SEATTLE, Washington — The Gyapa Enterprises’ cookstove, an ingenious invention created out of necessity, has gone on to sell more than 1.4 million stoves in Ghana since it became available to the public in 2002. Its simple construction of an outer metal casing and an internal ceramic liner has made cooking easier, safer and more affordable for Ghanaians while creating new jobs and cutting carbon emissions. Benefiting the consumer and manufacturer, the Gyapa cookstove has spread across West Africa, creating a successful and sustainable business model.
The Gyapa cookstove, now produced by Gyapa Enterprises, began as a startup “market-based fuel-efficient cookstove program” funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Shell Foundation, Relief International and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Gyapa Enterprises asserts its creation of the largest locally produced cookstove in the industry by using a local supply chain and low-cost technologies. JP Morgan’s ClimateCare began funding the program under carbon credit financing from corporate carbon offsetting in 2007. Since then, the cookstove has become enormously successful, receiving Gold Standard accreditation with the world’s largest issuance of Gold Standard carbon credits to date. The carbon financing keeps Gyapa growing, allowing the company to invest in new business partners, market products, maintain quality checks and provide training. This lets the company expand into new markets and grow its consumer base.
With sustainability in mind from production to usage, Gyapa Enterprises creates its cookstove using only locally and abundantly accessible materials. The craftsmen who make the metal casings, for example, use recycled materials from scrap metal (old roofing sheets, appliance casings and sometimes car doors). Once the cookstove gets into consumers’ hands, the ceramic liner allows Ghanaians to cook faster and with fewer fuels (wood or charcoal usually), resulting in decreased carbon dioxide emissions and lower annual fuel costs for families. Lit coal or charcoal is placed in the ceramic liner to cook the food; the ceramic retains the heat compared to metal cookstoves that conduct and lose heat.
With the cookstove producing less air pollution and smoke, it has reduced the number of deaths related to toxic smoke inhalation in Ghana. Additionally, cookstove use results in half the amount of fuel usually used, putting less strain on the environment, an important achievement since Ghana already has very high deforestation rates. The cookstove has reduced carbon emission by an estimated 4.2 million tons and counting. Gyapa, after all, means “good fire,” and it lives up to its name.
The low cost of the cookstove, around $10, makes it easily accessible to Ghanaians, many of whom face poverty, with 10.6% of people in urban areas and 37.9% in rural areas. As a result, the Gyapa cookstove is spreading a “good fire,” reducing smoke inhalation accidents, lowering carbon emissions and providing disadvantaged communities with affordable appliances.
While “Gyapa” might not be a common name worldwide, it is very common in Ghana. This invention makes life easier for households across West Africa in addition to creating job opportunities. Gyapa Enterprises has grown tremendously since its creation, adding more skilled ceramicists, metal artisans, retailers and quality control checkers to its team. Upwards of 100,000 cookstoves are produced and distributed each year.
With the addition of new products and variations—the cookstove now comes in three different sizes—Gyapa has employed about 1,000 Ghanaians, providing specialized training and opportunities. With a commitment to local sourcing and manufacturing, Gyapa has continued to offer stable employment while strengthening West Africa’s economy.
The cookstove’s fuel efficiency allows households to cut down their annual fuel costs by about 50 to 60%, a significant decrease of a major source of spending in most West African households. These savings allow for the possibility of other necessary expenditures like nutritious food, medicine and educational materials.
Through Gyapa Enterprises’ commitment to using locally sourced and sustainable materials, the cookstove’s production costs are low. As a result, the organization can continue to keep the cookstove’s affordable cost, allowing many disadvantaged households the ability to afford the product. Gyapa Enterprises estimates its stove-users have saved upwards of $57 million since its expansion in 2007.
Gyapa Enterprises has progressed beyond cookstoves to create more eco-friendly products that improve Ghanaians’ lives and safety. Its CrystalPur Water Filter can provide a family of four with a year’s worth of safe drinking water before it has to be serviced for a new ceramic candle. Gyapa Enterprises’ water filter, currently in its pilot stage, works to solve the growing issue of communities drinking dangerous, contaminated water.
Another Gyapa product that offers clean water to Ghanaian communities is the bob® Rain Water Bag, which collects and holds about 1400 liters of clean rainwater. The product is also in its pilot stage and receives funding from Relief International’s EnterpriseWorks.
The Gyapa cookstove’s success stems from its central objective to make the lives of Ghanaians easier and safer while putting less strain on the environment. Gyapa Enterprises’ roots its work in this ambition, and its market research team continuously searches for new products to develop, which can fill the needs of Ghana households. The cookstove shows that the greatest achievements come from simple, creative designs and noble aspirations.