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PE Welcomes New Team Members!

We’re excited to welcome Mark Bonney as our newest team member! Mark writes grant proposals and assists the team with fundraising strategy implementation. With diverse experience in international non-profit and social enterprise fundraising, he is passionate about advancing development solutions in the sub-Saharan Africa and MENA regions, particularly in the health, clean energy, housing and microfinance sectors. Mark lived in Egypt from 2009 to 2012, where he helped develop and secure funding for Ashoka Arab World’s housing initiative to improve living conditions in informal communities. He also served as a fundraising advisor and grant writer for several civil society organizations in Cairo. Since returning to the U.S., Mark worked for Kiva as a foundation and corporate grants specialist and for a multi-national online education company as a project manager. Mark holds a B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University. He is also an accomplished classical singer, and enjoys learning languages, outdoor adventures, and playing golf.

Abubakr Mohammad has 8 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Abubakr has volunteered, and lead various initiatives and projects with institutes such as the Sudanese Natural Heritage Society, the Sudanese Museum of Natural History and the Sudanese Wildlife Conservation Society. His opportunity to work with nonprofits gave him solid experience in many fields of his interests including: environmental awareness, scientific field work, climate change and impact assessment. Abubakr is leading Potential Energy’s efforts to learn more about potential customers and test the market for the Berkeley-Darfur Stove in new areas of Darfur. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural studies from Sudan University of Sciences and Technology.

In addition to Mark and Abubakr, we recently welcomed Diallo Afadhali and Zelie Anner to PE. Stay tuned for more updates on the Our Team page of our website!

Tô, Pâte and Assidah

Tô, Pâte and Assidah
By: Debra Stein

Greetings from Ouagadougou! I just returned from a visit to Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, where I was visiting villages with Federico, PE’s Summer Research Fellow assigned to Burkina Faso.  In these villages, we conducted focus groups and “cook-offs,” where women cooked the same meal on our stove, the traditional open fire and a basic metal cookstove that is commonly found in the country. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove was very popular- women liked that their pots fit in the stove and that it stayed stable when they vigorously stirred tô, a thick porridge made of millet.

Cook-off in Burkina Faso

Cook-off in Burkina Faso

Before arriving in Burkina Faso, I worked in the neighboring country of Benin with our Summer Research Fellow, Courtney. In Benin, Courtney and I travelled to Klouekanme, a town in the southwest of the country about 5 hours from the capital, Cotonou. In Klouekanme, we were hosted by REPFED, a fantastic local women’s organization that introduced us to women in nearby villages where we conducted household surveys to learn more about the health effects of cooking over an open fire, how much money they spend on fuel and how many hours per day they spend cooking. In addition to cooking meals for their families, many of these women were cooking food to sell at the local market, exposing them to dangerous smoke emissions for a large part of the day, every day.

With the BDS in Ayahohoué, Benin.

With the BDS in Ayahohoué, Benin.

Similar to my work with Federico in Burkina Faso, we also conducted cooking demonstrations and focus group discussions. In Klouekanme, the women prepared the most commonly eaten food in Benin, pâte, a dish made of corn meal that is vigorously stirred in round-bottomed pots.

Cooking pâte in Benin

Cooking pâte in Benin

The Berkeley-Darfur Stove was originally designed to fit the round-bottomed pots in Darfur and to remain stable when women prepare assidah, the staple food in Darfur. When targeting other countries to launch a Potential Energy program, two of the factors we explored were the similarity in cooking pots and cooking styles to Darfur.* Sure enough, when preparing tô and pâte, the women appreciated that their cooking habits were factored into the design of the stove and were excited to learn that they shared this with women in Sudan.

I look forward to hearing more updates as the summer progresses from our impressive group of Fellows. Please stay tuned for more updates from the field from Courtney in Benin, Federico in Burkina Faso and Margo and Patrice in Cameroon!

*Many thanks to Cristina Ceballos for her excellent in-depth research on this topic.

