From Triple Pundit, we find this interview with Andrée Sosler from the project. Writer Tori Okner asks Sosler about cooperation with other fuel saving stoves.
3p: On the Darfur Stoves Project website, you link to other fuel-efficient stoves. Do you consider those firms or organization competitors or collaborators?
Sosler: Historically, it’s been a very competitive field. However, there seems to be a new focus on sharing information and learning from one another. For example, on the recent trip to Haiti, we spoke with the folks from StoveTec and offered to take two of their stoves along in order to garner feedback. In exchange, we sent them a Berkeley-Darfur stove to test. In Haiti, we’re asking what other projects are currently on the ground? What markets are they focusing on? We’ll target our stove to the underserved constituency. Competition can be good; it can also be a detriment. We aren’t claiming our stove is better for every situation. We hope TISS can become a resource portal for stove information.
3p: The Darfur-Berkeley stove is for sale, not for aid donation. Can you expand on the value associated with an item bought versus donated?
Sosler: One of the things that drew me to the Darfur Stoves Project was the very strong belief that giving something away for free is a disservice to the people who need it. This philosophy stems from the importance of establishing a feedback mechanism. When you give something away you can do impact assessment and surveys, but you may not get good feedback on how valued your product is. That said, we just delivered 1,000 stoves for free. The ultimate goal is to negotiate with our partners to set a subsidized price above the price of scrap metal.
3p: The Berkeley-Darfur Stove is said to last about five years. The desire to minimize environmental degradation is an impetus behind the project- how has that shaped stove design?
Sosler: First, the stove is designed to use as little firewood as possible. In a lab without wind, it decreases the use of wood by 72%. In the field we think that shifts to 50% (we are currently conducting impact assessment surveys to study this), so the Berkeley-Darfur Stove is at least twice as efficient as cooking on an open fire. In terms of lifecycle though, as the organization grows, we would like to get a sense of the overall carbon footprint of the stove.
3p: In a 2008 interview with the Wharton Journal, you said, “My passion is to develop market-oriented solutions to poverty.” Is that still true? Any amendments or qualifications?
Sosler: Still true. I really believe that a feedback mechanism is crucial and lacking in many elements of international development. Yet, now that I’m working in an extreme humanitarian situation, I recognize that a fully functional market (as it would be defined at Wharton, or by most business schools) is not always optimal. When the goal is worldwide and less focused on those left behind, I would push for more sustainable businesses. I really do think that market solutions to poverty are the way forward.