The Super Stove: An Awnser to Environmental, Economical, and Health Issues in the Developing World

Like many Americans, the last time I cooked over a fire I was outside and cooking marshmallows for smores. Unfortunately 2.5 billion people worldwide depend on indoor fires fueled with wood, coal, or charcoal to cook their meals. Biomass fuel consumption by the rural poor accounts for approximately ¼ of global CO2 emissions.These fires are not only bad for the environment (deforestation, co2 and methane emissions) and  but they also pose serious health risks.

In many parts of the world the burden of taking care of the fire is the women’s responsibility. Collecting wood (sometimes taking greater than 30 hours a week), and maintaining the fire can be extremely time consuming and dangerous. In one part of Kenya, women often walk 10 or more miles to gather wood in areas that put them at risk for attack or capture. When the women return they are then put at risk for respiratory illness and burns.


Unfortunately 2.5 billion people worldwide depend on indoor fires fueled with wood, coal, or charcoal to cook their meals.

Unfortunately 2.5 billion people worldwide depend on indoor fires fueled with wood, coal, or charcoal to cook their meals.

According to estimates by the World Health Organization more than 1.6 million people die a year from respiratory disease relating to indoor cooking smoke, most of them women and children. Indoor air pollution is also a risk factor for chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and possibly lung cancer. The reliance on biofuels like charcoal and wood for open fires is extremely inefficient and expensive (families can spend over 35% of their annual income), yet those who are poor do not have the resources to obtain cleaner or more efficient resources. Fortunately, in September 2010, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was formed.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private initiative to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combats climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The alliance includes a range of partners including country governments (including the United States), distributors, environmental and sustainability focused organizations, and innovators. The alliances current goal is to have 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient stoves/fuels by 2020.

BURN Design Lab is one of many innovative partners designing and producing efficient and affordable stoves. BURN Design Lab currently has projects in Kenya, Haiti, and the Democratic Congo. Though the organization is based out of Washington, the majority of the stoves are built in factories within the country of distribution.Each project’s stove is different and designed to best fit the cuisine and resources in available in the region. For example their stove designed for use in South America has a metal plate for cooking quesadillas and meat.

Though BURN Design Lab did not eliminate use of biomass fuels, it greatly reduces the amount needed to create the heat needed to cook. Most of the products reduce fuel consumption by 30 to 50%, which is a start. Added incentive is that after the cost of the stove, which is around $25 dollars, the owner can still save $150 a year on fuel costs.

Hopefully in the future stove usage among the poor will be widespread and the risks of indoor fires will be a thing of the past.Until then, engineers need to continue designing cheap and efficient stoves.

Indoor Cooking Fire via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

  • Kyambadde Edwards
    May 24th, 2012 at 02:33 | #1

    That’s really nice,and I hope one time you also get a branch in Uganda, not far from Kenya, but add an impact to our little efforts here, we have developed Energy saving stoves that are geared towards reducing on the amount of wood/charcoal consumed by the ordinary stoves.

    Thank you so much for your innovation and together we can tackle poverty and climatic change.


  • Tichawanda Chakurira
    May 24th, 2012 at 04:58 | #2


    We ahve serious energy crisis in Zimbabwe after a decade of economic meltdown,mismanagement and corruption in the country. I have been researching about a stove that can save wood as million and millions of Zimbabwe both in urban and rural relay on wood for fuel energy.
    I want to introcude your product in Zimbabwe. how can i go about it

  • May 28th, 2012 at 13:32 | #3

    @Tichawanda Chakurira

    Thank you for responding to my article. Unfortunately, I am not involved in any of the products mentioned in the article. I just used BURN Lab Designs as an example, there are other organizations making similar products for other countries. I would suggest you try to contact “The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves” and they will be better able to direct you to a stove program that best fits your/Zimbabwe’s needs.
    You can find their contact information for “The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves” here: http://cleancookstoves.org/about-us/contact/
    I hope you find my advice useful. -Maddie

  • May 28th, 2012 at 14:53 | #4

    I would also suggest you check out this article from Matter Network’s Sustainability blog which highlights 5 additional organizations dedicated to bringing cleaner cooking technology to the developing world.

  • Wildlife Alliance
    Jun 21st, 2012 at 09:49 | #5

    Hi, this is great innovation. Since you take a keen interest in helping with environmental problems, I want to tell you about the free Wildlife Watch app we at Wildlife Alliance created to catalogue Southeast Asian animal and plant species. It showcases what endangered wildlife are most frequently traded as, which are most threatened, and how to pick them out by their unique features. It also features a built-in system for reporting illegal handling of animals directly to Wildlife Alliance. If you’re interested, please help us get the word out. You can download the iPhone app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wildlife-watch/id518454388?mt=8

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