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. Household air pollution from solid fuels is estimated to be the number one risk factor that accounts for most disease burden in Malawi.
Also, with increasing scarcity of firewood, due to over-exploitation, people have to spend more time and money to have access to solid fuels – they have to travel further to collect wood, or pay more and face problems such as shortages in the marketing and the pinch of rising prices. Many families spend as much as 15% of their household income on firewood and charcoal and could use alternative solutions for this non-sustainable situation. Not to mention the environmental impacts of inefficient use of fire wood: rapid deforestation, soil erosion, river siltation, the sinking of the water table, reduced natural habitat for biodiversity, increased CO2 emissions and many others.
Hestian is a social business that promotes access to more efficient wood-burning cook stoves in Malawi and in other African countries, such as Rwanda and Zambia, and works to address these issues. They 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. So they aim to maximize the benefits of improving the efficiency of wood-fueled technologies.
Hestian has developed a line of improved cook stoves that are made from local materials and by local people, which beyond generating employment also makes the stoves very accessible even to families with lower household incomes. These improved cook stoves were designed to fit the cultural preferences and to maximize the efficiency of wood burning, which results in less indoor pollution and less fuel is required to cook. For the domestic version, for instance, there is a recorded 48% wood savings. The cost savings can generally pay for the stoves within one to three months.
At the most basic level, Hestian wants to provide more families with the benefits of improved cook stoves. Households that spend less time and money on collection and purchase of wood fuel can use these savings to engage in productive economic activities, invest the saved money and improve their livelihoods.
There are still 2 million households that have not had access to improved cook stoves and Hestian wants to reach at least one quarter of them in the next 5 years. In this next stage of the business, they need more people to help make it happen on the ground. And for that, they are looking for more African entrepreneurs, probably women, who know and love improved cook stoves that will work as brands ambassadors and representatives, reaching more communities and families. TIE will help Hestian find and communicate with these women.