...smoky firewood is a major cause of respiratory illness in the Solomons.
Back in 2015 the Coconut Technology Centre (CTC) in Honiara Solomon Islands started making charcoal stoves to sell as a way of providing a healthier mode of cooking than smoky firewood which is a major cause of respiratory illness in the Solomons.
To date around 260 stoves have been sold this year and it is hard to keep up with the demand!
On average they sold one stove every two weeks, which was not much but was at least a start. However, leading up to and during the CoVID-19 lock-down, sales skyrocketed to more than ten a week and charcoal was selling fast. To date around 260 stoves have been sold this year and it is hard to keep up with the demand! Orders are placed via a Facebook page and the stoves are delivered, for free, to the customers’ place of work or home (within Honiara).
It seems that word of mouth, and the lock-down forcing people to stay at home, has caused this spike in sales.
Apart from a few Facebook posts, demonstrations at Food Week and Coconut Day, and a few occasions selling at the markets, there has not been any formal advertising. It seems that word of mouth, and the lock-down forcing people to stay at home, has caused this spike in sales. As many people from the remote islands work in Honiara, the Solomon Islands government strongly encouraged them to return to their villages while Honiara went into lock-down. This was an extra impetus for people to buy the stoves and charcoal - to take home to their families - which will no doubt further help the people move toward a healthier alternative for cooking.
The initiative to manufacture these charcoal stoves came from an Australian volunteer, and first Manager of the CTC, Frank Sanders. They are made from a sheet metal frame, with a moulded concrete core and mesh for the grate and top grid. A lighter version made by up-cycling old fire extinguishers is also available.
...the women love the fact it doesn’t blacken the outside of their pots like firewood does, thus saving time in having to scrub them clean.
There has been only good feedback so far. A lot has been said about the stove’s multi-use: for on-top cooking in pots; cooking directly on the top grid to grill and BBQ; and as an oven - burying the food in the hot charcoal, the way Islanders like to do.
Most kitchens in the villages are outside so one draw-card is that the stove can be used inside the home because it produces minimal smoke, and secondly, the women love the fact it doesn’t blacken the outside of their pots like firewood does, thus saving time in having to scrub them clean.
And as for the village folk, they are now learning to make their own charcoal,....
In 2018, and as part of the Salvage Project to create value from all the dead coconut palms that had been destroyed by the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, making charcoal was simple and inexpensive. But there was uncertainty as to whether people would make use of it, especially because firewood was readily available. However, any misgivings were unfounded. To date nearly 500 7kg bags of charcoal have been sold in Honiara. Ironically, the fear now is that the CTC will not be able to keep up with the demand!
And as for the village folk, they are now learning to make their own charcoal, each household digging a small pit near their home and using any wood they can gather to bake into charcoal. This gives them a ready supply of smokeless cooking fuel near their own back door.
While this pandemic has been so challenging for many, it is good to be able to report on an unexpected positive outcome.