Cookstoves to the rescue

Myanmar, December 8, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Benny Manser/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Myat Soe with wife Myint Myint Kyu and children — and one of the fuel-efficient stoves they produce and sell. Photo: Benny Manser/Mercy Corps

Myat Soe and his family lost their house, fishing business and small grocery in the 2008 cyclone that devastated Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta. Afterwards, they moved in with his father and struggled just to make ends meet.

Then Myat Soe learned from Mercy Corps how to make fuel-efficient stoves — cookstoves that require less firewood to fuel them — and started his own business. Since February 2011, he's made 230 of the specially designed stoves.

"At first I was full of anxiety," Myat Soe says. "But Mercy Corps provided continual training, support, materials and follow-up visits, linking us into local markets which makes a real difference."

Myat Soe's wife, Myint Myint Kyu, sells the stoves in the local market. "I began by meeting other villagers and telling them about the benefits of the stoves, like reducing wood fuel, fire hazards and decreasing cooking times. Two or three people bought the stoves and then word of mouth took care of the rest," she says.

The couple is slowly scaling up business. With a grant from Mercy Corps they are making new drying space in the workshop and buying a cart to transport them. They hope to sell to more than 2,000 people across seven nearby villages.

Myat Soe says the business will support his family's needs, including the schooling of his three children. And there are community benefits, too, he says. "If we are promoting the use of fuel-efficient stoves then there will be fewer trees cut, and more greenery."