Smokeless Stoves Cook School Meals in Zambia

Bulungu Combined School – just outside Mumbwa town in Zambia’s Central Province - uses adapted stoves that reduce the amount of firewood required to cook school meals for the pupils, and the amount of smoke the cooks have to put up with in the kitchen.

In recent years, the national home-grown school feeding (HGSF) programme, supported by WFP, has been providing daily hot meals for the school's 2,000 pre-school and primary level pupils. This not only attracts children to school, it also encourages attendance and helps improve the children’s concentration and performance. A meal served at school saves money for the family and brings peace of mind to poorer parents whose child will not go hungry that day.

Kitchen staff used to complain of smoke inhalation while preparing the school meals. Pots had to be balanced on an open fire, making them unstable and dangerous to use. Members of the school’s Health and Nutrition Committee - made up of pupils, teachers and parents – put their heads together and came up with the smokeless stove solution.

"Community participation in decision making and establishing a 'school-community partnership' are the most important factors for the success of the HGSF programme in this school," says Head Teacher, Mrs Annah Njovu.

A POSITIVE ATTITUDE GETS THINGS DONE:  Deputy Head Teacher, Donald Hamusute, attributes the positive change to a collective effort. Photo:Evin Joyce

With some simple and cheap construction, the school built small brick and concrete structures, which keeps the cooking fire outside the kitchen but the pots inside, heated on metal plates. The total cost of modifying the school’s stoves was US$90: $30 for scrap metal, $30 for builders’ labour, $10 for bricks and $20 for cement. The construction was financed by reallocating money from school fees.

The success of the project has left everyone at the school happy and the Deputy Head Teacher, Donald Hamusute, attributes the positive change to a collective effort.

“It’s because of the positive attitude of our staff who want to do things in the best possible way," he says.

As well as reducing smoke inhalation among the school’s kitchen staff, the new stoves have other benefits. The metal plates that the pots sit on retain heat and maintain a stable temperature, allowing greater quantities of food to be cooked more quickly. The school has made considerable savings, not least in the amount of money they have had to spend on firewood.