CSP: How did you get you get involved with the Cookstove Project?

My first encounter was with Michael Sommer, one of the founders of the project, at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. I found that we shared a passion for humanity and especially for the less fortunate and disadvantaged in developing countries like Uganda. I got involved with the Cookstove Project during a visit he made to Uganda. He had been made aware of this problem and had been studying the issue. During his visit we shared at length about what could be done for the Ugandan women and children who suffer from the effects of traditional methods of cooking. Over the next month or so we came up with the simple solution that we are now using to help rural families.

CSP: What do you like most about the Cookstove Project?

I find this project interesting because the changes that occur in the lives of families are very evident and they are immediately felt. On the first day that the stove is used there is no more smoke in the kitchen. Right away families use much less wood. When I visit the beneficiaries after they start using their new stove, I see the smile on the woman’s face and the excitement in her voice when she describes how her new cookstove has changed her life. When I see this I know that the project is achieving its goals and it gives me confidence knowing that we are making a difference.

CSP: What do beneficiaries like most about the project?

The majority of cookstove beneficiaries like the efficiency of their new improved cookstove because they are able to live in a clean cooking environment that is smoke free. Most are inspired that the cookstove cooks faster than the old traditional stoves used before and that the cookstoves use less firewood.  A bundle of firewood that lasted for two days can now last for a week. My favorite response was from a woman that said she thought cooking her entire dinner with one stick of firewood was like a miracle. 

Meet Africano The Cookstove Project director in Uganda - April 2016

CSP: Why do you think this project is important?

The Cookstove Project is important because it is responding to the health and social problems affecting millions of families in Uganda that currently use the traditional method of cooking, the three stone fire. According to the World Health Organization, around 3 billion people still cook using open fires in their homes. The smoke, soot and toxic gases kill 4.3 million people a year. Indoor air pollution kills more people per year than the total that die from malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Women and children are affected the most. For example, indoor air pollution is responsible for almost half of the 1.2 million annual pneumonia fatalities of children under age five. The smoke they inhale from these indoor fires is the equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day. The clean cookstoves that the Cookstove Project installs tremendously reduces the family’s exposure to smoke and dangerous fumes.

CSP: What was it like growing up in Uganda?

I was born in Kagunga, a small rural village in southwestern Uganda. I am the third born in a family of eight children. My father was a church leader. Growing up I loved sports, especially soccer. I went to a rustic primary and secondary school in the village before leaving to go to the University in Kampala, the capital. Our family had some land and we grew potatoes, sorghum, beans and bananas. Every morning before school I would walk thirty minutes to collect water. For two hours after school we would “dig the dirt”, which is what we as children called it. After tilling the soil we would collect firewood on the way back to our home.