The Institutional Stove Project of Aprovecho Research Center is moving rapidly to fill the need for institutional size stoves in the developing world. This blog is devoted to charting our events and progress.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Accomplishments to Date

Fred's back from Africa, after having trained over 400 cooks to use our stove.  We're expanding our organization in anticipation of large stove orders.  We wanted to share with our friends our accomplishments to date.

Prior to 2011, we:

       *Designed, built and distributed fifty prototype stove
    *Perfected unique precision production methods
    *Developed “factory-In-A-Box” production and distribution concept
    *Completed a school feeding pilot project in Nigeria
    *Presented at the United Nations “SAFE” initiative in Rome
    *Shipped stoves for demonstration projects in six developing countries:  Haiti, Vanuatu, Uganda, Nigeria, Guatemala and Honduras. 

In 2011 we:

   *Trained personnel and produced a total of 320 stoves in our Oregon factory.
   *Completed U.N. World Food Program (WFP) contract for 200 stoves for Darfur  on time and on budget for 200 stoves to serve 80-100,000 children in school feeding programs. 
   *Completed U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) contract for 60 stoves on time and on budget for Ethiopian refugee camps serving populations from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan. 
   *Completed a pilot project in Timor-Leste (East Timor).
   *Shipped stoves to three additional developing countries: Cameroon, Chad, and Liberia
   *Developed a biomass briquette press prototype; and successfully tested briquettes
   *Reviewed in-field performance of our stove being used in Bida, Nigeria
   *Organized volunteer staff to begin fundraising, media, and marketing initiatives
   *Began testing and marketing the 60 liter stove-powered autoclave feature for sterilizing hospital instruments and medical waste

So far this year we:

   *Developed a 100 liter stove prototype – production is anticipated to begin this year
   *Are conducting a multi-agency demonstration of stoves and autoclaves in Nairobi, Kenya
   *Are continuing our planning to ramp up for large-scale production this year.

Thanks to all for you continued support!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dollo Ado, Ethiopia


We’re two kilometers from the Somali border and about 35 from Kenya.  Dollo Ado is the primary Ethiopian intake center for Somali refugees. There are probably a dozen aid agencies here all working together to patch together programs for an increasing flow of very hungry refugees. About 140,000 are in the camps today, but the numbers are rapidly growing.

Extended drought, political instability, and an uptick in military and paramilitary confrontations have sent numbers skyrocketing in the last few days. Normal flow here has been 50 new refugees a day. Yesterday there were 500. There are some new multi-government offensives against Al Shabaab, and the poor and hungry are trying to get out of the way.  Driving today to deliver some stoves we were reminded of the ongoing political violence that is a constant threat in the lives of some of the poorest people on earth.

                          Stoves in flatbed passing tank (F.Colgan)

Today we did a workshop for cooks at the “wet feeding center” where new arrivals are fed high-value meals until they make some recovery from the malnutrition most are experiencing. Some kids remain in treatment for several weeks until they can regain their strength. New intakes then move to the “transit center”, where they await placement in camps and continue to be fed.  Almost 20,000 are in the transit center now. The cooks in the two intake/transit centers cook for thousands of people a day. They are cooking 1600 liters of food per meal over 16 three stone fires – twice a day.  Mountains of firewood. Smoke beyond belief.  In 2012 we are going to bring out a 100 Liter Stove for service in situations like this, and for larger schools across Africa where big stoves are critically needed. It is most satisfying to bring our stoves to these hard-working cooks.

                         Cooks at wet feeding center (F.Colgan)

Tomorrow we travel to Bokolmayo Camp, where some 40,000 refugees are housed. Camps are being established in rather remote areas because current strategy is to try to set up where the refugees will not need to compete with existing populations for scarce resources.  Even new camps show clear zones of surrounding areas being picked clean of firewood. There are problems upon problems to solve in these relocation efforts, and we are awestruck at the fortitude and determination of the agencies on the ground providing the basic services these people need.
A breakthrough today was the arrival of a large backhoe for digging pit latrines – one of the hardest tasks in setting up the camps. The terrain here is an old seabed, and just under the sandy topsoil is sandstone – backbreaking and slow to dig through by hand.

