In SA there are at least 10 000 schools that still cook on open fires. Imagine the hazards faced by the women who cook daily, such as at Phumelelani Primary School in Loskop, KZN, where women prepare food for up to 1200 pupils on open fires.
Besides the horrible respiratory issues they endure, they must constantly bend down and chop the wood that fuels the flames. Added to this, many tons of wood needs to be collected, leading to deforestation of savannahs and woodlands.
Phumelelani is one of six schools in KZN that through many years of environmental dedication to the Water Explorer programme, was selected to be part of the International UNEP Global Search for Sustainable Schools (GSS) that takes place in nine countries.
With this prestige comes in-classroom environmental education support from Water Explorer, to support better environmental learning and action. Each of the schools also receives funding to help achieve some of their chosen environmental projects.
One of the aims of the GSS project is also to reduce carbon. With this in mind, Phumelelani school decided to replace its dirty open fire cooking methods with Mashesha stoves. This unique fuel-efficient stove was developed by Louise Williamson, who saw how bad the cooking conditions were in schools, while supporting them with environmental education projects in Mpumalanga.
Developed and tested
Over two years Louise painstakingly developed and tested the stove which has eventually won her international awards like the 2017 Diageo Award and the 2016 Global Cleantech Innovation Award.
The stoves produce virtually no smoke, use 50% less wood and allow the cooks to stand, rather than bend, and they can accommodate 70kg iron pots. Louise makes them in Mpumalanga.
Phumelelani has been able to purchase three large stoves and Louise donated two home-sized masheshas in a lucky draw for two of the ecstatic cooking staff members Margaret and Thabile.
More KZN Midlands school news here
“Mashesha stoves are perfect for us,” said environmental coordinator and HOD, Sebe Mbele of Phumelelani Primary. “They save time and wood. They have less smoke and decrease our carbon emissions. Our cooks are over the moon because they knock off an hour earlier than before. Mashesha stoves rock!”
This project is part of the 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) and is funded by the Ministry of Environment, Japan.