Reality show demonstrates how developing countries can make sustainability a reality

By Graham Salinger

Move over “Man V Food”, there is a new cooking show in town. “Stoveman” is a four part documentary series that follows the efforts of Greg Spencer, co-founder of The Paradigm Project, to bring environmentally friendly stoves to developing countries. The Paradigm Project was founded in 2007 to bring rocket stoves to rural communities in developing countries. To date, 13,136 stoves have been delivered and the aim is to deliver 5 million stoves to the by 2020. The video series offers viewers a glimpse of the challenges faced by those living in the developing world and ways that such challenges can be overcome through innovations like the rocket stove.

Greg Spencer carrying firewood with Kenyan women in the first episode of "Stoveman." (Photo credit: The Paradigm Project)

In many developing countries, up to 35 percent of income can be spent on fuel for cooking. The stoves that the Paradigm Project supplies help reduce this financial burden by decreasing the amount of oil required for cooking by 40-60 percent, which allows for more money to purchase seeds to grow nutritional crops. The project estimates that over five years, each stove saves almost USD 283.

In the first episode of “Stoveman,” Spencer and his colleague Austin Mann work with women in northern Kenya to gather wood. In the rural developing world, over 90 percent of energy consumption is either wood or other biomass. In the country of Kenya alone this leads to the consumption of over 100 million trees annually. The World Health Organization has also estimated that harmful stove smoke is the fourth worst overall health risk factor in developing countries, killing 1.6 million women and childreneach year. The Paradigm Project also trains farmers about the benefits of reducing carbon emission and stresses that harming the environment also harms crop yields.

In State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, contributing author Marie-Ange Binagwaho highlights a similar project that is underway in Senegal. The project aims to reduce pollution that results from a dependency on biomass fuels as an energy source. Through its efforts in Senegal, where biomass accounts for 57 percent of primary energy sources, Solar Household Energy Inc (SHE) is working to bring solar cooking technology to six cities. Similar efforts to introduce low-cost and low-input technologies have been introduced in Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, and Sri Lanka.

What are your thoughts about this project? Do you know of other innovative ways to spread awareness about innovations? Tell us in the comments section!

Graham Salinger is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.

To read more about environmentally friendly stoves, see: Afterthought for some, daily struggle for others, What Works: Putting Cooked Food on the Table, Innovation of the Week: Reducing the Things they Carry, and Building a Methane-Fueled Fire: Innovation of the Week.

Holiday offer: To purchase a copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet at a 50 percent discountplease click HERE and enter code SW1150. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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