Clean-Burning Stoves for Developing Countries

A new partnership will result in 10 million clean-burning stoves sold in five countries over the next five years.

U.S. nonprofit Envirofit International and UK charity Shell Foundation are working together to significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) – the smoke generated by traditional fires and stoves used in developing world homes.

Over half the world’s population – three billion people – burn wood, dung and crop waste to cook their food, breathing in lethal fumes. According to the World Health Organization, IAP claims the lives of 1.5 million people a year worldwide, mostly women and children.

Envirofit is tasked with handling the scale-up and spin off of the Shell Foundation’s Breathing Space program, which was founded in 2002 to achieve significant global reductions in IAP. The Foundation is providing Envirofit with investment and organizational support to form an independent global entity. In turn, Envirofit, working with its technology partner, Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, is designing, developing, marketing and distributing clean cook stoves that are engineered to emit significantly less toxic emissions and use less fuel.

Envirofit’s commercial model represents a new, more sustainable approach to tackling IAP, relying on market mechanisms to guide product development and drive consumer demand, instead of donating or subsidizing the sales of stoves. This process of treating people as customers means true market forces will drive sales. Envirofit is thus tasked with creating a high-quality, aspirational product that provides real value.

“Solutions to IAP have not been forthcoming because the needs of the very people affected by it have not been fully considered,” says Harish Hande, Managing Director of Selco India, a leading Indian social venture enterprise. “Solutions to IAP reside in creating need-based technologies and financing, which are in turn based on market principles. The partnership between Shell Foundation and Envirofit is a breath of fresh air, one that will provide the impetus for market and end-user centric solutions.”

Envirofit’s particular expertise combines world-class engineering, a mature product development cycle, creative global marketing and robust, on-the-ground operations. The team works to fully understand and address barriers to adoption of products in the developing world.

Envirofit International is a US-based nonprofit corporation launched in Colorado in October 2003 through funding from the Bohemian Foundation. Envirofit’s work developing and disseminating technologies that reduce pollution and enhance energy efficiency in developing countries has helped the company become recognized as a worldwide leader in the challenge to produce energy efficiency alternatives. Earlier this year it won a prestigious World Clean Energy Award for its leadership in implementing broad-based energy solutions to global challenges.

Shell Foundation has partnered with scientists at Berkeley Air Monitoring Group to carry out detailed evaluation of the stoves put into the field by Envirofit to ensure they are externally validated.


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