Stories from a frontier market

Stories from a frontier market
By: Federico Bianchi

Potential Energy Summer Research Fellow
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
June 10, 2014

“Bon, on y va!” – “Ok, let’s go!” This is what my collaborator tells me on a Wednesday at 2pm. It is my first Wednesday in Ouagadougou and I have been asking for the whole day to leave the office and go “on the field” (“sur le terrain”, people would say here). I am eager to meet the families that live in the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou and to start interviewing them about their cooking habits.

Some minutes later we leave the office. We jump on a motorbike and find our way through the traffic of the city – hard to imagine something more chaotic and scary, at least the first time you find yourself surrounded by a chaos of cars and motorbikes. Motorbikes, in particular, are everywhere. Cars are a bit less but they are not afraid of almost bumping into other vehicles to find their way. It will take me some more time to get used to this way of driving: today, I am just hoping that we will safely reach our destination.

Against all the odds, we arrive at our destination in only 30 minutes and with limited risks for our safety. We are in the so-called “Non-Loti” now. This is the suburb of the city and it keeps growing at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, it has not yet been connected to the electrical and hydraulic network. Families in this area live in conditions similar to rural zones but men and women can find jobs in the central areas of Ouagadougou.

My collaborator quickly identifies the first family that we can interview. Today we are working on defining a “baseline” of the local population in terms of health and cooking habits. We hope to understand whether our cookstoves could be interesting for these customers and if it could bring a meaningful improvement to their life conditions.

I am glad my collaborator is here with me. His name is Hanro and he works for the organization, Entrepreneurs du Monde (EDM). He is part of the “Nafa Naana” project, specialized in selling improved cookstoves and solar lighting devices to families. This organization has been incredibly supportive since I arrived: the fact that I could rely on Hanro for my interviews is only one of the many ways “Nafa Naana” has been helpful over the last days.

Hanro is probably the best person I could have met to get things done. He has experience in interviewing households in the Ouagadougou area and has worked before in the cookstove field. He speaks fluent French and Mooré (the local language). If I had to prepare a wish list for this project in Burkina Faso, meeting somebody like him would have been the top choice.

I follow him while we approach a group of women sitting in a small yard outside a house. The women are talking and laughing but, the moment they see us, they first shut up and then start laughing again: probably they are joking about me. The only word in Mooré they say that I can understand is “Nassarà”, the “White Guy”. Hanro starts answering to their jokes and, in less than 5 minutes, we are ready to start our interview. Some of the women leave the yard and the house owner starts answering our questions.

Hanro facilitating a stove demonstration with Summer Fellow, Federico Bianchi in Burkina Faso.

Hanro facilitating a stove demonstration with Summer Fellow, Federico Bianchi in Burkina Faso.

While Hanro goes through our questionnaire, I walk around the yard and start looking at the house. The yard is approximately a square, 10 meters per side. Two small constructions are located at the opposite corners of the yard; each construction is 3 meters large, 4 meters long and a little less than 4 meters tall. The walls are made of mud bricks while the roof is covered with a corrugated metal sheet and more bricks. The yard is mostly empty; some plastic bottles are piled in a corner.

I hear Hanro and the woman laughing and talking, he is doing a great job completing our questionnaire. I take some time to check the fireplace. The family uses a typical 3-stone fire and cooks in the yard, apart from when it’s raining and they are forced to move inside.
We finish our questionnaire and complete all the household measurement. The family spends a little less than 1 euro a day on food and fuel. They mainly eat rice and “tô”, a local dish made with millet flour. Almost all the members of the family suffer from sicknesses related to smoke exposure.

Hanro and I stand up and thank the woman for her time. Her friends come back and start talking about the “Nassarà” again; some kids come running and smiling, shouting the same word. They want to shake my hands and then run away again.

The first day in the “Non-Loti” around Ouagadougou is over. Hanro and I go back to our motorbike and get ready to come back to the city. I already know tomorrow I will keep asking Hanro again to explore more of this amazing city.

