The Simple Stove Curbing Climate Change in Africa

The Save80 stove drastically cuts the amount of firewood necessary to cook meals, reducing carbon emissions and deforestation.

(Photo: Courtesy

Mar 28, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

A kitchen appliance that can improve an entire community? Sounds like a hyperbolic sales pitch, but for households using Save80 stoves, the proof is in their own experience.

Women in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, and Uganda have experienced financial gains, improved health, and safer living conditions thanks to the new 10-pound stainless steel stove. But the company behind it, Germany-based Atmosfair, didn’t have any of those things in mind when it initially designed the stove; it was only hoping to improve the environment.

The “80” in Save80 refers to the stove’s need for 80 percent less wood than a traditional open fire pit, where meals in much of sub-Saharan Africa are typically prepared.

Using a small bundle of kindling that weighs less than half a pound, the stove can boil up to six liters of water. An integral pot inserted in the cylindrical structure can cook, fry, or heat food. And if the family isn’t ready to eat just yet, or there are leftovers, the food can be transferred to an accompanying “wonder box.” There have been many kitchen stoves designed for developing world families in recent years, but this insulated container sets the Stove80 apart by keeping food warm for several hours.

The lower fuel requirement saves families time and money by reducing the need to collect firewood or purchase charcoal, and it reduces deforestation. In places such as Nakivale, Uganda, an influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo has depleted an area that was once full of trees and shrubbery, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The same thing happened in Western Tanzania during the Burundian Civil War of the last decade.

Fewer trips into the forest to collect wood also means women and children are less vulnerable to assault, and not cooking over a traditional open flame in the home reduces serious health problems such as child pneumonia and lung cancer—exposure to household air pollution from cooking is the fourth-leading risk factor for disease in developing countries, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Atmosfair has partnered with UNHCR, along with other private climate companies, such as the Nigerian Developmental Association for Renewable Energies, to construct the stoves in Africa to either sell or distribute them. The original price of the stove, ranging from $60 to $205, has been criticized by USAID, which evaluated Stove80 last year and said the cost is “beyond the purchasing power of many families living in poorer countries. Although this initial investment would, in economical terms, be outweighted by the value of saved biomass or reduced collection time, it remains an important barrier on the ground.” To put this into perspective, 54 percent of Nigeria’s population earns less than $1.25 per day.

That said, the climate-conscious nonprofit plans to distribute as many as 100,000 stoves over the next five years to families in need. More than 10,000 are being used in several developing countries as of last year, reducing 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, Atmosfair reports.