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.
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.
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.
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.