The emotion we feel again and again traveling over this area is how OLD everything is. These pastoral people are living in the old ways – herding flocks of goats, cattle, donkeys, across trackless scrubland. The mountains are worn down. This really does feel like the place the human experience began.
In this region of Ethiopia most people are from Somali tribes.  Here’s the classic version of a Somali dwelling – built in the old style. They are graceful and elegant – and ancient in form.

                          Traditional Somali dwelling (F.Colgan)

On Thursday, a blog from the transit center.
Hello to all, home in ten days.

Fred

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ethiopia!




How could you not love a country with a currency called birr? (pronounced beer).

This consultancy is with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – a field trial of 60 stoves in ten refugee camps.
First trip to the field was to Jijiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, very close to the Somali border. We installed stoves in three camps – Aw barre, Shedder, and Kebribeyah – with a total population of about 45,000. These camps are well-established, and the Somali residents are probably not going home anytime soon. Somali shelters are a unique shape and construction – very colorful and distinctive.

                                  Somali refugee shelter (F.Colgan)

The region is hot and dry –very similar to the scrublands of Arizona. People here scrape by raising animals – cattle, sheep, goats and camels – and growing two crops: sorghum and qat (or chat, a mild narcotic plant). There is a persistent drought and conditions are dire. UNHCR is trucking massive amounts of water and scrambling to build sustainable water delivery systems.

Firewood depletion is a huge problem. There are not many trees to begin with – only scrubby chaparral – but it is increasingly difficult to find wood.  Women are routinely subjected to rape as they cross large distances in search of wood.   Yesterday at the camps, the last day of a week-long series of events around Human Rights week, were big rallies equating women’s rights with human rights, and calling for a stop to rapes of women in the camps.

                                 Firewood vendors (F. Colgan)

We installed stoves in three school feeding programs and trained cooks and focal point people in installation and use of the stoves. In two of the schools, the cooks have been provided kerosene stoves which are problematic – they take three hours to boil water, and often don’t work at all if the kero is not really pure. In all instances they were thrilled by the stoves. In one demonstration a doctor was present, who left saying he’s going to figure out a way to get an autoclave here – he said every clinic in Ethiopia has “got to have one”

Tomorrow we travel to Dollo Ado where UNHCR has 140,000 Somali refugees in camps. Again we will install 22 stoves, train cooks, and train UN personnel in all of the above. The final field work will be in Shire in the extreme north, at Shimelba camp for Eritrean refugees.  

It’s a delight to work with UNHCR. They are a totally competent organization delivering massive support systems to 31 million people around the world and doing a great job of supporting refugees everywhere.  Our stoves arrived in perfect shape, and were carefully stored in the warehouse in Addis Ababa. Four truckloads have gone out to arrive in the camps before we do, and generally things have been very smooth.

                               Stoves in Addis Ababa (F. Colgan)
Fred

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Last Blog From Darfur

Last week we finished training150 cooks and program implementers  in school feeding programs at IDP (internally displaced persons) camps close to Nyala – Wednesday in Otash, Thursday in Deriege. That’s a total of 350 trained in North and South Darfur, and all will be helping get our stoves in service in 200 school sites. These two camps are representative of the 60 or so camps across Darfur that house about two million people - a third of the total population. Photography is generally prohibited, so I have taken some photos from Google Images to approximate what I’ve seen.  I have been allowed to photograph our work – as long as I “keep the focus very, very narrow” - so some images are mine.

Thursday’s was the most extensive camp tour – as our driver got lost and we spent quite a while squeezing our little convoy down narrow alleyways just scraping the sides of our vehicles. There is a bleak uniform sameness to the desperate living conditions in the camps.



                                        Standard camp housing. (from Google Images)
A few times we stopped the vehicles and I got out, and was immediately surrounded by kids. At one point I was face to face with about ten boys who looked to be five to nine years old – and as they gestured at me I realized they were all stone deaf. They were in bad shape, clearly not in school, dressed in pretty tattered clothes, and showing a lot of other ancillary birth defects.  Uncertain what to do I stuck out my hand, and these little guys all grinned at me and, one at a time, came up for a handshake. All the while they were chattering away in a sign language clearly of their own invention. I pointed to my hearing aids and gestured that I knew what it’s like. But I really didn’t. Not a clue. I just found myself filled with a deep sorrow over my helplessness, and the realization that these were just ten kids out of about 100,000 intensely poor and totally displaced people in these two camps.

