Promoting cleaner cookstoves amongst the urban poor

Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

For the past year the SA SDI Alliance embarked on a journey to promote clean cooking stoves using
biomass fuels with the aim of improving access to clean, efficient, safe, and cost-effective energy
technologies that address the wide-ranging manifestations of energy poverty amongst the urban
poor. In this pursuit the  SA SDI Alliance collaborated with a private sector social enterprise – clean cooking revolution – with expertise in entrepreneurship and distribution. The SA SDI alliance procured improved cook stoves and formulated a distribution model which aimed to blend the expertise and capability of the social entrepreneur with the strength of the organised communities. The project aimed to be sustainable in its broadest sense, delivering learnings and set precedence for community delivery and ideally demonstrate the ability to recover costs or generate income.

The main Objectives of the program are:

 To contribute to reduction of exposure to indoor air pollution: reduced indoor air pollution
from paraffin, charcoal and wood to use clean energy source. The health effects associated
with exposure to indoor air pollution also have economic implications due to huge
expenditures in the health sector particularly for women and children.

 Reduced costs for access to energy: poor households use a subsistent amount of money on
fuel for heating, cooking and lighting. The cook stoves serve a dual purpose; heating and
cooking which can result to cost saving. The biomass pellets also provide a cheaper fuel

 Promote safety to reduce shack fires – shack fires are amongst common vulnerabilities for
the urban poor in South Africa. They normally destroy property and take lives. The cause of
shack fires range from a number of reasons such as the use of paraffin stoves, open fires and
illegal electricity connections . Gas is usually considered a cleaner source of energy but
during focus group discussions with federation members their experience of gas is that
during shack fires they explode and spread the fire much quicker.

Genesis of the project in Cape Town and distribution model

The program started after a group of FEDUP members at the Central Network (central network involves savings groups from Philipi and Gugulethu, Cape Town) decided to meet to understand their energy needs. Heating was regarded an essential element to the program as most shack fires happen during winter and poor people incur excessive costs in winter from heating their shacks because they are mostly not insulated from the harsh weather conditions. An energy committee was then formed to coordinate the project and formulate a distribution model. The energy committee consists of members of the SA SDI Alliance – the majority being ISN and FEDUP members. 

The distribution model consisted of training 10 sales agents with an opportunity to make an income
through the sales. The distribution of the stoves started on the 1 st of November 2017 in partnership
with clean cooking revolution with a target of distributing 600 stoves. The distribution in Cape Town accelerated when the winter cold started, with sales agents selling in various settlements. The agents were supported by clean cooking revolution to make demonstrations in the settlements to potential buyers. The distribution was tested in various areas in the North West and Gauteng provinces. However, this meant that access to fuel and transportation needed to be considered because the density of the households was much lower than in cape town.

Learning exchanges

A number of learning exchanges happened at local and national level to support the project. Through
the savings network meetings the sales agents shared their knowledge.The presentation of the clean energy stove in the other regions was done in the network meetings where a team from the energy justice committee in Cape Town presented the program. The federation members learnt
more about the technology through demonstrations and they tested the stoves by cooking with them. The latter took shape in the form of community organised cook-a thons.

• Cook- a-thons in central network meeting, Oukasi network in North west and Long lands in Stellenbosch. The aim of the cooking demonstrations were to showcase the practical use of
the stove and its efficiency. The members were given a time limit to cook food that is
traditionally cooked in the south African context.

• Learning exchange between the Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa federations. These three
countries very different contexts regarding the use of traditional cook stoves and fuels.
Improvements in health can be a result of a reduction in indoor / outdoor air pollution,
reduction in household fires, or reduced carcinogens in fish after being preserved by


The SA SDI Alliance together with Clean cooking revolution have distributed cook stoves in Cape Town and parts of North West and Gauteng. Additional there is a growing demand from other FEDUP regions to implement the project in their regions. This is because the project does not only contribute in reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, costs for access to energy, safety and reduced shack fires. But it also contributes to quick income opportunity for sales agents. SA SDI Alliance is currently in the process of setting up a memorandum of agreement with Clean cooking revolution with clear roles and responsibilities so that is can be easy to expand the project. Both partners are working on developing nation wide distribution model that will considered context specific challenges of other regions. This will also encompass a strategy on how people will access fuel because currently the federation is reliant on the available stock that was supplied by CCR. The challenge is that CCR keeps stock in Cape Town and it will cost a lot of money to transport fuel to other provinces.

, , , , ,

© South African SDI Alliance 2012 - 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Sitemap