50,000 x 2016: Going Further

November 30, 2015
A Day with Mary

It’s early; the sun is just rising over Kamuli, a small village 150 kilometers away from Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. Most of us wouldn’t be out of bed yet but for Mary, a 50-year-old farmer and mother of eight, the day starts at 4am.

She grabs a few pieces of firewood and lights a fire in the mouth of her HomeStove. As water for morning tea starts to boil, she begins preparing breakfast. Mary commands a presence even while making porridge. It’s clear that she is the head of the household, a responsibility she took on when her husband passed away a few years ago. Slowly but surely, family members fill the room until it’s packed, buzzing with people waiting to start their day. Five of Mary’s eight children live with her along with three young grandchildren.

After everyone is fed and on their way to school, Mary heads to work in the field behind her home - a space she’s cultivated tirelessly into a self sustaining farm. She checks her crops and prepares the soil to plant more tomatoes, beans, maize, and potatoes. The farm is finally at a point where it can allow her to support her family. And thanks to her new BioLite HomeStove, she has money to spare; rather than spending money on expensive fuel, she can cook for the whole family using only a few pieces of wood she finds around her home.

During the late afternoon while her family is out Mary turns her attention towards her community. She heads to church and often visits with neighbors before returning home to prepare dinner. At night, she re-lights her HomeStove quickly and prepares dinner as the family once again convenes in the same small room. As the sun sets, Mary plugs an LED light into the USB port of her HomeStove and the family can see one another, sharing stories of their day.

It is a good and typical day for Mary – but a day far different from where she was a year ago.

"The Lucky One"

Mary considers herself lucky because BioLite came into her life by chance. A neighbor saw a HomeStove demonstration in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, while visiting family. She was so impressed that she bought a few stoves to bring back to her village to re-sell to other community leaders. A respected farmer and community member, Mary was included in this group and purchased the stove on the spot. Had it not been for that generous neighbor, Mary’s daily cooking experience would remain a painful and arduous task in her day.

Before the HomeStove, Mary was cooking over an open fire, consisting of a few large stones propping up large pieces of wood. Smoke billowed from the small flames and she couldn’t get near it without her eyes watering. No matter what type of fuel she used, clouds would fill the air when she cooked causing her children to cough and wheeze; the family would try to move through the room as fast as possible. Morning tea, a small pleasure in Mary’s day, would be sacrificed just so that her grandchildren wouldn’t wake up sneezing.

Fortunately for Mary, these smoke-filled days are a thing of the past and morning tea is back on the schedule. However, with the well being of her community always in her mind, she now wants to make the HomeStove accessible for her entire village.

A 100 Mile Trek

Mary’s village is roughly 150 kilometers (about 100 miles) outside of Kampala. For most of us, traveling 150 kilometers is not a huge deal. Public transportation, well maintained interstates and affordable flights make it so easy to travel that we often don’t give it a second thought. In Uganda where infrastructure is poor, traffic is dense, and modes of transportation are few and far between, getting from Mary’s home to Jinja, the nearest city 74 kilometers away (about 45 miles) can take half of the day.

For the past two years, BioLite has been operating, with great success in Uganda, mostly within the city limits of Kampala. The local BioLite team is constantly busy with customers, partners, and demonstrations, which is great for the team, but a challenge for villages like Mary’s: with a high demand in the city, the team lacks bandwidth to make delivery trips to reach more remote communities who are also in need of the HomeStove. To date, the only way to get access to a HomeStove would be for potential customers to a) have the knowledge of the HomeStove (like Mary’s neighbor) and b) find a way to Kampala for the day. This means a full day away from family, giving up a day’s work, and spending hours hiking to main roads, waiting for buses, and hoping that your desired items are in stock and available once you’re there.

With your help, that’s about to change in 2016.

Going Further, Faster.

  Mary has done an incredible job of sharing the experience of the HomeStove with her community: now it’s up to us to show up for her neighbors and everyone in the villages surrounding hers. By expanding our reach into new territories, we can bring our stove to families who rarely travel to the city, we can show them that days filled with smoke and coughing no longer have to be a reality.

So how do we do it? In a word – logistics. With your support, we can establish warehouses in cities like Jinja, open up small stock points to serve villages within a 20 mile radius of those warehouses, and staff those locations with people who can demonstrate the HomeStove and deliver them to interested families with ease and speed. We are already working with local distribution partners to identify villages like Mary’s and build roadmaps to reach more rural households in 2016.

Get Soot Done
This story is part of a series on our efforts to bring clean cooking to 50,000 homes in India and Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016.