Overall, this is a really complex culture, many of the displaced are highly educated, and literacy rates here are quite high by African standards. The people of Darfur have been uprooted from what looked like a normal society just a decade ago- before the horror of war. I have been struggling to understand the root causes of the conflict, and the recent history of Darfur, and must say I still have only a tiny understanding of what has happened and what is going on today. The politics are enormously complicated, and confusion and lack of clear leadership among various (forty or so) insurgent groups makes the current reality very hard to understand. The basic problems in Darfur have to do with competition for scarce resources, and those problems are a long ways from being resolved. In the meantime it is the mission of the various UN agencies on the ground here to provide immediate relief for the displaced, to encourage alternatives to resource gathering (firewood) as the main employment, and to provide peacekeeping forces to extend the uneasy truce of the moment.


                                       Another camp neighborhood (from Google Images)

What have been really wonderful are the associations with the people. I’ve been treated with great kindness and respect everywhere I’ve gone in Darfur. One of my classes was introduced by a minister of education – who told the cooks; “I want you to pay close attention to Mr. Fred, because I don’t want to have to tell your kids that you weren’t good students”. While everybody in the field is Muslim, nobody’s batted an eye at this funny-looking old white guy, and everybody tries out whatever English they’ve got on me. Greetings- “salaam” are usually accompanied by a gesture of the right hand over the heart and a very subtle bow of the head.
In the schools where we train the cooks there is a great crush of kids everywhere. These are large schools – I would guess on average 1500 students. When on break, the kids are right there – though many of the girls are shy. The boys all want to shake hands and many say “hello” or “how are you”.

To go to school in the camps, the parents must make a contribution. Either firewood (a stick a day) or equivalent time volunteered with the PTA is what it takes from the parents for kids to get to school. Many, many kids in the camps don’t go.
The kids who do go to school, however, are bright and shiny in clean uniforms and they are much, much healthier-looking than kids who don’t attend. WFP packs extra nutrition into school feeding program diets. All the kids get a meal that includes a super-fortified mix of wheat, vitamins, and essential minerals made into a kind of soup. The results are spectacular.



                                              Kids at Otash school (my photo)

We are so blessed to have this good work to do, and Darfur feels like we’ve hit the mark in our stated objective to bring our technologies to the “poorest of the poor”. Our project couldn’t be happening without a great team effort – Lise, Damon, Dennis, Jordan, Francesco and Frank, - and our terrific crew in the shop – Dave, J.D., Cory, Norm, and Tristan. Grateful thanks to all of you.

Fred

Monday, November 28, 2011

News From Darfur: November 24th, Thanksgiving Day, 2011


by Fred Colgan

There are three Darfur political regions – Northern, Southern and Western – covering an immense tract of land and containing a very complex political and social situation. For the moment, there’s relative stability after years of horrendous conflict. The landscape is very harsh, reminiscent of the deserts of Nevada and Arizona. Competition for scarce resources is intense and the recent conflicts have turned a large percentage of the population into nomads.  Firewood gathering is a major occupation, since most people prepare their meals on three-stone fires.  A large brickmaking industry, which fires brick kilns with wood, places additional demands on firewood supplies.


                                                     Firewood market in El Fasher

We arrived Monday in El Fasher, the capital of Northern Darfur. We will be here one week working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to arrange for the installation of 100 of our stoves. Next week we travel to Nyala, the capital of Southern Darfur, where we will repeat the exercise with 100 stoves for that region. All 200 stoves will be placed in school feeding programs associated with IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.

We are staying at a very secure WFP residential compound, with a wonderful group of people all dedicated to the work of serving the poor. We have a private room that is modest but surprisingly well put together, the compound is quite pleasant, and everybody here is incredibly friendly. The atmosphere feels like family. Truly an international community – I’ve met people here from eight or so African countries plus Australia, India, Canada, and Singapore. Most are WFP personnel, but some are contractors like me. 

