For more information contact
This project addresses the need for clean energy and contributes towards improving energy security using a novel and innovative technology designed for Malawi. Exposure to smoke from cooking has severe negative health impacts and even in urban areas of Malawi, firewood is mainly used in open three-stone fires. The use of firewood and charcoal has contributed significantly to deforestation and the need for cleaner energy sources which are more efficient for cooking is much needed in Malawi. Majority of the clean energy interventions in Malawi focus on using “less” firewood or charcoal, through increasing efficiency of stoves, this project improves on this approach by eliminating firewood altogether as fuel and replacing it with organic waste.
This project emanated from an articulated need of community members from Mbando village (T.A Mposa), Machinga District, the site where the technology was piloted. Nationally, the overarching development master plan for Malawi is the “Malawi Growth and Development Strategy” or MGDS. The latest MGDS III has ranked Energy as one of its five key priority areas and calls for technologies that can aid rural areas to have affordable, clean and efficient energy. Furthermore, Malawi’s Climate Change Policy and Strategy has acknowledged the need for efficient and clean energy to help Malawi reach its climate action goals.
Technology tailor-made for Malawi
Using an innovative approach of combining biogas and biosyngas, this project is developing a clean and efficient energy technology that can help Malawians rise the energy ladder and also contribute towards achieving climate action goals. The reason to combine biogas and biosyngas technology is due to Malawi’s unique climate; a hot and rainy season from mid-November to April and a relatively cool and dry season from mid-May to mid-August. During the wet season, plenty of wet organic waste will be available, while in the dry season, it will be dry organic waste. A technology that can only work with wet biomass/organic matter will not be suitable for the dry season and vice versa; hence this innovative combination of biogas and biosyngas.
Through this project, a nationwide survey on biomass availability and its combustion properties was done by LUANAR in March 2020. Fab Engineering has assembled the energy plant with designs and instruction from the Principal Investigator and colleagues from University of Glasgow. Currently, the plant is being tested with various types of waste including cow dung and rice husks, both of which are wastes readily available in the site where the technology will be piloted. The energy plant was successfully piloted at the kitchen of the Chilimba Primary school at Mbando village, where Abundance has been working since 2016. The kitchen is one that Mary’s Meals uses for preparing mid-day meal porridge for children. Mary’s Meals and Chilimba Primary school are the community partners of this research.
Abundance has set up a youth waste collection team of 5 men and 5 women, who have begun collecting dry and wet wastes at Mbando village. They have been able to find rice husks from a nearby rice mill, sugarcane waste and cowdung from smallholder farms within the village. LEAD organized outreach to Government officials (Machinga District Environmental committee), experts, private sector and others through webinars and media reports including a TV news programme on this novel cooker. After the TV report, a Member of Parliament from Machinga District sent his representative to gather more information on this innovative technology. LEAD has plans to present this project to the National climate change committee of Malawi.
The users of the technology are Mary’s Meals staff and teachers from Chilimba Primary School in Mbando village. The users were engaged by Fab Engineering to improve the technology design and a reengineered design was made that addresses their concerns (eg. The height of stove was adjusted, size of pot that can be used shaped the design of cooker). Trainings were held for users including an all female team at the kitchen. After completion of the project, the system stays in the school and will be a permanent asset for the Mbando community. The project ends in March 2021.
The partnership in this project goes back to 2016, when Dr.Karimi and Dr.Pullanikkatil were connected through Sustainable Futures in Africa network. Between 2017-2018, Dr.Karimi and his colleagues from the University of Glasgow led a Biomass Energy study in partnership with Abundance to understand Malawi’s specific energy issues. Seeing first-hand the situation in Malawi, it inspired Dr.Karimi to think of a solution specifically “engineered” for Malawi. Dr.Pullanikkatil undertook a residency at the University of Glasgow in 2018, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which gave her the opportunity to engage further with Karimi and connect him to organizations in Malawi (such as Leadership for Environment and Development or LEAD), who later became partners of this CJIF project.