When we burn wood to generate heat, it is vital we do it as efficiently and healthily as possible. If we don’t, deforestation, increased greenhouse gas emissions and poor health will remain serious and potentially irreversible problems. In Malawi, a country where the use of wood stoves and the burning of wood on open fires is widespread, the Aprovecho Research Center worked with the Programme for Basic Energy and Conservation in Southern Africa (ProBEC), to cut the use of wood for cooking, particularly in large institutions.
At the heart of the work was the 'Rocket' design concept, which produces a cleaner and more heat efficient stove. Armed with these designs ProBEC then trained local manufacturers to build the stoves. Most importantly, they made sure that each stove suited each different local use. So the design for a school kitchen might differ from that used on Malawi’s tea-estates.
Success can be measured in numbers. By the end of the programme in December 2009, 6,800 institutional stoves had been sold in Malawi and over 2,000 elsewhere in the region. Given that wood savings are measured at 70% per stove there is no doubt of the financial benefit to the users. Nor is there any doubt that immediate pollution is reduced.
However, as always, the wider impact is equally important. 30% of the wood savings came from reduced deforestation - about 10,000 tonnes/year in CO2 emissions. In Malawi, as elsewhere across the globe, practical and local solutions are also determining the long-term health of the environment.