managed by M. Stewart (Communication)
Hestian runs a biomass energy conservation project in Malawi since December 2008. Hestian subscribers promote the objectives of the project by offering improved energy efficiency devices to households in Malawi.
Malawi depends on biomass as a source of fuel and energy for cooking and heating purposes. Over 80% of Malawians do not have access to indoor electricity and therefore highly depends on biomass energy for their livelihoods. This dependency has resulted in high rate of unsustainable tree felling and a resultant deforestation around the country in order to meet the demands for household energy and agricultural needs. This project came to exist as a means towards mitigating climate change in southern Africa. The project aims to sensitize both rural and urban dwellers on climate change as well as the risks of deforestation in the region. The project therefore introduced fuel efficient technologies that reduce the amount of firewood dependency by over 50% for both indoor heat and cooking as well as fuel efficient technologies for agricultural heating purposes. The technologies we are promoting are household cooking stoves, institutional cooking stoves and agricultural heating furnaces which use the rocket system for efficiency purposes.
Since 2008, there are over 100 people who work under the project umbrella. Most of these people are women from rural areas who were empowered to set up small business units to promote the fuel efficient technologies to their neighbors and surrounding villages. Manufacturers and artisans of the stoves and heating furnaces are usually rural dwellers who were identified locally and trained in the production of the stoves/furnaces. They are also trained on how to use the technology and are therefore able to replicate the technology on their own thereafter. The idea is to promote a village owned project which is fully owned by the village and promoted by the village.
The project will benefit both rural and urban households who are the end users of the technologies. The project will also be beneficial to the women and men who are part of the project as artisans and/or marketers of the technologies.
Ideally, the project aims to reach millions of households over the coming years. In addition, there are thousands of potential artisans and/or marketers who can be employed in order to meet the project demand of millions of households. In this effect, millions of people stand to benefit from the project.
The technologies being promoted use less firewood than its predecessors with some having fuel savings of over 50%. Therefore, the end users will experience savings on the price of wood being used for cooking and heating purposes. Apart from that, the project will benefit the region from less pressure on deforestation. The stoves being promoted are safer and cleaner than its predecessor’s hence less indoor air pollution which causes respiratory diseases, a killer of under 5 children in Malawi. In short, the project results in environmental, financial, social, and health benefits for all end users and the region as a whole.
The biggest challenge is finding sources of funding for training artisans and marketers for the project. The project is a non for profit project but sources of funding are not as constant as was presumed to be. Also, for the bigger stoves which we promote to institutions such as schools, hospitals and orphanages, it is difficult to find sources of finance as most of these institutions cannot fund the technology. We therefore have highly trained artisans but are left without work for months at a time as we struggle to source finance from well wishers and local donors in Malawi.
External donations would be of great assistance towards training women at a local level as well as artisans on the production of the household stoves. The same women and artisans will be trained on firewood and kitchen management techniques which they can use whilst promoting/marketing their produces. This creates empowerment on a local level and we can be able to meet the targets envisioned over the next few years. On the institution stoves level, donations shall be used to build the institution stoves for primary schools, hospitals and orphanages around the country. Most schools in Malawi are on a school feeding program but sometimes they do not get access to meals if there is no source of fuel wood. The stove that we promote has fuel savings over 60% and this means the schools can be able to budget for the year running with 60% savings overall.