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Malawi rural communities benefit from energy-efficient cookstoves

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As one way of conserving the environment in Malawi, people in communities are engaged in making fuel-efficient stoves made of clay that is used for domestic cooking and heating purposes. In return, people who produce stoves in communities are making good money out of sales.

According to Eric Nyekanyeka, marketing officer for United Purpose in Malawi, the stoves are user-friendly designed to reduce heavy use of firewood compared to the traditional three-stone fire. The stoves also reduce concentrations of indoor pollution that cause respiratory illnesses.

In an interview with Xinhua, Nyekanyeka disclosed that their organization recently surpassed a two million stove sale across Malawi, a development which he described as a success in their quest to conserve the environment.

“The cookstoves are produced by groups that were set up by the organization. The stove is molded solely out of clay soil and uses firewood with at least 30 percent and at most 60 percent energy consumption efficiency when compared to traditional stoves. The stoves also reduce concentrations of indoor pollution that cause respiratory illnesses,” he said.

The stove design is the product of over 15 years of research and development, mainly in Malawi, incorporating user feedback and local preferences. A mechanical mold known as the paddle mold is used to facilitate standardization and to improve productivity.

Chrissy Mbalame is a member of the Kalata Mbaula club in Ntcheu which also contributes to the mass production of stoves countrywide. She joined the group in 2011 and since then she has been economically independent.

“I have been in this group for 10 years, so far, production of these stoves has been one of the milestones to my success as a parent. I am able to pay for my children’s school fees and am also able to support my family,” she said.

So far, Chrissy managed to buy her own land and she has also built a house among other things. Meanwhile, together with her husband, she is trying to produce more stoves to help their family that has four children.

Chrissy is among a 31-member group that collectively produces stoves for sale. According to Andrea Kadam’manja, co-chair for the group, the project has changed the community’s economy, people are buying motorcycles, building better houses and educating their children.

“Since the onset of the project, our community has advanced in terms of conserving the environment. We have our own planted forest where we source firewood for oven production. We are also working hand in hand with our Traditional Authority to ensure safeguarding the safety of community trees,” said Kadammanja.

The fuel-efficient stove is among the improved cookstoves earmarked for scaling up to meet the target. The vision to scale up the adoption of improved cookstoves is in line with the country’s national biomass energy strategy that attempts to improve the efficiency of biomass energy consumption.

(XINHUA)

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