Every day in Darfur refugee camps, women leave to travel on six to seven hour missions to collect fuel wood for their meals, and every day these women increase their risk of violent attack. When Ashok Gadgil, a physicist at Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory, visited Darfur to observe how families were cooking their meals and foraging for wood, he launched a project with Ken Chow through Engineers Without Borders to contribute to solving this problem. The Darfur stove is a ten pound metal stove which requires only one quarter of the amount of firewood used in a traditional cooking fire, and is also more cost effective than firewood cooking.
The Darfur Stove is considered an appropriate technology, or “approtech,” a technology designed with special consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social and economical aspects of the community for which it is intended. Before designing and engineering the stove, the Darfur Stoves team looked at the cooking styles of the refugees, the pots used, the food cooked, and other parts of the food-making experience. Only then was a prototype built, tested, and modified again. Appro-tech is a method that stands in stark contrast to the more common occurrence of developed world technology implemented to solve developing world issues, without careful understanding of local cultural, ethical, social, and environmental impacts.
The project recently announced an assembly facility in El Fasher, the capital of Darfur, in partnership with Oxfam America and the Sudanese organization Sustainable Action Group. The stoves, designed in California, are manufactured in Mumbai, India, and shipped flat-pack style for assembly in Darfur, Sudan, where the facility provides an income for assembly workers. The facility will go further to solve a large scale problem: over two million people live in camps in western Sudan, supplied with food aid by NGOs and other aid organizations, but not with the fuel to cook their meals.
The Darfur Stoves Project also has implications beyond Darfur, where black carbon smoke from rudimentary cooking fires , deforestation, and poor indoor air quality. Over half of the world's population uses rudimentary cooking stoves that impact their health, and the environment. Aid organizations and social entrepreneurs are learning how similar technology can be applied in other regions around the world.
This holiday season, give the gift of technology – to Darfur Stove’s parent organization, Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies (TISS), or donate through a partner organization such as The Hunger Site.