Alarming news from the World Health Organization

The WHO has issued a press release estimating that 7 million deaths a year are linked to air pollution exposure.

The new estimates are based on the latest WHO mortality data from 2012 as well as evidence of health risks from air pollution exposures. Estimates of people’s exposure to outdoor air pollution in different parts of the world were formulated through a new global data mapping. This incorporated satellite data, ground-level monitoring measurements and data on pollution emissions from key sources, as well as modelling of how pollution drifts in the air.

“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”

Read the full press release at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Cooking adventures with the Berkeley-Darfur Stove

Naren at our stove flat kit manufacturer Shri Hari Industries in New Delhi has been cooking up some tasty meals on the Berkeley-Darfur Stove!

“Look at Annie”, consoled missus. Does the fact that he can’t sing deter him from believing that he will one day be mistaken for Mallikarjun Mansur?”

That perked up the lad a bit. Slanderous libel, of course. I sing very very well indeed. But mother and son had a laugh and the missus, going all “awww” at my evident inability to see the humor in that, said “Lets grill some chicken”

“On the Berkely Darfur stove?” I piped up excitedly

“Why not?”

Read about Naren’s cooking adventures on his blog:

We’re Hiring!

Be part of Potential Energy’s inaugural class of Summer Fellows! Check out the job description here.

March 8 is International Women’s Day!

Every March 8, millions of people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day. In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked our colleague Omnia Abbas to share some thoughts about her views of the shifting role of women in Darfur. Here’s what she said about a recent experience meeting with Potential Energy’s customers:

Everytime I go to Darfur, I’m inspired by the women I meet, and their resilience in the face of immense hardship. The stoves they use are important to them for many reasons – they’ve even formed groups where they share tips on how to use the stove and lend out their stoves to friends who do not yet have their own. This December, I met with a small group of women who’ve been using their Potential Energy stoves for over 2 years. As with all customer meetings, I started the conversation by asking about the stove, how they felt about it, and what recommendations they had for modifications. After covering these topics, our conversation then shifted to the subject of gender, and the effect that being a woman in Darfur has on employment, permanent settlement and livelihoods.

It was no surprise that these women have been affected physically, mentally and economically – this is so common in Darfur. I was struck, however, by how these women’s roles had shifted as a result of the conflict: Many displaced Darfuris have a background in farming or herding and have limited work opportunities in their displacement camps and surrounding areas. Besides the few lucky men who’ve found jobs with the UN as security agents, drivers and the like, most men find it increasingly difficult to secure a paying job. In contrast, many women in Darfur have ventured into new roles as their family’s primary “breadwinner” that, prior to the conflict, had been held by men. In these new roles, women often find themselves salvaging and rebuilding their lives and adjusting to new circumstances.

According to the women I spoke with, our stove has played an important role in this shift in gender roles within their households. Because the stove cooks so quickly, women have more time during the day to search for work for the day to earn a bit of extra money. Because the stove reduces the amount of firewood needed to cook, women are able to save money that they would have otherwise spent purchasing cooking fuel and are now contributing more to household financial decision-making. Speaking to me about what she does with the money saved by using our stove, Khadija noted: “I plug gaps in my daily expenditures and it keeps my husband happy until he can find a job. The children have become accustomed to coming to me for their allowance.”

The 10-year-old conflict continues to shape and re-shape the lives of Darfuri people. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2013, at least 460,000 people in Darfur fled their homes as a result of ongoing clashes.

To me, these women’s journeys through their use of our stove reveal a lot that is both personal and universal. This International Women’s Day, I’d like to take a moment to honor these women who face so much just to feed their families. This International Women’s Day, I encourage you to support our ongoing efforts to empower women like Khadija.

