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Published on 27 April 2022

Deforestation, a changing climate and the inefficiency of traditional cooking methods are some of the drivers for a growing market for improved cook stoves in South Omo, Ethiopia. Three women, Zeritu Ganma, 35, Amarech Tariku, 23, and Banchi Aseffa, 25, from South Ari woreda share their experience of selling these stoves and the difference it is making to them personally and to their community.

Image credits and information i
Credit: Meseret Abiy/Christian Aid
Zeritu using an improved cook stove for her new injera business in southern Ethiopia
Zeritu pours injera mix onto her improved cook stove to make injera flat bread to sell as part of her new business venture. As a member of the Dase Wongade Women’s Group she also sells new improved stoves. Zeritu lives with her husband, Wursi Gayzibesu

Before the project, we could only cover our food. What we had been producing from farming was too small to sell to cover important things we needed in our lives.

- Zeritu Ganma.

In 2018, Zeritu alongside 692 other women joined the EU funded Breaking the Barriers programme to form 58 businesses producing and selling improved cook stoves and solar energy products in southern Ethiopia.

Christian Aid alongside our partner Women Empowerment Action works closely with these groups providing business advice, training in making improved cook stoves and supporting the groups to access low interest loans.

Zeritu’s women’s group to build awareness and a market for the stoves started by trialling the stoves themselves and then promoting them to other self-help groups. They then shared the benefits with the wider community, for example, the need for less fuel, cleaner and less smoky kitchens, and the reduced risk of accidents from cooking over an open fire. Zeritu says that they are so successful that they have sold all their stock.

Through the sales of the stoves, Zeritu now supports her family with her savings. She can send her children to school, and she has started her injera making business.

Together, we are supporting our children to grow well.

- Zeritu Ganma.
Amarech with her eight-month-old daughter Mekdes
Amarech with her eight-month-old daughter Mekdes. (Meseret Abiy/Christian Aid)

Amarech lives with her husband Dakabo Tariku and three daughters. To meet the needs of her family, Amarech used to fetch firewood several times a week from two kilometres away.

We leave home early in the morning and come back after midday. Sometimes you can’t easily find the firewood. It is becoming less abundant.

- Amarech Tariku.

For the last three to four years, she has also experienced poor harvests and like others she is reliant on buying crops that she currently cannot grow.

As a member of the Melkam women’s group, Amarech sells improved cook stoves produced by another, or the women’s groups organised through this programme. Her profits have not only supported her to feed her family well during bad harvest seasons, but she now has more free time to spend with her children.

With her new fuel-efficient stove, Amarech now only has to collect firewood once or twice a week. The stove also produces less smoke, which she believes is improving the health of her family.

People are interested in our product. Some families are buying up to three new improved stoves from us for a single household.

- Amarech Tariku.
Banchi Aseffa with her four sons and a sheep that she has purchased from her profits.
Banchi Aseffa with her four sons and a sheep that she has purchased from her profits. (Meseret Abiy/Christian Aid)

Banchi is the secretary for the Berhan Improved Cook Stove Marketing Enterprise. 

Before selling improved cook stoves, Banchi’s family made only a small amount of money from their crops. She also struggled like other women to address power imbalances within her family, as any money made was controlled by her husband.

Through this project, Banchi is beginning to see many changes in her family and within the community. Not only have members of her enterprise seen improvements to their health and income, but the women have challenged local perceptions of women in business and what they can achieve.

The group have successfully acquired land from local government to expand their businesses, which is extremely important as they now have a valuable asset and are recognised within their community. They also continue to advocate for women’s rights in the home and within the wider community.

Let alone defending my rights, I fight for the rights of all women.

- Banchi Aseffa.

Future plans

Moving forward the women’s groups have plans of their own. Working through the Women’s Affairs Office they hope to reach all households with their new improved stoves. They are also considering alternative businesses based on community needs, including starting solar energy businesses to meet the power shortages in their area.

Breaking the Barriers
The Breaking the Barriers programme aims to increase rural women’s jobs and income in the sustainable energy sector, improve working and living conditions, promote gender equality, and strengthen women’s social status.

We are supporting women to create and own Women’s Led Sustainable Energy Enterprises in some of the poorest and remote off-grid communities.

Find out more