Yesterday we assembled the first container of stoves and set them up for use. There were some repairs to be made, given that the container journey from Cottage Grove was six long months, the roads are not great, and the handling of the stoves on this end can be a little rough. One guy in the WFP warehouse told me “We didn’t know what these things were, and weren’t sure exactly what we were handling.”  Stoves will be distributed to schools starting next week along with food allotments, some of which will be traveling many days by truck.
                                                     Our stoves in UN warehouse in El Fasher

The heart of our consultancy here is training cooks in the use of 60 Liter Stoves. The success or failure of new cooking technologies hinges on the acceptance by the cooks. If they don’t love the stoves, they will not be used.

WFP has been making huge numbers of improved stoves in Darfur – 154,000 to date – for family use. The stove design they are using here is a hybrid sunken-pot model, made of clay with an iron grate. Individuals bring their own pots and come build a stove to fit that particular pot at a cost of about one dollar. Fuel savings (estimated at above 60%) pay for these stoves very quickly, and since the women make their own stoves, when the first one breaks or wears out (usually about a year), they can make a replacement easily. In this culture, WFP as part of the UN-sponsored “SAFE Initiative” is encouraging families to move away from firewood gathering as their principal economic activity, and return to their traditional ways of farming and animal husbandry. WFP is also initiating a large briquette-making operation, and building biogas systems in some schools. The work of Amit Singh, my WFP friend and new hero, is hugely visionary and showing spectacular results.

Yesterday we began classes teaching 180 cooks improved stove principles and the basics of 60 Liter Stove operation.  Today we conducted the first of two days of cooking demonstrations in a school with 197 participants and five stoves. These training groups are made up of cooks and UN “school feeding program focal point people.”  The focal point people will be introducing the stoves in rural schools. We prepared similar meals on our stove side-by-side with three stone fires to give visual demonstration of fuel savings. It was quite a challenge to use only five stoves with such a large group of trainees – picture, if you will, a “five-ring circus”! We will continue this hands-on training with the same group tomorrow.
                                    Class in Darfur

The results of today’s tests varied from 60-75% fuel savings. This was the first trial of the stoves, and we are only beginning to teach basic operations of our stove, focusing especially on fuel management. It is counter-intuitive for the cooks to use tiny amounts of wood, particularly after boiling has been achieved. We can extrapolate from results today that with practice, Darfur cooks will achieve fuel savings more consistent with our past experience, ranging from 75-90%.
                                    Teaching in Darfur

On Saturday we begin installations in schools in IDP camps.* I am not sure I am prepared for the reality of life in the camps. This is, however, the mission Damon and I set out on several years back – to bring our technology to serve the “poorest of the poor”.  With a lot of help and support along the way – first and foremost from our wives - we are beginning to realize our dreams and start impacting real lives.

Unfortunately photography here is generally illegal. This is a security state just post-conflict, and there are severe penalties for photography – from confiscation of cameras to arrest – so your correspondent will not be pushing the envelope to get images from the street or countryside back to you all. That said, we have been able to get permission to do some specific photography of our activities.

This is a grand opportunity to show off our stoves for WFP, and we are excited to have major field trials conducted by the UN. We believe our stove is a breakthrough technology with vast applications around the world, and we can only benefit from third-party testing and (we are confident) ultimate acceptance and embracing of our stoves by real cooks in real-world institutional feeding programs.

More news from Darfur as soon as possible, but internet access here is quite limited, so there are no guarantees of scheduled blog posts.

 My best to you all from sunny Darfur,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fred

*Note:  Fred was unable to go to the camps in the El Fasher area due to security issues, but will be going to camps in the southern area near Nyala. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

News From Nigeria

By Fred Colgan

A very quick six days in Nigeria will be over on Saturday.  We’re here working with ICEED – the International Centre for Environment and Economic Development – partners in the pilot project we did a year ago in a Nigerian school. ICEED is heading up the new Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and the trip here was intended to be at the launch of the Alliance. Events were cancelled due to some terror alerts in Abuja, freeing us up for a wonderful week of meetings with the ICEED team.
Wednesday we travelled to Bida, in Niger State, and made an unannounced visit to Bida Government Girls School where we installed three stoves a year ago. A surprise visit is the only way to truly gauge local uptake of a technology – because if they knew we were coming they would have prepared a demonstration  - and a party!

