More than three billion people worldwide rely on biomass for cooking and heating. In addition to unsustainable utilisation of biomass, the use of indoor open fires represents an enormous yet often ignored health risk, responsible for killing an estimated 1.9 million people every year due to pneumonia, chronic respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Approximately 60 percent of indoor air pollution’s victims are women, while 56 percent of all indoor air pollution-attributable deaths occur in children under five years of age.

Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA) launched a new project in South Africa to create a market for efficient biomass stoves in order to reduce reliance on forests for traditional biomass. BEIA is administered by the World Bank Africa Energy Unit (AFTEG), under Energy Sector Management Assistance Program's (ESMAP), Africa Renewable Energy Access (AFREA) Trust Fund, which is supported by the Government of the Netherlands.

As the implementing agency of this project, Restio Energy has been collaborating with German Technical Cooperation agency (GIZ) to develop a rural marketing and distribution strategy for the EcoZoom/StoveTec stove in South Africa. Designed at the Aprovecho Research Centre (Oregon, USA) and manufactured at Shengzhou Stove Manufacturers (Zhejiang, China), the Ecozoom/StoveTec stoves are made from aerated ceramic, sheet metal and cast-iron and come in two models: a one-door wood stove and a two-door wood- and charcoal unit. Compared to a three-stone fire, the stoves use at least 50 percent less wood/charcoal, cooks two to four times quicker and produces 70 percent less smoke and 50 percent less greenhouse gases.

Promotion of Improved Biomass Rocket Stoves in South Africa Project

Rural Market: The objective of this project is to develop a commercial chain for the promotion of efficient StoveTec biomass stove in South Africa’s rural off-grid market. Once the routes to the market are established and sustainable, Restio aims to look at other regional markets. Restio is currently working with several off-grid concession companies which collectively have access to over one million unelectrified rural homesteads. It is also working with a number of non-governmental and aid relief organisations who see the benefits of the stove vis-à-vis the challenges faced by their target communities. One such partnership has been with Siyanceda Africa Relief who, through funding from donors and the public, is distributing the EcoZoom/StoveTec stoves to hundreds of families in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape Province.

Township Market: In 2010, the Micro-Energy Alliance (consisting of The Business Place, PlaNet Finance, Reciprocity, and Restio Energy) created social enterprises (under the brand-name EnerGcare) that sell clean energy products for low-Income households into the informal settlements around Cape Town and Johannesburg. The EnerGcare program trains and equips township entrepreneurs to act as marketing and sales agents for clean energy products, including the EcoZoom/StoveTec efficient biomass stoves, solar water heaters, solar lighting kits, and insulation cookers.

Agricultural and Camping/Recreational Market: Agricultural and recreational markets have also shown a strong interest in efficient biomass stoves: farm owners are looking for new ways to save electricity, curb deforestation on their farms and provide healthier cooking solutions for their farm workers. Camping enthusiasts and recreational users are also looking for new, innovative appliances that are effective and easy to use, but also energy-efficient. Given this demand, a network of commercial retailers and agents across South Africa and Namibia has been set up.

Since the project’s commissioning in April 2011, significant progress has been made in goods procurement, and in developing stove distribution channel and marketing strategy. In total, 1,232 imported stoves have arrived and are ready for distribution. To make the distribution channel efficient, the grant recipient has conducted two rounds of interviews with Durban’s stove sales agencies and two candidates have been shortlisted. To increase the awareness of the efficiency, safety and duration of the rocket stoves, posters and videos were designed to market it, and as a result, 360 stoves have been sold already.


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You can also view the World Bank Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa Quarterly Performance Report, July 2011.