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Stove Revolution in Chitete

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Emas Potolani

In June this year, I embarked on a project to empower the women of my community in a socioeconomic development endeavor hoping to transform as many lives of the women as possible. This was to be done particularly through empowering the women themselves to develop and attain skills that they would use to make a living as they also contributed to saving and preserving the environment around them. This is where the Integrated Women Empowerment Through Improved-Stove Production concept and initiative was born. Through this IWET project, I embarked on a journey to challenge myself to train and teach women in my community how they can produce Improved Stoves locally known as Chitetezo Mbaula. I must confess that before starting this initiative, I had never made even a single Stove in my life before, yes; this was the very first time in my entire life. And to add to that, I never sat in any class or under some teaching how to make Stoves, I invested time in reading around diverse manuals from the Internet.

When I was convinced that I was ready and prepared, I requested the chief for a community meeting that was conducted in May 2016, during which I made a call to all women interested to learn to make these Improved Stoves.  Despite over 30 women showing their candid interest in joining this initiative from the start, only four women actually attended the first meeting. This gave me joy, at least I knew I wasn’t gonna be alone. We went ahead to lobby for more women to join us resulting to the formation of a 10 member women’s group which I have been working since June this year.  I wrote about how we made our first prototypes for both types of the Improved Stoves and if you may need to follow properly, you may consider reading previous posts on this blog.

Months later after making our first prototype and making sure that every woman in our group is familiar with the Stove Production, I can smile and pat myself at the back for a job well done. When I move around my community and see women cooking using these stoves, I smile, I get excited because I know we are making an impact together, that slowly we are saving trees and conserving our environment. Today, the 10 member women’s group is busy training other women and teaching them how they can make Stoves in their kitchens thereby broadening the knowledge base whilst increasing the impact. Without being paid anything at all, the women are willingly and voluntarily doing this.
The women are also still producing the movable Stoves and selling within the village and at a nearby market place at a lower price. The women have proved to be great change agents and through their selflessness, they are helping to preserve the environment in their own community as they also develop their lives and families socioeconomically.

It is very interesting that many households prefer the Improved Stoves more than the Traditional 3 Stone cooking system which people have been familiar with ever since. Indeed these Stoves have lots of benefits in the kitchen before we even start speaking of the numerous environmental ones. Women are using less wood in preparing food for their families and they are now able to cook in a clean environment without being intimidated by the choking smoke in the kitchen or worried about fire accidents which would result into fire burns among children like it used to be the case before.

This is a Stove Revolution, which is slowly invading my community for the greater good. I am so much assured that even after I am gone, the women will continue to share knowledge in making the Stationed Stoves with fellow women, which is all about sustainability. As I conclude, I would like to end with a quote from Mitzi Miller who said and I quote; “Progress doesn’t happen all at once; it’s a slow grind. But a commitment to serving as an agent of positive change will bring us closer one step closer.”  I am so sure that the seed of change planted in my community through my year long service will soon push it to progress to the next level. I am so convinced that the Stove revolution will end up reducing the devastating effects of deforestation in this community and that in a few years to come, it will be a different song. Truly, we can change our world one step at a time, one village at a time, one household at a time leading to a lifelong progress as we redefine development.

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