                                           Fred arriving at the Bida school

With some trepidation we came into the kitchen – to find them just finishing up a meal on the 60 Liter Stove! The cooks and administrators told us they love the stoves, have used them every day for a year, appreciate that they continue to use one-tenth of the fuel of the traditional fires, and that there are “No Problems.” I asked several times in several different ways. “No Problems.”
In a video interview, the head of the kitchen and vice principal went on to talk about health impacts on the cooks ( they all feel better ),  quick cooking times, working indoors with no smoke, and said they have become local celebrities because of the stoves. People have come from all over Niger State to see the stoves in action.

The conversations with ICEED have been about two initiatives: placing a stove testing and development center here, and bringing our “factory in a box” production concept to Nigeria. Both ideas are well along the discussion path, and we will be developing memoranda of understandings and contracts early in 2012 to move forward. ICEED has orders in hand for over 300 big stoves, and our initial production run will be 500 units – all to be made in Nigeria by Nigerians. The testing and design center will involve extensive trainings at Aprovecho, and again, we’re looking at 2012 as a launch date of this first activity of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. A most  productive week for Aprovecho and for the Institutional Stove Project and some very positive cementing of relationships with important Nigerian institutions.
We’re off to the airport to catch the redeye to Sudan – arrive Khartoum at 2AM Sunday. Next news will be from El Fasher  and Nyala in Darfur.   I’ll be in touch.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leaving Timor-Leste

By Fred Colgan
Nearing the end of my month of work in Timor-Leste, I went with a colleague for a short tourist drive around Dili. We ended up at the cemetery at Santa Cruz, where there was a massacre of 270 peaceful Timorese demonstrators by occupying Indonesian troops 20 years ago on this day (November 12th). Preparations were underway for a memorial service.

(photo F Colgan)

We met some of the people organizing the memorial, and had some remarkable and touching conversations. This is what our driver, Eduardo, told us.

“We Timorese are all connected to the generations that have come before. I’ll tell you my story: In 1999 I was fifteen years old and supported the independence movement by carrying messages to the activists. One day I was cornered by some Indonesian soldiers, realized my life was in danger, and ran away. A soldier shot me as I ran – a bullet went through my upper leg – but I knew if I stopped I would be killed, so I kept running as best I could. I came to a cemetery – not this one at Santa Cruz but another one - and hid behind some gravestones. I was bleeding pretty badly, and was weak from loss of blood, and passed out with one arm across part of a gravestone. I don’t know how long I was unconscious, but I awoke feeling the power of the spirits of our ancestors inside me. I was able to get up and continue moving away from the soldiers, and I know those spirits saved my life. I don’t know whose grave I was at – but that doesn’t matter. We Timorese are all connected.”

Eduardo pointed across the street to a very neat military cemetery for Indonesian soldiers.

We do not forget, but we do forgive. We would never disrespect those soldier’s graves, even though they treated us very badly.”

He went on:

“The Timorese way is to hold the spirits of those who have come before us - and those who are yet to come – in our hearts and in our heads at all times. Our families are the center of our lives.”

So I leave this small country, one of the newest democratic states on earth. The Timorese are incredibly poor in material wealth, face a host of very difficult problems to solve in their efforts to establish self-sufficiency (everthing here is imported!), there are no jobs and little opportunity for young people, and…… I leave touched by the grace of the human spirit, so evident everywhere I went.

Next: news from Nigeria.




