Stove Solutions: Supporting Distribution Networks and Sales Agents of Clean Cookstoves in Darfur

Stove Solutions: Supporting Distribution Networks and Sales Agents of Clean Cookstoves in Darfur

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Darfur Stoves Project envisions a world where cooking doesn’t kill. We aim to create a market-based distribution network for fuel-efficient cookstoves that will improve lives and create long-term jobs and economic opportunities in Darfur and beyond.

We have provided nearly 20,000 fuel-efficient cookstoves to women in Darfur – mostly free of charge. We are now transitioning from a humanitarian relief-influenced “aid” model, to a sustainable, market-based approach that will create economic opportunities for Darfuri women. We will sell the stoves on consignment to Women’s Development Associations (WDAs) and train WDA members in savings and social marketing, enabling them to become “stove evangelists” who will promote the financial and safety benefits of cooking with improved stoves.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Darfur, conflict has claimed the lives of at least 300,000 people and created almost three million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the region, most of whom have taken refuge in displacement camps. Families in IDP camps receive food aid and cooking oil from humanitarian aid organizations; however, they are still responsible for gathering firewood for cooking. Because of the desert-like terrain and the large populations in the IDP camps, wood is scarce. The burden of collecting firewood falls almost entirely on Darfur’s women and girls. Females in the IDP camps must walk up to seven hours to find a single shrub. During these treks outside the camps, women are often assaulted. They can also suffer from dehydration or permanent neck injuries from consistently carrying 15-30 kg loads of firewood for miles and miles a day. They degrade the environment in the process, threatening their long term food security and exacerbating tensions with local populations. Once they get the firewood back to their homes, they and their children are at risk of respiratory infections caused by indoor air pollution In many parts of Darfur, especially in the North, areas around the camps have become so denuded that it is extremely difficult to find biomass for fuel within a day’s walking distance. In these areas, women now mostly purchase firewood from vendors who transport it to the camps and towns on trucks. Our 2010 survey in the North Darfur camp of Zamzam showed that 78% of women exclusively purchase their firewood, 20% exclusively collect it, and 2% use a combination strategy of collecting and purchasing. A full 100% of firewood purchasers reported having to trade some of their food rations for fuel in the last food distribution.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Among stove manufacturers there is a perceived tension between “scalable” and “locally appropriate.” Proponents of stoves made locally believe their approach is more sustainable and preferable to users. Mass manufacturers argue that localized efforts are not scalable. To reach more people, they advocate a few standardized designs that are “good enough” for most users. We employ a mass customization strategy that takes the best of each approach: it is tailored for Darfuri consumer preferences and easily produced on a mass scale. We also focus on the entire stove ecosystem, not only the technology. Our new market-based approach will tackle the most significant barriers to technology adoption by the poorest: Lack of availability: We will provide stoves on consignment to WDAs, to bring to local markets. Cost: We will use a rent-to-own model. Every customer will be given a savings box where they will put their fuelwood savings (~$1/day). They will pay back a small portion of the savings each week until the stove cost is repaid. Major behavior change is required: We included Darfuri women in the design process. This minimizes the behavior change required in switching from a three-stone fire to a Berkeley-Darfur Stove. We have seen 100% adoption among women who received the stoves. Fear the product will not do what it says: We provide a free trial so women can see for themselves how the stove cooks faster, uses less wood (saving money), and produces less smoke than what they are used to. Fear the product will break: We will provide a right-to-return for five years.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Darfur Stoves Project collaborates with international organizations such as Oxfam America, Plan International and the Sudanese organization, Sustainable Action Group (SAG) to assemble, distribute and measure the impact of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove. We contract a Mumbai-based machine parts manufacturer to stamp the stove design into sheet metal using a punch die. These stove “flat-kits” are shipped to Sudan and transported to Darfur, where they are assembled in a shop employing more than a dozen people from nearby displacement camps. With our partners, we have distributed nearly 20,000 stoves in Darfur since 2007. We coordinate partners and provide ongoing technical assistance to SAG in the areas of: Stove Production: •Flat-kit assembly •Worker training & safety •Quality control •Record keeping Impact Assessment: •Survey design and implementation •Data entry and interpretation Training of Trainers •Curriculum development In our transition to a market-oriented approach, we are now beginning to work with other partners (such as the nonprofit organization, Reach Global), to develop training for Women’s Development Associations (WDAs), who will become micro-franchisees who receive the stoves on consignment and sell them in their communities. We will work with the WDAs and our other partners to create promotional materials and campaigns emphasizing the stoves’ ability to save users money by reducing the amount of fuel they need to cook. We are also contracting experts on savings mobilization to train the WDAs to teach stove users to set aside a portion of their fuelwood savings and use another portion to repay their stove in installments. We expect that stoves will not only improve the livelihoods of their users by saving them time and money, but they will also allow a profit to be made by the stove evangelists.
About You
Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies/Darfur Stoves Project
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies/Darfur Stoves Project

