It is always worth remembering that progress is often a result of improving of what you already have rather than relying on major breakthroughs. In Cambodia, the redesign of the traditional charcoal stove by the Groupe Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarités (GERES) is a perfect example.
The problem with the traditional Lao stove was its high consumption of charcoal, made using wood from Cambodia’s diminishing forests. Over half the inhabitants of the capital, Phnom Penh, use charcoal burning stoves. GERES, a French NGO, focused on making the stoves more fuel efficient and safer to handle via reduced heat loss. Working with existing stove producers, they produced a model which reduced charcoal consumption by 22% while providing a safer and quicker source of heat.
By March 2010, total sales of New Lao stoves had reached a staggering 1.03 million, with 41,000 more produced each month and other models developed. Local economies have benefitted from the programme, with local producers, suppliers and retailers getting together to ensure safety and maintenance standards.
There is no subsidy for users. It’s not needed when you can recoup the extra purchase cost within two months through fuel savings, and also have a stove that cooks better and lasts longer. In total over 500,000 households are estimated to have benefitted from the programme. Not bad for a redesign.