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week Two in Timor-Leste

By Fred Colgan

It’s Saturday night here, and we just finished our round of controlled cooking tests – working with cooks using various stoves and measuring the gains made with improved technologies. We’re trying to zero in on a way forward for beginning a collaborative national stoves project, and the combination of testing and focus group conversations with cooks are the baseline information we need for good stove development. This bottom-up approach has been the Aprovecho way for decades. The best stoves in the world won’t solve any problems unless the cooks like them and use them. The world is littered with well-intentioned stoves that quickly became flower pots or were tossed on the trash heap because the cooks were not consulted in the design process.
This week we introduced a couple of rocket stoves – one from StoveTec  and one cheap metal rocket imported from Indonesia of a strange adapted design not seen at Apro – and we built a simple stove here at a metalworking shop - called the “Vita Stove” - based on a pioneering  design by Dr. Sam Baldwin – one of our gurus. All three designs were introduced to cooks in a rural village and in a middle-class neighborhood in Dili. Aside from the indigenous clay stove referred to in our previous blog, there have been almost no improved stoves in Timor-Leste.
(photo: f. colgan)

We did a series of cooking tests at the Roberto Americano fight school in Dili, located at the home of a relative of a Mercy Corps staff member. The boxing coach and his students stood by patiently while we finished up testing in their gym.

Additionally we introduced the 60 liter institutional stove, (which we carried here on the plane as excess baggage) to a school feeding program in a small rural village on the east side of the island.

(photo: f. colgan)

Anybody recognize this stove?? When we finished this rural school test, the cook asked “Can you please leave this stove here?” Unfortunately, we had to bring it back to Dili for further testing.
In a nutshell, the cooks love improved stoves, and especially love rocket stoves. They immediately notice that there is less smoke.  In our focus groups we find the women are all aware of the impacts smoke inhalation is having on them and their kids, and breathing less smoke is of tremendous value to them. I asked one cook about the impacts of smoke on her kids, and she said: “They cry.”
We’re working around the clock to write up our findings preparatory to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves conference here in Timor-Leste week after next. Our vision and dream is that from the conference a new type of coalition – of NGOs, government agencies, private sector businesses, and Timorese universities – will emerge to put a robust stoves development program together to design and build appropriate (and appropriately priced) stoves suited to local conditions. We are pioneering a new way forward here, and Aprovecho is in the fortunate position of technical advisors to the effort.
The conference is on the 9th and 10th of November, and we will be presenting field test results, analysis of potential stove designs which might find ready acceptance, and some suggestions for local production of super -efficient clean stoves. Stay tuned for more from East Timor.
(For my friends who asked for local color, scenery, and more stories – I apologize. You all know once I start talking about stoves all is lost. I’ll try for some variety in next posting.)

Here, however, is one of our clients….
(photo courtesy of my friend George Kvizhinadze)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

News From East Timor (Timor-Leste)





By Fred Colgan,
Director, Institutional Stove Project
Aprovecho Research Center
After a week here, there are a few stories. Since what we’re doing here all revolves around stoves, most of the stories are about stoves. A few are not. Anybody who knows a stover knows we do tend to talk a lot about stoves.
First, a little background. Timor-Leste is a former Portuguese colony abutting Indonesia near the north coast of Australia.  Recovering from a violent civil war, the country suffers from widespread poverty, destruction of 70% of its infrastructure, a high birth rate, and a struggling economy. There is some oil extraction wealth, but, as elsewhere, little trickles down to the people. Part of the initiative we are taking part in is about creating jobs and viable local businesses producing fuel efficient stoves for a country where 99% of the people cook on open fires.

The issues here are the same as in most of the developing world:  health impacts of smoke inhalation on women and kids, deforestation, global warming gasses from cooking fires, and economic development for poor people.  Aprovecho is taking part in an initiative of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to use Timor-Leste as a case study in stoves development. We are working directly with Mercy Corps. This is one of four countries around the world picked as models for creating clean cooking solutions. There is only one existing producer of improved stoves in the country. 
Which brings us to Story #1:



A single extended family in the outskirts of Dili – the capital city and population center of Timor-Leste – makes by hand and sells a clay cookstove of an unusual design that Aprovecho had not seen before. The patriarch of the family told us this story:  In 1941 occupying Japanese soldiers came to his grandfather, provided him with a design for a cookstove, and, at gunpoint, told him he would start producing stoves. Seventy years later the family is building the same identical stove. It takes about a day per person to make the stove which is housed in a crude can they make themselves, and hand-formed out of clay they dig from pits around their houses. As it’s now the dry season, they have to walk a couple of kilometers to get the 20 liters of water or so it takes to make a stove, so right now production is low. It’s just too much work.

