Thursday, April 25, 2013

CMU Alumnus Launches Cookstove Project Empowering Rural Women in Africa; Crowdsource Funding Underway

Carnegie Mellon University Graduate Lucas Belenky has launched a company in Africa selling a specialized cookstove that he says will empower rural women in developing countries and also have a positive environmental and public health impact by using less firewood and creating less smoke.

The Baker Cookstove on the
manufacturing floor in Kenya.
Belenky, who received a graduate engineering degree from CMU in 2009, has spent the last four years working and living in Nairobi, Kenya. His company, Top Third Ventures Ltd., has developed the Baker Cookstove, which replicates the three-stone-fire system of cooking used in much of the developing world.

"It is basically three rocks that support a pot with an open fire in the middle," the company wrote on its Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign page. "This cooking style is very inefficient and leads to many environmental and health problems."

Belenky's company modeled its steel stove design on the three-rock-fire system so women (who do the vast majority of cooking in developing countries) would be more likely to use the new stove.

"The high thermal efficiency rating of the Baker Stove allows women to cook with only a third of the wood they used to use and in much less time," the company wrote. "This saves lives because less wood means less smoke"

Less smoke from cooking fires, which are often placed in poorly ventilated spaces, means improvements in health conditions, the company said.

"Indoor air pollution kills 4 million people every year," it said. "This is more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined."

"The company I built over the last 16 months is now launching its first product that will change the lives of rural women in Africa, while reducing deforestation, and combating climate change," Belenky announced on LinkedIn. 

Top Third Ventures crowdfunding campaign is currently underway to raise enough money to achieve proof-of-concept and bring on board larger investors. More information can be found at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/baker-stove-an-energy-efficient-cookstove-for-the-developing-world

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