Bringing 5 Million Rocket Stoves To Women Worldwide: The Paradigm Project

Image: The Paradigm Project

It may sound unbelievable but it's true: smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire kills 1.6 million adults and children yearly. Not only that, in Africa, for example, women walk up to 15 miles each trip to find wood for cooking, often carrying loads of 40 to 60 pounds under extreme conditions, plus deforesting already strained environments.

To tackle this simple but vital issue, The Paradigm Project is on a mission to distribute over 5 million fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning rocket stoves to women all over the world. But you can't imagine such a situation unless it is seen with your own eyes, and perhaps walked in your own shoes, as two of the project ambassadors show in a short film where they cook (and cry) in a smoky hut in Kenya:

Episode 2: Cooking & Crying from The Paradigm Project on Vimeo.

According to statistics, almost 3 billion people around the world still use wood in open fires to cook, leading to rampant deforestation, respiratory disease (like asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer, bronchitis) and worsening poverty. The figures from WHO are stark:

1in 2 of us have to walk over 10 miles and spend over 30 hours a week to collect wood, spend up to 35% of our income on purchasing fuel, expose ourselves to harm and smoke the equivalent of 40 cigarettes a day according to the World Health Organization (WHO) just to cook.

But, as project ambassador and "Stoveman" Greg states, "There's a solution to this problem and it's not rocket science, but it is a rocket stove."

The project is working with local businesses, relief and development organizations in a number of countries, like Kenya, Haiti, Guatemala to distribute rocket stoves, with their sights set on Ethiopia, Mozambique and Congo in the next few years. Their business model can be seen here.

In Kenya, where they've already distributed thousands of Jiko Poa rocket stoves, which is is not an import but made in Kenya. It features "an abrasion and thermal shock resistant ceramic liner surrounded by a precision cut, sheet metal cladding, [demonstrating] a ~43% fuel savings as compared to an open fire." It also equates to "US $280 in savings, 33 trees saved, plus 1,300 hours of time saved and a smoke reduction of 60%, stopping 7.5 metric tons of CO2 emissions from reaching our environment."

How to get involved?

You can either fund a rocket stove, or you can take part in the Paradigm Project's 2011 Woodwalk, where participants will be walking 136 miles from San Diego to Los Angeles from October 4 - 13. At the end of the trek, walkers will construct an "African cooking experience" using a traditional Kenyan hut -- which they'll also be cooking in along the way. If your walking legs fail you, you can still sponsor a team or purchase a shirt.

In the meantime, it doesn't mean you couldn't look into building one of your own rocket stove, or even a bigger rocket mass stove heater -- great for cooking and heating spaces.

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