giving back

Africa: How Cook Stoves Are Making a Difference in Malawi

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As parents, we all want what is best for our children. Part of being a parent is protecting our children and making sure they live in a healthy environment. I recently traveled to Malawi, Africa where the country is increasing efforts to not only provide life saving pneumonia vaccines, but educate and teach the Malawian people how to take extra precautions that will help them be healthy.

There are many reasons why people get pneumonia. A compromised immune system, inadequate nutrition, poor hygiene, and indoor air pollution. I would like to talk about indoor pollution. On my trip, we were able to visit a rural village outside of Blantyre. Most people in Africa cook and prepare their food in an indoor cooking structure. It is common for the walls of the cook rooms to be black with soot. Women cook with coal and wood. You can only imagine how much smoke these woman inhale every day while they prepare meals for their families. Not only are the women affected by this pollution, but the children also are more vulnerable to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

In the village we visited, the Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency, supported by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves led by the UN Foundation, is helping educate and teach women how to make, use, and sell clean cookstoves. By using these stoves, they are hoping it will help the environment and be a solution to save lives and empower women.

How to Make a Cookstove

First the women collect mud. They spend a lot of time working the mud with their feet to make sure it is free of rocks, sticks and debris. This can take several hours. Once the mud has been worked over, it is put in a sealed bag to cure for a week.

The clay is then put into a cookstove mold. The women use special tools to make sure that every part of the stove is perfectly measured. Once the stove has been created, it is ready to be cured in a kiln.

Each woman puts the date and her initials on the bottom of her stove. The kiln is able to bake several stoves at once. If the stove has any defect or problem, it will break during the curing phase.


The woman that showed us how to make the stoves is in charge of training other women how to do it too. The women can sell enough stoves in one year to build their own home. The picture above is a home that was built from selling 100 clean cookstoves.

Not only were the stoves reducing pollution, but they are also a way to improve trade and develop a robust clean cookstove industry.

We asked the other women in the village what their dreams and goals were. They wanted to sell enough stoves to have their own homes.

I loved how the clean cookstove program is set up. One woman is trained on how to make a quality stove, then she is responsible for giving back by teaching other woman how to make them. By selling these cookstoves, the women in Africa are not only providing for their families, but improving health and safety for everyone in their community.

What is being done in your community to help strengthen and build your neighbors?

Photo Credit: Matthew Feldman, Research Associate for IVAC

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.






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