Making a Difference

Friday, February 29, 2008

Berkeley Darfur Stove Project - Darfur, Sudan

Another person making a difference is Ashok Gadgil, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. He has developed a cook stove specifically for the refugees in Darfur, Sudan. The Berkeley Darfur Stove Project ( is saving lives. Refugee women, in order to collect wood for use as fuel for cooking, need to leave the relative security of the camps. Venturing outside is dangerous. Many are raped and killed. But the need for wood is great since they cook on inefficient 3 stone fires. The much more efficient Darfur stove, reduces the demand for wood and thus lessens the need to venture beyond the camps. While not addressing the root cause of the danger faced by the women, the stove reduces the amount of time during which they are at risk.

The methodology used to devise the stove is important. It looked at the cooking styles of the refugees, the pots used, the fuel characteristics, the food to be cooked, etc. Only after understanding all of these points was a prototype designed. This was then tested and modified.

I've been serving as a mentor/advisor to some of the students working on the project, under Ashok's direction.

So, with his permission, I've "stolen" Ashok's work. In cooperation with COMACO (see previous post) a team of IBD consultants is working on the adaptation of the Berkeley Darfur stove to the needs of rural villagers in Zambia. Rather than trying to reduce rape and murder as is the case in Darfur, in Zambia we're trying to reduce the pressures on the environment. By more efficiently utilizing the wood used as fuel for cooking, we hope to reduce the deforestation of the region, decrease resulting erosion and generally lessen the pressure on the environment.

Stay tuned!

Comaco - Community Markets For Conservation - Zambia

One of the pleasures of my work is meeting people who are really trying to make a difference in the world. One example is Dale Lewis, who has started an incredibly effective organization in Zambia. Called COMACO for Community Markets for Conservation ( this organization has created income generating opportunities for villagers in north-eastern Zambia. In order to participate in COMACO, the villagers must agree to stop poaching of animals in nearby Nungwe National Park.

A number of teams from my International Business Development (IBD) program ( have worked with Dale to develop and update COMACO's business plan. I was so impressed with COMACO's work that I travelled to Zambia in August, 2007, to see it first hand. As a result of my visit, I agreed to serve on COMACO's advisory board.

I believe that this model could be a prototype for many other poverty alleviation, hunger reducing and environmental conservation initiatives. It is well worth studying.