Uganda: Farmer profits by making fuel-efficient cookstoves

| November 14, 2014

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Felix Ogwal has farmed all his life. But the thirty-eight-year-old’s efforts were not paying off. He found it difficult to provide for his family’s daily needs. Mr. Ogwal spent a lot of time thinking about how to find an alternative source of income to supplement his earnings from farming.

So he was delighted to attend a training workshop in 2010 on how to construct cooking stoves. The German NGO, GIZ, ran a workshop in which farmers from Aduku sub-county in Apac district in northern Uganda learned how to make stoves from locally available materials.claystove

Traditionally, most rural Ugandan families use a three-stone stove fuelled by firewood, a previously common resource. But firewood has become scarce as forests are cut back. Charcoal is now expensive, with the price of a sack increasing to around $11 U.S. in urban areas and $4 in the countryside. For many families, this is barely affordable.

When he returned home after the workshop, Mr. Ogwal realized that he could make more money if he built stoves that used charcoal efficiently. He knew that many residents of Lira and other nearby towns used charcoal stoves, but he saw a weakness in their general design. Most of the stoves he examined were made of metal and iron sheets. He uses clay to build his stoves, a material which better preserves the heat from burning charcoal, which saves money and time. He targeted city dwellers with his new stove.

Another advantage of Mr. Ogwal’s stove is that it can be made easily with locally available materials. He explains: “Clay soil is the most important material needed for the stove. Clay soil is prepared with [an] adequate amount of water before the building of the stoves starts.”

After the clay is fashioned into the correct shape, the stove is dried over the flames and then fired so that it hardens and becomes less fragile. Then Mr. Ogwal plates the clay oven with iron sheeting and takes the finished product to the market for sale. He says, “The stove can be made only of clay, or can be covered with iron to improve [its] durability.”

Walter Ojok is one of Mr. Ogwal’s happy customers. He says the new stove saves him quite a bit of the little money he earns. Mr. Ojok explains, “When using this stove, [$1 U.S.] of charcoal can cook meals for two days.”

Karsten Bechtel is an expert with the Department of Bioenergy at Makerere University in Kampala. He says, “Energy-saving stoves reduce smoke by 70 per cent and increase speed of cooking by 50 per cent.” He adds that the smoke produced by the traditional three-stone stove can lead to respiratory diseases.

Mr. Ogwal is convinced that farmers should adopt his kind of stove to save money on charcoal. He sells his stoves for only 6,000 Ugandan shillings [$2.25 U.S.], much less that the commercially-produced stoves available in the market, which cost up to $7 U.S.

Building and selling the stoves has improved the standard of living for Mr. Ogwal’s family. He says: “I earn on average about $80 U.S. per month. This has helped me to feed my family and pay school fees for my children.”