Hestian is a non-profit company that was registered in 2008 and has been working in Malawi ever since. Hestian was set up to tackle the climate challenge through the promotion of fuel-efficient technologies that meet specific needs of Malawians, in one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world.
In Malawi, only 2% of households cook with electricity and almost everybody else cooks with firewood or charcoal, with little or few exceptions.
This has major health implications. Lower respiratory tract infections, often exacerbated or caused by indoor air pollution, are estimated to be the second biggest cause of death in Malawi, after HIV/AIDS. The improved cook stoves that Hestian promotes burn better and result in less smoke in the kitchen, and because of their design, result in fewer accidents and fires caused by scalds and burns.
Increasing scarcity of firewood makes people’s daily lives more difficult. Scarcity is evident as people travel further to collect wood and are no longer getting their preferred type of firewood as some species are depleted or over-extracted. For those that purchase firewood and charcoal they feel the pinch of rising prices and occasional shortages in the market. Households that spend up to 15% of their income on firewood and charcoal appreciate fuel cost savings
As well, Malawi, Southern Africa’s most densely populated country, has seen rapid deforestation in recent years and loses tens of thousands of hectares of indigenous forest each year. Not only does this result in greater scarcity of wood, but also increases soil erosion, river siltation, the sinking of the water table and reduced natural habitat for biodiversity. Hestian is helping to reduce the amount of wood needed for cooking, which helps to reverse recent trends in deforestation and land degradation. Locally there is less pressure on the natural resource base which helps increase resilience.
And although wood is a renewable resource, if more wood is burnt than is re-grown, more CO2 ends up in the atmosphere – which is not good for our climate. Furthermore, soot, a product of incomplete combustion of wood, may be a highly significant global warming pollutant. Atmospheric black carbon particles absorb sunlight and radiate heat, in the infrared range, and are thus warming the atmosphere. Soot may be responsible for around 16% of the gross warming effects the planet is currently experiencing. In addition to the local and national benefits of promoting improved cook stoves, Hestian is also contributing to mitigating climate change.
We understand that with limited access to electricity and alternative fuels, it is likely that biomass will remain the major source of household energy for some time. Therefore, Hestian aims to maximise the benefits of improving the efficiency of wood-fueled technologies.
Hestian need help to create a campaign in order to make these more fuel efficient stoves sexy. We need to get Malawians to want a new stove, get them to aspire to getting an improved stove and make the improved stove a status of prosperity and progress. By doing this, we will be helping Hestian improve the environment and the livelihoods of the local people of Malawi and contribute to the sustainable growth of one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries.