Last year our solar volunteer Bruce helped us introduce solar lighting to the village. He also was instrumental in trying to get the balzingtubesolarappliance to run in Madagascar. Having decades of experience in installing photovoltaic solar units in California, Bruce’s expertise was a godsend for us, but the innovative solar cooker did not work as well as we had hoped.
After spending a few weeks living in our two villages and participating in daily life, he gained the insight that improving wood burning cooks stoves is the most immediate and beneficial technology. He dedicated the last year to learn as much about cook stoves he subsequently field-tested his ideas and models in California, Laos and Thailand before traveling to Madagascar.
Cooking fires are burning in Madagascar in virtually every household. If we could improve the efficiency of these cooking fires by only 50% we would cut the need for wood in half, with reduced carbon emission as an additional benefit.
The pictures of the rocket stove type cookers (an elaborate and much tested design by Aprovecho Research Center) donated to Zahana by Bruce are hand made in Madagascar. They are not very costly to make and can be replicated in a cottage industry setting. As with all technologies, Bruce is currently working on making it even more efficient to increase oxygen flow. The two models donated to zahana are currently being used in the school to cook the soup for the student and out teacher said: “Normally we need 5 to 6 pieces of wood to cook rice, with this new cooker we need all but one. Although it is hard to light a fire”. Even more exacting for us is that we can use more and more, the dead branches from the acacia trees we planted in the school-yard instead of collecting firewood outside.
After our experiences trying to introduce the shiny and rather big blazingtubesolar, still the most efficient solar cooking currently available, it turned out to be in Malagasy eyes too high tech and complicated. It uses vacuum tubes and oil and looks very different (see website). We learned our lesson that technological leap froging did not work too well for us and we are now going back to basics, with a low-tech solar box cooker model. We are initiating to partner with a Swiss NGO that manufactures it in Madagascar, but they are a long way away from our project site in the other end of the island.
We hope that a really efficient rocket stove can get everybody excited to adopt a cultural change, since its pay back is immediately felt, once they see how little wood is needed (more about wood stoves on our website). Combining this innovative wood-burning stove we hope people will gave both technologies a chance to be tried and hopefully be adopted and save even more wood in the process.
Ihanta, Jeannette and Markus
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