Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the majority of the rural population rely on solid fuels such as firewood for cooking. These households cook primarily on open fires also known as three-stone fires, same as how cooking was done in pre-historic times. Open fires utilize large logs that are unsustainably harvested from surrounding forests and wooded areas of agricultural lands, a major driver of deforestation in SSA.
Open fires are very smoky. Health damaging exposures of PM2.5 are any that exceed 100 ug/m3. Average levels of PM2.5 in poorly ventilated kitchens in rural Zambia for example exceed 400 ug/m3 and may reach to 1,000 ug/m3. In many SSA countries, household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels in a leading risk factor contributing to disease and premature deaths. Since women do most of the cooking and at the same time look after their young children, they both become the most vulnerable to household air pollution. In addition, women and children gather firewood at least 2-3 times per week walking as far as 5-10 km from their homes to find wood. This is hours and hours of drudgery per week.
In 2013, CQC partnered with the Malawian NGO Total Land Care (TLC) to upgrade TLC's mud/brick cookstove design to achieve efficiencies comparable to the best imported portable metal cookstoves. The international NGO that invented “rocket stove” technology”, Aprovecho, supported the design process funded by CQC. Over the past five years, CQC through its local field partners in Malawi, Zambia, and Nigeria have installed over 150,000 stoves, benefiting nearly 1 million people.
Each stove is expected to reduce the use of 2-3 tonnes of unsustainably harvested firewood per year, resulting in 3-4 tonnes of CO2 emission reductions per year as compared to an open fire. The stove also reduces burns and indoor air pollution from open fire cooking, greatly lowering respiratory diseases and carbon monoxide poisoning. With the combination of a cleaner burning stove and half-wall kitchen, significant positive health outcomes are expected for women and children.
In addition, the stove enables cooking to be fueled with small-diameter fast-growing nitrogen-fixing agroforestry trees grown on farms and with crop residues otherwise wasted, reducing deforestation. This reduces the burden of gathering firewood over long distances at personal risk. It allows women to regain hundreds of hours per year that can be used for other productive activities and leisure.
The women of the households build their own stoves with training and support from CQC’s on-the-ground partners. The bricks and mud/dung mortar are hand made by the women according to specifications.
Over the years of project implementation CQC and its partners have worked to improve the design of metal parts to improve amenity and durability. The metal parts are now upgraded to higher grade metals built to last a minimum of 7 years (version 3.0). These parts are currently made in India and purchased in bulk, ensuring best pricing on parts and shipping.
The metal parts include: a stainless-steel stick shelf that allows air to flow underneath the wood sticks into the combustion chamber resulting in clean and more efficient combustion; an adjustable corrugated pot skirt that improves the transfer of heat from the fire into the pot, increasing energy efficiency and also helps to block wind; and a stainless-steel stove top that allows the pot to sit higher improving the flow of air into the combustion chamber and out the top of the stove. The thermal efficiency of the TLC-CQC Rocket Stove is now 34.5% compared to 10% for an open-fire.
“The TLC-CQC rocket stove has transformed the lives of women and girls in many ways: it reduces wood for cooking by 60% with immediate effects on deforestation; it saves an enormous amount time and drudgery to find, cut and carry heavy loads of firewood far from their homes where risks of assaults are high; it provides a clean and safe cooking environment free of toxic smoke and the danger of small children falling into open cooking fires.”
Total Landcare (Malawi)
“C-Quest Capital has opened up an exciting opportunity for COMACO to combine fuel-efficient cookstoves with our expanding agroforestry program that is producing renewable fuelwood used with these cookstoves as an important by-product of the millions of trees we plant each year to improve soil fertility. This synergy of business partnerships between C-Quest Capital and COMACO holds much promise for improving the lives of small-scale farmers in Africa.”