- Title: USA/FILE: California scientists help Darfur refugees by designing new stove
- Date: 4th August 2007
- Summary: (AD1) ZAMZAM CAMP, NEAR AL-FAHIR, NORTH DARFUR, SUDAN (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WOMEN IN CAMP
- Embargoed: 19th August 2007 13:00
- Topics: Science / Technology
- Reuters ID: LVAB2YLRA43H5WWC36NO9VXBQOAP
- Story Text: A redesigned cook-stove may have the potential to ease refugee suffering in Darfur. The new stove is said to reduce fuel consumption by seventy percent.
During the last 70 years, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California have smashed molecules, analysed cosmic rays and used supercomputers to simulate the earth's climate.
Now scientists there have created a device that, though it can be built out of scrap metal, has the potential to alleviate suffering for thousands of displaced people in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
The device is a wood-fired stove, meant for boiling water and cooking under the harsh conditions found in Darfur's camps. The refugees -- mostly women and children -- survive on powdered grain, traditionally cooked into bread over a simple campfire. But these fires are so inefficient that, until now, each day has meant a new struggle to find, or buy, enough wood to survive.
That's where Dr. Ashok Gadgil comes in.
The Indian-born physicist spearheaded a volunteer effort to bring a more efficient stove to Darfur, one that could reduce the number of wood-seeking journeys that often left women vulnerable to attack by militia groups. It was a simple concept that nonetheless took three years to perfect.
"A stove cannot be simply designed sitting in a lab in the US," Gadgil recently told Reuters. On several occasions, team members travelled to Darfur to examine ingredients and cooking methods, and also to bring back pots and other tools. He said: "All these specific things really affect the stove design if you want to be successful."
The result is a discoloured, oddly shaped contraption that wouldn't out of place in a junkyard. But the thermal physics behind the Berkeley stove are anything but trivial, with tests showing a 70 per cent drop in fuel consumption compared to a traditional "three stone" fire.
With the design locked in, Gadgil and his team hope to initiate production in Darfur itself. They have partnered with CHF International, a Maryland-based non-profit group, in a venture that aims to produce 600 units per day. The goal: to help tens of thousands of refugee women and simultaneously create jobs in the region.
Ken Chow, who works at Lawrence Berkeley Lab as an engineer, fine-tuned the stove in its final design stage. He transformed the prototype so it could be manufactured without electricity using locally available tools and materials.
As he talked about using his expertise for a humanitarian cause, Chow grew contemplative. "The situation in Darfur is bleak and it's very unique," he said, adding that he has already spoken about his work with his two young children. "When I became a parent, I started thinking, what kind of world do I want to be leaving to my daughters?"
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