In the heart of Ethiopia, women and girls walk to find wood to fire their stoves and cook for their families. Many of them risk their safety to collect firewood to bake traditional injera, the country’s staple carbohydrate. They are exposed to harmful smoke while cooking, and inefficient cook stoves and fuels lead to household air related health problems (emphysema, cataracts, cancer, heart disease, etc.) and economic burdens that disproportionately impact women and girls. In Ethiopia, 85% of rural kitchens are using wood-fired stoves, and household air pollution is the cause of over 45,000 deaths annually (21,000 of which are children). Getu Alemayehu, owner of GM Clean Energy PLC (GM) wants to change this with the production of biogas-fired injera cookstoves.
Most Ethiopian family energy needs are met from the burning of biomass products, which include charcoal, wood and animal dung. As an alternative to this, the government has made it a focus to develop Ethiopia’s biogas sector. Biogas digestion is a process by which organic waste such as animal and human waste is placed in an airtight chamber to undergo an anaerobic reaction, producing a gas which can be piped into homes and burned for cooking and lighting. The technology has been successful in increasing access to modern, sustainable lighting in remote households of Ethiopia, but has been hampered by the lack of an appropriate technology to use biogas to evenly bake injera.
That's where USADF comes in, to support entrepreneurs who are piloting programs to solve development challenges. USADF awarded a $100,000 Off-Grid Energy Challenge grant to GM to scale up production of its biogas-fired injera cookers; advancing innovative clean energy solutions, and food security and nutrition in one fell swoop. GM will ramp up production of these cook stoves at a cost of 2000 birr or 95 dollars each.
With these cookstoves, most families will reduce time and money expenditures. In addition to preserving the environment and creating healthier areas for cooking, biogas stoves will save families upward of 200-300 birr (9-14 dollars) a month. With the help of USADF, GM has also leveraged financial and technical support to build their business operations, increase production and test different types of materials to reduce price while maintaining the integrity of the technology. By the end of 2016, 50-80 cookstoves will have replaced traditional wood-fired stoves in 50-80 households.
By investing in biogas technology for cooking, USADF is supporting African-solutions and entrepreneurship. GM’s biogas injera cookstoves will ease the burden and risk of firewood collection for women, support the mass production of a staple carbohydrate, and preserve the environment. This is a prime example of how supporting African entrepreneurship and ingenuity can be a centerpiece in solving long-standing development challenges.