tobacco which is dried using vast amounts of fuel wood. Cooking on open fires and using fuel wood inefficiently as most of the population do is no longer a sustainable option.

To address this issue, in 2003 ProBEC (Programme for Biomass Energy Conservation) on behalf of GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) approached Peter Scott, a leading stove designer from Aprovecho, to design commercially viable institutional stoves, tailored to the cooking practices of six sub-Saharan countries.

The aim of this programme is to dramatically cut fuel wood use in the region by developing and commercialising locally adapted fuel-efficient stoves that can be used by large institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons.

Peter has based these designs on the highly innovative Aprovecho ’rocket stove’ concept that ensures efficient combustion (through an ’internal chimney‘) and efficient heat transfer (through a narrow passage under the pot where the combustion gases must travel). For this to work, it is critical that the stove fits the cooking pot so Aprovecho has been developing different designs in collaboration with users and producers in each country to ensure that this is the case.

The ‘rocket stove’ is now spreading throughout the region creating, in the words of Peter Scott,“ An African cook stove revolution”.

To date more that 1,500 institutional stoves have been sold, This has been achieved through the development of profitable stove production businesses, which, thanks to ProBEC and GTZs support, are now thriving in Lesotho, Malawi and Uganda, with others starting up in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

ProBEC succeeded in kick starting these thriving stove production businesses by providing them with access to the decision makers of institutions as well as integrating energy issues into other donor programmes, NGOs and the private sector. With this initial support, producers have since set out to find their own markets and are operating on a clear ‘business to business’ approach.

Key to the success of these businesses was ProBEC’s decision to focus initially on institutional stove designs. They are potentially more profitable to produce than household stoves and it is the high local fuel wood demand from large institutions which puts particular pressure on supplies. The strategy has proved effective: stove producers, initially attracted by the high profit margins in the manufacture of institutional stoves are now expanding into the household stove market.

In Malawi the main producer is Ken Chilewe who used to employ two people in a small steel manufacturing workshop in Mulanje making building components like window frames. Since he began producing the institutional ‘rocket stove’ he has expanded his staff to 22 and reported sales of approximately US$180,000 over an 18 month period. In Uganda the main producer has generated over US $100,000 in income from ‘rocket stove’ sales.

Fuel wood savings have also been significant. Reports from users suggest that wood use is at least halved. One tea estate did a trial comparison by cooking 100 litre pots of nsima (maize meal) on their ‘rocket stove’ and an open fire, and found that the stove used only 10% of the firewood – saving an incredible 100 kg of wood. If stoves are used more intensively the savings will be even greater, as in the case of Maula Prison in Malawi, where fuel consumption has reduced by one million kg over the last year.

A primary school in Mozambique has more than halved its expenditure on fuel wood and now has an additional US$1,200 to spend on students educational needs and the Bible College in Malawi has reduced it’s expenditure on fuel wood from around US$400 to US$100 per year. In this way the full cost of the stove is paid back in one year.

Switching to a ‘rocket stove’ also means a significant reduction in petrol costs for fuel wood transportation. At Maula Prison in Malawi, petrol consumption has been reduced by 900 litres per month.

Cooks are exposed to less smoke and food can be more hygienically prepared. At Maula Prison, the 1,900 inmates apparently now enjoy eating white porridge whereas before the institutional stove was installed the porridge was brown.

There are significantly less carbon emissions with the institutional stoves. Laboratory tests reveal an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and a 65% reduction in fine particulates.

With thriving stove businesses throughout the region, the stove programme has created employment and brought self-worth to the producers who are seen as heroes in their communities for producing ’near smoke-less‘ stoves that cut fuel wood use so dramatically.

Ashden Award money would be used to help promote the ‘rocket’ design concept further through the development of a free ‘rocket design tool’ that will help individuals and organisations develop a customised stove appropriate for their community.

Aprovecho is an NGO established in 1981 by a collective. One of their members, Larry Winiarski, is credited with inventing the ‘rocket stove’ concept used all over the world. They are leading stove designers who act as consultants to projects and organisations throughout the world. It also runs training programmes in sustainable technologies. Aprovecho is currently funded by ProBEC’s stove programme in southern Africa.

ProBEC runs stove programmes in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. ProBEC aims to commercialise affordable energy-efficient technologies and techniques for cooking and heating (see The Programme is implemented by GTZ on behalf of SADC (Southern African Development Community), financed by the German Government (BMZ) and the Dutch Government (DGIS).

Peter Scott (for Aprovecho) and Dr. Christoph Messinger (for ProBEC) will jointly represent the programme at the Ashden Awards ceremony in London. Ken Chilewe, leading ‘Rocket’ stove producer in Malawi will also be coming to London.

Additional information:
News date: 28/06/2006

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