Organization Country

, CA, Alameda County

Country where this project is creating social impact


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

As a child growing up in India, Ashok Gadgil knew from an early age that he wanted to be a scientist. He obtained a degree in physics from the University of Bombay, but he found theoretical physics too abstract; he wanted to have an impact on the world in his lifetime. He went on to get a master's degree in applied physics from the Indian Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, he was employed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he is now Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division. In 2005, Dr. Gadgil was alerted to a grave problem facing Darfuri families in displacement camps: women had to walk as long as 7 hours, 3-5 times per week, to find firewood. During these treks they were often subjected to assault and abuse. Later that year, Dr. Gadgil led a fact-finding team to Darfur. His team concluded that providing a fuel-efficient stove would significantly reduce women’s exposure to violence. The stove, now called the Berkeley-Darfur Stove, has undergone 14 iterations since that initial fact-finding mission, each further tailoring it to meet women’s needs. Today the project has provided nearly 20,000 stoves to women in Darfur.

The work of Dr. Gadgil and his team has transformed from a small volunteer effort to the nonprofit organization, Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies (TISS).

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

We measure success not only in the numbers of people we reach, but also in the impact our work has on each of their lives. Through surveys, focus groups and key informant interviews our monitoring and evaluation program assesses stove usage for design quality feedback as well to understand the overall impact on personal safety and food security. Our impact assessment surveys conducted in 2010 have enabled the Darfur Stoves Project and its partners to quantify the impact of the project on the livelihoods of women in Darfur. For example, the survey revealed that 80% of stove users in the Zamzam displacement camp – the largest camp in Darfur – now purchase firewood from vendors. The data from this survey indicates that by far the most significant impact of the stove is on livelihoods, with families saving $0.95 per day on firewood expenses. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove lasts five years, which means that over the lifetime of the stove it saves a family more than $1,700.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory also conduct laboratory studies of the stove’s efficiency and emissions vis-a-vis the three-stone fire. They estimate that the Berkeley-Darfur Stove emits 41% less carbon monoxide than the traditional three-stone fire for the same cooking task. As we become certified to earn carbon credits, we will also have independent evaluators measuring emissions reductions in the field.

We also evaluate our organizational efficiency and cost effectiveness to measure success. Comparing the number of stoves we distributed in 2010 with our overall budget, we estimate that each donor dollar invested in the project results in $20 in the hands of a woman in Darfur.

We are continuously working with our partners in Darfur to improve the monitoring of our project. In the next 1-2 years, we will have a third-party conduct a randomized evaluation of our project to measure its impact.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

In the coming year we plan to expand our work with local partners, with a focus on women’s development associations (WDAs) to offer sales opportunities and savings programs. We plan to establish three more assembly shops in Darfur, creating additional job opportunities in the area. Based on lessons learned from our work in Darfur, we aim to expand our work to additional countries, with plans for a pilot project in Ethiopia already underway. Through this work, our goal is to replicate our model to make new technologies available to millions of people in the developing world.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The most likely obstacle to growth is a lack of availability of philanthropic funds. To address this barrier, we aim to move toward a more commercial approach and are currently working with our partners to transition away from free stove distribution in Darfur. The ultimate purpose is to create a system that is self-sustaining, i.e. where the Darfur Stoves Project can exit and stoves will continue to be manufactured, distributed, and used by people in Darfur. Ideally, this would be a completely commercial model; however, given the abject poverty in Darfur, the $20 price of the stove might be a barrier, even after introducing installment payments. We are addressing this barrier by working toward certification to earn carbon credits that can be sold in the international voluntary markets and enable us to reduce the price charged to end users (the credits arise because each stove burns less wood and produces fewer greenhouse gases than a three-stone fire).

