Chances are that even if you own a propane camp stove, you've tried cooking over an open fire at least once. When you did, despite your best efforts, you probably ended up sucking down a lot of smoke in the process. Now, imagine doing that for every meal. For many women in the developing world, breathing in toxic smoke while cooking over a wood, kerosene or coal fire is part of their daily routine. Not only can it have a detrimental effect on their own health, but it also worsens local air pollution and (in the case of wood fires) deforestation. The Eco Fire Pot Stove, however, is designed to allow these women to cook while breathing clean air.
The device was invented by Adama Kamara, a natural therapist who was born in Sierra Leone, but moved to Australia in 1996.
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"The UN estimates that around 1.4 million women and children die each year because of inhaling fumes from wood or solid biomass burning in traditional cook stoves," she told Gizmag. "I believe that women should not be given a death sentence because they can only afford to use solid biomass fuels for cooking in traditional cook stoves. I decided to help by designing and building a stove that can use a variety of fuels for cooking, which produces less indoor air pollution and thus reduce the disease burden in women and small children."
The stove itself is very simple – it's pretty much just a box with grated burner-like holes on the top. Underneath each hole, a metal receptacle holds a natural fiber wick. That wick sits in a pool of relatively clean-burning crude biodiesel, made from waste vegetable oil blended with methanol or ethanol and wood ash – although pretty much any locally-available fuel could be used. One receptacle containing 500 ml (17 US ounces) of fuel should provide about six hours of burn time, which ought to allow for the preparation of at least three meals.
Unlike a solar cooker, which is another alternative to toxic fume-producing cooking fires, the Eco Fire Pot Stove can be used when the Sun isn't shining.
While the current version of the stove is made out of sheet metal, Kamara says it could also be made locally by its users from scrap metal, clay or bricks. Her intention isn't so much to send ready-made stoves to developing nations, as it is to provide residents with the knowledge of how to make them themselves. The fuel could also be homemade, as vegetable oil is already commonly used (and then discarded) in such countries.
"It is my hope to one day see a universal Healthy Kitchen Program for women in the developing world, to enable them to reach the full health potential of their lives, whilst doing their normal tasks of providing a cooked meal for their family," said Adama. "This is the motivation for my invention."