Stoves (and Setting an Example)

By , July 30, 2007 7:16 pm

I recently wrote a post about a child who decided to take it upon herself to solve a problem and make a difference in the world. See my post: Involved Kids . In this post, I mention how much easier it seems for children and young people to take action when they sense a need. Adults are often too caught up in the complexities of life to bother.

It was with thoughts of this recently written post fresh in my mind, that I came upon this article in Newsweek magazine: The Flames of Hope (Newsweek, July 16, 2007) about a Berkeley physicist who has invented a stove to be used in Darfur that burns 75% less firewood. This seems unremarkable, but when you consider the unimaginable price women pay to leave their camp to simply collect cookstove firewood in Darfur (rape, mutilation, 7 hours of travel – men can’t go for they would simply be killed), it is a huge asset.

Apparently physicist Ashok Gadgil received a call in 2004 from the U.S. Agency for International Development asking if he could design a press for turning the Darfurians trash into fuel pellets. Gadgil determined that this was not a feasible plan, but rather than give up and carry on with his affairs, he continued to consider the fuel problem. He eventually realized that instead of redesigning the fuel, he could re-engineer the stove. So he did.

The result is an efficient stove that produces the high heat necessary for cooking the Darfurian staple diet of onions, garlic, and okra, resists the strong local winds, and requires 75% less fuel. This of course means fewer risky foraging expeditions and less negative environmental impact from wood harvesting.

The plan is for the stoves to be built locally and rented by the refugees. Obviously this means that money is needed to develop workshops, buy tools, provide training, and purchase inventory for the manufacture of the stoves. If you want to learn more, the project’s website is: Darfur Stoves Project. By the way, just $20 will provide a stove for a Darfur family.

Obviously the ideal solution would be to end the horrible situation in Darfur. But in the meantime, this project seems that it could at least help improve the refugees’ living conditions to some small extent.

I find people like Mr. Gadgil and 14 year-old Savannah Walters to be truly inspirational. As one of my commenters on the Involved Kids post said about her young daughter:

“So far, I’ve decided the best way for her to learn is by example, and I need to do a better job of that.” – Jenny, of Wildwood Cottage

Well, so do I Jenny. Perhaps my blog can be a motivating force for me in my efforts to overcome inertia and do what I know is right: set a good example for my children by volunteering to help others. Unfortunately I can’t single-handedly “Save Darfur,” but hopefully I can instill in my children a conscience and a desire to do good in the world. If everyone on this planet simply did that, then perhaps another Darfur would be less likely to occur.

(The June 2007 Oprah Magazine also featured a small article about the project: Fueling Hope.)

Thanks to and photographer Mike Reid.

3 Responses to “Stoves (and Setting an Example)”

  1. Gattina says:

    I get the impression that the world moves at least a little bit for Dafur drama, but far too late. On the other hand it’s better to move late than don’t move at all. I am sure that if it was white people the whole world would stand upside down !
    Yes Rosie is becoming a teenager ! she doubled volume ! We also never had such an affectionated and tender cat.

  2. Jenny says:

    What a wonderful post- thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. I’m afraid I lead a rather insulated life, so I missed the articles in Newsweek and Oprah. I’m familiar with the ongoing tragedy in Darfur, but when I read your post and realized that something as simple as a stove (something I certainly used to take for granted) would make a dramatic difference in the refugees’ lives, I knew I had to make a donation and do what little I can to help. Thanks again for the post and for helping me to start to overcome my own inertia.

  3. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thank you for your comments. It occurs to me that this is a great example of how “thinking outside the box” is so important!

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