Tell us about your partnerships

Our network of international nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, private manufacturers and national professional organizations are critical to our success. Research and development for the Berkeley-Darfur Stove first occurred at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s facilities with the participation of UC Berkeley students. Once the design was finalized, plans were sent to an engineering parts manufacturer in India called Shri Hari Industries. Each Berkeley-Darfur Stove starts out as a flat sheet of metal at Shri Hari Industries. The manufacturer then turns these sheets of metal into the components of the stove which are sent to Darfur. Oxfam America (OA) manages the Darfur Stoves Project in the field, and helped us to identify a stove distribution partner in Darfur, the Sudanese charity, Sustainable Action Group (SAG). Our partnership with OA and SAG has resulted in a stove assembly center in El Fasher, Sudan and has created employment opportunities for displaced persons who work in the assembly shop. Both OA and SAG play integral roles in future social marketing, business planning and impact assessment activities. In 2011, the organization Plan Sudan also began distributing the Berkeley-Darfur Stove to displaced families in Darfur. Partnerships with professional private sector organizations in the United States allow us to develop strong strategic development plans as we build our institutional structure. We receive pro bono legal assistance from the prestigious firms Morrison Foerster and Holland & Knight. We are now initiating a partnership with the nonprofit organization, Reach Global, to help train Women’s Development Associations in social marketing and savings mobilization.

Explain your selections

To date, the Darfur Stoves Project has been a joint effort by Technology Innovation for Sustainable Societies (TISS), University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Almost half the funding for the project has come from sources at UC Berkeley. These funds are used for stove research conducted at the University. The remaining funding for the Darfur Stoves Project has been raised through charitable donations from the general public through avenues such as’s, The Hunger Site and student and community groups hosting their own small fundraising events. In recent months, support was also received from the NGO, Plan Canada to cover the costs of stoves distributed as part of a pilot project through their affiliate, Plan Sudan.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

To support our growth and the transition to a fully independent organization (separate from University of California, Berkeley), we are focusing our philanthropic fundraising efforts on increasing foundation and corporate support as well as major gifts from individual donors. In conjunction with our transition to a commercial model, we are collaborating with the nonprofit organization, Impact Carbon, to secure carbon financing, which will lower stove costs and reduce prices charged to end users.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.




Restricted access to new markets


Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Years of conflict in Darfur has caused a severe lack of employment opportunities. Working with WDAs, we will tackle this barrier by creating sales opportunities through an Avon-like stove consignment model. This will create jobs and enhance business skills. With sales offers such as free trials and installment plans, we are providing access to new markets. Due to local cultural norms, women are not employed as stove assembly workers, yet the replication of our stove assembly facilities in the coming years will increase the availability of jobs for displaced men. Based on our research, fully manufacturing the Berkeley-Darfur Stove in Sudan at this time would affect stove quality and price. As our project scales up, we will reexamine local production which would also increase employment.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We have distributed nearly 20,000 fuel-efficient stoves to date. Our goal for 2012 is to establish a second assembly shop, enabling us to distribute an additional 18,500 stoves during the year. Beyond Darfur, we are planning to expand to Ethiopia, working with the Berkeley-Ethiopia Stove, which is modeled on the stove made for use in Darfur but customized to meet Ethiopian cooking needs. We are currently conducting outreach with potential partners in Ethiopia and plan to initiate an Ethiopia Stoves Project in early 2012.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Our collaborations help to maximize the resources of established institutions—including a U.S. national energy lab, humanitarian organizations, and local partners and manufacturers. We're able to leverage relationships with these organizations to ensure that demand for technology from the Base of the Pyramid (BOP) is channelled to the largely untapped supply of engineers and scientists willing to contribute their expertise. We leverage the NGOs existing fundraising departments to support the material costs of the stove, and their networks on the ground to help us fully understand local customs and laws, and to provide security to our personnel when in the field. The pro bono legal assistance we receive has helped us build a strong organizational structure capable of massive scale-up.