Thank you for your commitment to our work,

Omnia Abbas
Sudan Field Representative

Potential Energy at the 6th MOJAMOJA Brunch & Benefit Concert

The 6th Annual MOJAMOJA Brunch and Benefit Concert presented by 89.9 KCRW was held in Hollywood on Saturday, January 25th. The event raised funds and awareness for Oxfam America and for Potential Energy and featured performances by Hiatus Kaiyote, Rhye, Kelela, Cut Chemist, The Kin, Irene Diaz, and Boogaloo Assassins.

Thank you to everybody who came out to support Potential Energy! View photos of the event on CrowdAlbum.

Garth Trinidad, Garth Fergusen, and Michelle Kreger at Moja Moja

Garth Trinidad (KCRW/Moja Moja), Bob Fergusen (Oxfam America), and PE’s own Executive Director Michelle Kreger at Moja Moja

Photo by Elisa Camahort Page

Executive Director Michelle Kreger and Associate Director Debra Stein with performers at Moja Moja

Executive Director Michelle Kreger and Associate Director Debra Stein with performers.
Photo by Scott Branam.

New Executive Director

We know you have been eager to find out who our new Executive Director would be ever since former Executive Director Andrée Sosler left the team in October. Well, today’s the day, so please join us in welcoming our new Executive Director, Michelle Kreger!

Michelle Kreger, our new Executive Director Michelle comes to Potential Energy after 7 years at Kiva, a nonprofit organization connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. At Kiva, Michelle spent 5 years building their network of microfinance partners across Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and 2 years as Senior Director of Kiva’s Strategic Initiatives group, where she was responsible for overseeing their expansion into new impact areas including clean energy, water and sanitation, innovative agriculture and higher education. In 2012, Michelle served as a Rainer Arnhold Fellow, a prestigious program for social entrepreneurs with particularly promising solutions to the big problems in health, poverty, and conservation in developing countries. Prior to joining Kiva, Michelle founded a nonprofit organization in Costa Rica, NatureKids, which focuses on English literacy and environmental sustainability in burgeoning tourist hubs. She also worked at various organizations dedicated to financial inclusion, including ACCION International. Michelle graduated magna cum laude from Boston University with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Economics.

PE Participating in Panel on Women’s Empowerment

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstove invites you to an event to launch the Alliance’s new report, Scaling Adoption of Clean Cooking Solutions through Women’s Empowerment: A Resource Guide

A Panel Discussion on Scaling Clean Cooking Solutions Through Women’s Empowerment


Tim Brown, CEO IDEO
Chuck Slaughter, President & Founder, Living Goods
Debra Stein, Executive Director, Potential Energy
Johanna Matocha, Director, Carbon & Impact Systems Development, The Paradigm Project
Premal Shah*, President, KIVA

Moderated by:

Corinne Hart, Gender & Markets Program Manager, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Lunch Reception to follow

IDEO’s Offices
Pier 28
San Francisco, CA

The Alliance has developed a groundbreaking report, Scaling Adoption of Clean Cooking Solutions through Women’s Empowerment: A Resource Guide, for a wide-variety of sector stakeholders – including practitioners, donors, policymakers, multinational corporations, investors, and academic institutions – to increase their understanding of why women are critical and how to ensure they are included in every clean cooking value chain segment.
Although women are disproportionately impacted by dirty and inefficient cooking practices and reliance on biomass for fuel, they also are crucial partners in the widespread adoption and use of clean cooking solutions because of their central responsibility for cooking and managing household energy. Women have a role to play in every segment of the clean cooking value chain, and their involvement can increase project effectiveness and help scale adoption of products and services, while also impacting their livelihoods.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. Today a staggering 4 million people around the world die annually from exposure to smoke from inefficient cookstoves and women and children are disproportionately impacted. The Alliance’s ‘100 by 20’ goal calls for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance works with public, private, and non-profit partners to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world. For more information on the Alliance, please visit www.cleancookstoves.org. For more information on the Resource Guide, please visit www.cleancookstoves.org/gender.