Monthly Archives: May 2011

Read the new Boiling Point article co-authored by Gaia staff: Using emergency interventions for sustainable development


The need for targeted energy interventions during relief efforts, especially for cooking but also for other household needs such as lighting and refrigeration, is becoming more critical and apparent. Supplying energy to people in crisis has frequently been neglected in relief efforts and distressed populations have been left to fend for themselves. Cooking energy is almost always their largest energy need. Where cooking energy has been provided, it has not necessarily been sustainable after emergency aid ends. Helping subject populations to develop the capacity to produce liquid biofuels on a small scale in efficient agricultural operations may offer one important solution to energy poverty and contribute to long term development of energy self-sufficiency as well as employment and livelihoods. Project Gaia and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have joined with local partners in Haiti to develop ethanol stoves and fuel, both as an emergency intervention and as a longer term development project.

Read more at HEDON!

Sofia Redal: A story about clean cooking in Awbarre refugee camp

By Segolene Martin and Mahder Alebachew
Gaia Association

Sofia cooks with the CleanCook stove

May 6, 2011 — Sofia Redal, 53, is a Somali woman living in the UNHCR- managed Awbarre refugee camp in Eastern Ethiopia. She is a mother of four, and one of her sons suffers from a disability. She does not have any income and supports her family by exchanging some of her monthly ration of wheat for vegetables and other items. Sofia’s family is one of thousands living in the UNHCR camps in the region.

The UNHCR and Ethiopian non-profit organization Gaia Association have been working in partnership to provide clean, reliable household energy for cooking to families like Sofia’s for over three years. Gaia Association distributes the CleanCook stove by Dometic, an ethanol stove that has proved successful in refugee settings due to its durability, cleanliness and efficiency.

Due to a 2009 government mandate to allocate ethanol production for the transportation sector, Gaia and the UNHCR had a temporary break in ethanol distribution. As an interim solution, UNHCR/Gaia collected the CleanCook stoves from families and distributed kerosene stoves and fuel in the camps. Starting May 2011, Gaia resumed ethanol distribution in Awbarre refugee camp. The Redal family and 900 other Awbarre families currently benefit from the UNHCR/Gaia program for cleaner, safer household cooking. UNHCR/Gaia is also resuming distribution in Kebribeyah and Sheder camps in the upcoming months – thousands of more families will benefit from the program.

“It’s the best,” says Sofia about her CleanCook. She tells Gaia staff how happy she is to receive it back. Sofia used the CleanCook daily to cook for her six-member family before the interim. It is still in excellent condition despite three years of constant use in a rugged environment. The CleanCook stove was voted the most popular program in the Somali camps for three years running by the refugees themselves.

Upon her arrival in Awbarre camp four years ago, Sofia used firewood as cooking fuel. With six other women, she would walk up to 8 kilometers every four days to collect firewood. “It would take us the whole day to go and come back,” Sofia says. Indeed, Awbarre is situated in an extremely arid and deforested area, making fuelwood collection difficult and laborious. It was a risky task for these women and many others, exposing them to physical and sexual assault from local people and landowners. Access to household energy is a basic living standard that Sofia used to lack. Now, with the CleanCook, she can cook three meals a day for her family with one liter hydrous ethanol distributed by Gaia and UNHCR field staff.

The majority of Awbarre families are large, many with ten members or more. The CleanCook is designed to accommodate large pots and can simmer food on low heat for long hours. Furthermore, the CleanCook operates at a high efficiency compared to other cookstoves. Because their breakfast is cooked quickly, Sofia’s children can go earlier to school and receive better educations.

Cooking with firewood on a traditional open fire poses serious health risks for families. The resulting indoor air pollution has consequences varying from lower respiratory illnesses to eye ailments. “It is harmful and dangerous, I got burned once because of it,” Sofia explains about her experience cooking with an open fire before she had the CleanCook. She tells Gaia staff that the smoky environment created by her open fire even forced her to cook outside. In addition to firewood, some refugee families cook with charcoal – a polluting fuel which costs rural families five times the amount it costs in Addis. Sofia’s daughter notes, “Charcoal is dangerous. Some people pass out from the smell. In the camps, there were also some accidents because of kerosene explosions. People got burned.”

The CleanCook ethanol stove is smoke-free and meets WHO emissions standards for carbon particulate matter. It makes possible an environment where women can cook with their children by their side and avoid the dangers of fuelwood collection.

Gaia Association, an affiliate of Project Gaia, Inc. is an Ethiopian non-profit, non-governmental organization working to provide clean-burning stoves and alcohol fuels to families in Ethiopia since 2005. For more information, please visit

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Julia Roberts team up to tackle the clean cookstove cause on Oprah Winfrey Network special, Extraordinary Moms!

Join us for an exciting event about women around the world, and the struggles they face as the ultimate caregivers. Watch a “sneak peek” at the upcoming program here.

Photo courtesy of AP

Photo courtesy of Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)

On May 7th, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will feature a special television feature called Extraordinary Moms in honor of Mother’s Day.  The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will team up with esteemed actress Julia Roberts to address the importance and impact of clean cookstoves around the world.  To communicate the key issues of clean cooking to an international audience, The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) has chosen a Global Ambassador, revealed recently in a Time Magazine interview to be esteemed actress Julia Roberts.

Project Gaia, Inc. has been a member of the GACC, a public-private partnership promoting the development of clean cooking technologies, since its launch in September at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative Meeting. Project Gaia also serves as a Global Alliance Implementing Partner.  Project Gaia is one of 34 household energy experts making up the Technology and Fuels Working group of the GACC, and leads the liquid fuels issues with its experience with alcohol CleanCook Stove by Dometic.

During the Time Magazine joint interview, Secretary of State Clinton and Roberts discussed the issues around the clean cookstove cause.

Roberts adeptly summed up the great potential of cookstoves and clean, household energy for human development – despite having been an overlooked development issue in the past. Roberts commented, “It’s a very big, far-reaching issue with this small word “cookstove,” but it really is about environment and about human safety and human kindness…”

Clinton spoke about her and Roberts’ interest in the clean cookstove cause, noting, “Julia immediately got it, because as a mom, and as she just said to you and as she and I have discussed, one who loves to take care of her family and cook for them, we thought, what would it be like if we were living in Latin America or Africa or Asia where these cookstoves are predominant? And what we were doing to keep our children healthy and alive was perhaps contributing to their sickness and even death.”  Roberts and Secretary of State Clinton both expressed the need to draw attention to this silent epidemic – and hope that their role as Ambassadors to the cause will help to achieve that goal.

Project Gaia is honored by the involvement of these two extraordinary women with issues of household energy. We look forward to Secretary of State Clinton and Julia Roberts’ work, and hope it will bring global publicity and action to the cause we, and so many others,work tirelessly for. So please join Project Gaia and Gaia Association to tune into this program on Saturday May 7th at 8-9:30PM on the OWN channel to learn about how clean household energy can mitigate harmful emissions, reduce deforestation and drastically reduce negative health effects associated with polluting fuels.


Gulce Askin | | +1 (717) 334 5595