When they have a pushcart of stoves dry (sundried, then fired once by building a fire in each stove), they head off to town and sell them. There is constant demand, and they sell as many as they can make for about ten dollars each. Many middle-class people in Dili use these stoves, and told us they save about 50% of firewood over the open fire.

Skeptical of such claims, we took three stoves to a village up the mountainside about ten kilometers out of town for testing, and ran a series of nine cooking tests with the clay stove against nine tests with open fires. Early results show an average of about 35% fuel savings; however, we believe with practice the gains could rise. The cooks had never seen improved stoves before and were happy with the reduction in smoke. This is actually a pretty good little stove!

Unfortunately, the stove is very fragile and cannot be transported long distances over the poor roads to the countryside – so helping this family ramp up production would be a difficult option for a national stove project.

Story #2:   Asked about his motivation, the family patriarch said, “I heard someone said once: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country’”.  Our astonished interpreter asked if he knew where that saying came from, and if his stove-building was patriotism. He said, “No, it just means you can’t count on the government for anything, and if you want to get something done you’ve got to do it yourself. I have no idea who said it.”

Story #3:   Up in the village in the highlands there was a small rain squall, and the sun broke through while it was still raining. One of the cooks told our interpreter “When the sun shines through the rain, it means some monkeys are getting married”. We’re all still scratching our heads over that one.

The village people live timelessly simple agricultural lives. There’s a state-supported school in the village, and most kids are learning to read and write, but after school they just carry on with their lives. There’s nothing to read. Most of the women never leave the village and never go to town.  Because of the high birthrate and the toll that the decades-long civil war has taken among mature Timorese, this is a very young population.  Elders are highly respected and rather rare.  I am probably one of the oldest men in Dili!  The other day I was out for my daily stroll when I crossed paths with an older gentleman.  We stopped, stared at each other for several seconds, and then just smiled – two members of an endangered species, honoring each other’s “elder-ness.” 

Without sounding hopelessly romantic, and recognizing that these folks are terribly poor, I heard more laughter and felt more joy in life in this little farming village than I generally see back home in our consumer society.

…Stay tuned. More to come.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What’s Cooking with the Institutional Stove Project?

Fred Colgan, Director of the Institutional Stove project, is in East Timor from 15 October – 12 November as part of an Aprovecho project with Mercy Corps and other NGOs.  Focused on exploring the possibilities of establishing stove production facilities -- including the Institutional Stove “factory-in-a-box” – the project is also looking into setting up a regional stove testing and development center in East Timor, the world’s youngest democracy.  More exciting still is East Timor’s selection by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves  (GACC) as one of just four countries worldwide to serve as a model country in stove development.  Aprovecho will be a key participant in that conference, which will generate a lot of buzz in the stover community.

Nigeria is next on our itinerary (November 13-19).  There, the ISP will be revisiting and evaluating three institutional stoves installed last year at Bida Government Girl’s School in Niger State.  Here too prospects are promising for setting up a stove factory.  We will be onsite to attend the launch of the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, another of the four countries selected by the GACC to model improved cookstove development. One of our 60-liter stoves will be on hand at the opening ceremonies to demonstrate just how clean and efficient a stove can be! 

From Nigeria, it’s off to Darfur, where 200 institutional stoves were built and shipped as part of a World Food Program project earlier this year.  We will be supervising installations of the stoves in 100 schools, teaching cooks how to use the stoves, field testing, and teaching UN personnel all of the above.

To close out a busy year, the ISP will be traveling to Ethiopia, where 60 institutional stoves were purchased by the another United Nations refugee agency.  These stoves will go to refugee camps primarily serving famine-driven Somalis.

In January we travel to Kenya to demonstrate institutional stoves and our autoclave sterilizer to Catholic Relief Services, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and other international organizations. The former pastor and members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic parish in Cottage Grove have made this project possible through their generous donations of more than $4500! 

Coming up next:  a first look at Timor Leste (“Where on earth is Timor Leste?”)