In a busy market in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, a group of women gather to cook. While the dishes they prepare are traditional, the brightly coloured stoves they cook on are new.
The locally made Ugastove, which requires on average half the amount of charcoal of traditional cookers, saves money in reduced fuel costs, cuts carbon emissions and reduces deforestation.
Ugastove’s special ingredient is an insulating clay liner placed inside the traditional metal stove which reduces the need for charcoal. To date, 250,000 units have been sold.
“Business is booming,” says Ugastove chief executive officer Rehema Nakyazze. “In Uganda we don’t have any other options. Fine, there is electricity and gas but the cheapest means of cooking is charcoal.”
Indeed, in Uganda over 90 percent of the population still cook on open fires using charcoal or wood. In the last 20 years alone, this has contributed to almost one-third of the country’s trees being cut down.
In order to meet the demand for charcoal, unregulated producers are cutting into forests so fast that, at current rates of deforestation, the Ugandan Environment Management Agency predicts that there will be no forests left by 2050.
To make the $26 stoves more affordable, Ugastove bosses have secured a subsidy so that they can be sold for just $8 – three times less than the original price.
Under the scheme, the non-profit organisation Impact Carbon calculates the reduced carbon emissions from using Ugastoves compared with traditional stoves and sells the ‘carbon credits’ to organisations and individuals from across the world who want to offset their own carbon emissions. This money is then used to subsidise the cost of the stoves.
According to Impact Carbon’s calculations, the Ugastoves have reduced the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere by a million tonnes.
The environmental benefits of using efficient stoves is a central part of Ugastove’s message.
“Yes, business is business,” admits Rehema, “but at the end of the day we also have to think about the environment.”
In this earthrise special, Russell Beard travels to Kampala to see how the Ugastove is helping Ugandans cook – and think – differently.