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President Higgins cooking up a storm

Budget/funding, Environmental/Climate Change, News/feature, Africa, Malawi, 2014
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina viewing a Cook Stove Production and Utilisation Exhibition while on a visit to Saopampeni Village in the Salima District, Malawi. Photo Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography 2014

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina viewing a Cook Stove Production and Utilisation Exhibition while on a visit to Saopampeni Village in the Salima District, Malawi.

Today President Michael D Higgins visited the village of Saopampeni in Malawi, where he saw how an innovative cookstove programme, funded jointly by Irish Aid, Norway and the UK, and implemented by Concern Universal, is helping to improve the villagers’ lives and combat climate change.

In Malawi, the vast majority of the population use firewood to cook and prepare family meals. This is traditionally done using an open fire method that has many disadvantages, such as: high firewood consumption; air pollution from smoke; and fire safety issues, particularly for young children.

The cookstoves use less firewood which combats forest loss in Malawi

High firewood consumption has led to deforestation, land degradation and air pollution in Malawi. Women spend much of their time collecting firewood, a labour intensive task, and this leaves less time and energy for other activities. To mitigate these negative impacts, a new energy efficient stove was developed, which is being produced and sold throughout local communities.

The cookstoves, made of local clay, have many other benefits, as they bring modest profits for the producers. The stoves retail in the cities for just over €4 each, and over 10,000 are being sold monthly. Some stoves also qualify for carbon financing that generates money, which is reinvested back into the communities. Each production stove is carefully marked and itemised, and a carbon auditor flies in annually from Europe to conduct random checks to ensure that the stoves are actually in use in the various communities.

Mg'anja stove Group, Kachindamoto, with the stoves which they are producing for their own use and to sell

Irish Aid and Concern Universal have worked closely with the Malawi Ministry of Energy and other key government institutions in forming and supporting a national cook-stove taskforce.  The Malawi government has set a target to produce 2 million cook-stoves by 2020, and Irish Aid has so far allocated €400,000 to the programme.

In addition, Irish Aid is working with Concern Universal and Trinity College Dublin to design a stove attachment which will charge batteries, producing enough daily energy to power energy efficient lights and to charge a phone. One hundred of the prototype stoves are presently on trial in a village in southern Malawi.

See more photos of the Malawi cookstoves here:

  • Concern Universal Promoting the National Cookstove Taskforce