By Elizabeth Buhungiro
Florence Apio Omach loves her job as a head cook at charity organization God Helps Uganda, but for five years, her job put her at risk. She suffered constant headaches, and her chronic nasal blockage was being made worse by frequent toxic smoke inhalation from using a three-stone fire. She cooked meals three times a day, each time harboring the fear of getting burnt because the stones were unanchored and could easily topple.
At the same time, God Helps Uganda administrator Margaret Opio was growing weary of other challenges posed by the three-stone fire. The kitchen floor was completely destroyed, walls and ceiling covered with soot, and timely preparation of meals was never guaranteed. Most of all, the cost of firewood was excessively high.
“We used to get a fuso [lorry] bringing charcoal and lots of firewood too many times to count every year! We were also using about 25 bags of charcoal every month,” says Opio.
The charity currently runs a welfare and family support program for 141 children and an orphanage whose capacity is 40 children. Opio reasoned that there had to be a better way to prepare meals for the children that was both cost-efficient and preserved the health of the cooking staff.
In 2016, God Helps Uganda organized a study trip for the children under the welfare and family support program, to Lifeline’s cookstove factory. There, they learnt about the institutional cookstove. It sounded like the “perfect solution,” so they had it installed. The charity’s cooking energy expenses immediately plummeted.
“We started only making one trip for firewood per year and only needing two bags of charcoal per month. Our partners were very happy with the energy savings!” says Opio. Additionally, head cook Omach says that due to the institutional stove’s ability to retain heat for several hours after removal of firewood logs, lunch and dinner are prepared at once, which saves them a lot of time.
Four years later another charity organization, Adina Foundation, was moving from a rented property to a permanent residence and they did not want to use a three-stone fire in their new home. While it is cost-free to install, its maintenance was high. The organization was purchasing four truckloads of firewood per year, each truckload costing approximately $230 dollars. Worse still, Adina Foundation’s cooking staff was paying for using the three-stone fire with their health. Adina Foundation’s head cook Fauster Ajok recalls being sick “at least twice a year because of all the smoke.”
To find the best solution, the charity organization decided to make benchmarking visits to other organizations, and they eventually came across God Helps Uganda.
“During the visit, we found out that the cooking staff were not struggling, not bending, and not suffering with smoke. We arrived later in the day, and they had removed firewood logs from the cookstove, but the food was still hot,” Adina Foundation’s Finance Manager Joy Orongo explains.
The institutional cookstove installed at Adina Foundation
Adina Foundation had their institutional cookstove installed in April 2021 and since then their expenditure on firewood has significantly reduced. Orongo says that the charity had only two trips last year and most of the firewood from the second trip carried over into 2022.
Administrators from God Helps Uganda and Adina Foundation both reiterated that the cost of purchasing the institutional cookstove is significantly minimal when compared to both the short and long-term money, time, and health benefits of clean cooking.
About Adina Foundation
Adina foundation was established in Lira, Uganda in 2009 with a mission to promote equal opportunities for Children with Disabilities through holistic rehabilitation, physiotherapy, corrective surgery, education, psychosocial and livelihood support. Learn more about Adina Foundation on their website here.
About God Helps Uganda
God Helps Uganda was established in Lira, Uganda in 2008 to support orphans and vulnerable children in the aftermath of the war against rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army. Learn more from their website here.
About Lifeline’s institutional cookstove
The institutional cookstove is a product of Lifeline’s Commercial Energy initiative. The Commercial Energy Initiative aims to combat black carbon emissions from the burning of biomass fuels, indoor air pollution and the resulting illnesses, and the loss of hundreds of millions of trees each year. Learn more about the initiative on Lifeline’s website here.