As part of the effort to reduce the certain desertification facing our society in the Eastern Africa, a new product is turning heads in the region. A bag that cooks food through retained heat has put food on the table for some lucky families in the cities and villages of Eastern Africa.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
"It saves our family more than half of the monthly expenditure on energy, which is a saving around 10 dollars per month.” said Isra Ahmed, a university student in Hargeisa.
She further continued “What is even more is that I can prepare my food early in the morning before going to the university and leave the pot in the wonderbag. At 12 o’clock, everyone comes home to a hot meal ready in the bag. Since we started using the bag we have not used more than 1 stove and most of the times we only use the breakfast fire to prepare the lunch meals”.
As the name suggests, the bag works wonders. A pot full of food is put inside the bag as soon as it has been thoroughly heated in a pot. The purpose of the bag then is to retain the heat from the pot while the food continues to cook using the same heat.
This is vitally important as the population has limited access to clean and safe cooking fuels and consequently the country’s natural resources are depreciating rapidly, disrupting the balance of the local ecosystem. The Wonderbag dramatically reduces cooking times on open fires and paraffin lit stoves – on average five hours - saving anywhere from 50-90 per cent of the time food needs to be on an external heating source. In addition, up to 80 per cent less water is used as there is no evaporation due to the heat retention properties of the cooker. This is the equivalent of five meals cooked with the same amount of water required for one meal using traditional means.
"The bag helps to reduce carbon emissions by up to half a ton a year and it is a cleaner, safer choice that is also sensitive to the environment," said Ridwan Dayib, representative of ha-wonderbag, the distributor.
We would like to see it rolled across the region as more and more people become conscious of the environment," he said. He points out that during the trial period, major savings are being achieved in Djibouti, were a gas bill of $100 per month is the norm for a normal mid-size family.
Further benefits of the Wonderbag will be experienced during the Holy month of Ramadan. During this month, families using the wonderbag will have more time to sleep, worship or do other things as the “Sohour” meal will need no supervision at all. Tests during the Islamic new year fasting were excellent and test families could wake up at 3 AM and just enjoy hot “Sohour” meal.
The Somali website www.ha-wonderbag now incorporates an online payment system to buy a wonderbag to families and friends back home.
In the outskirts of Hargeisa another family, a women with small children is benefitting from a donated bag.
“I look after the goats during the morning and return home just before lunch. I was so stressed with kids crying and not able to wait the time it takes to prepare food. With the wonderbag, I prepare my food in the morning and return at lunchtime and just open the bag to serve the meals. I did not believe it in the beginning and thought they were making a joke.” She says.
She is one of several people who were donated bags in the initial stages of the project.
Sarah Collins, founder and the driving force behind Wonderbag, said: “Our business is at a revolutionary point with governments and organisations alike recognising the extraordinary opportunity the Wonderbag provides for them to contribute positively to society. The expansion marks the start of a global programme of growth across both developing and developed nations in the coming months.”
The projects aim is to get people subsidised bags through the various different International programmes in the region. This would allow those who cannot afford to be donated or sold a subsidised bag at less than 10 dollars a unit.
The majority of the current users stated the saving of time and money in that order as the main reason they use the Wonderbag. Sadly, the saving of the environment was the reason that only few of them ticked during a short survey carried out by the distributors.