TAMPA, Florida — Sun24 is an American nonprofit organization that helps impoverished families in Africa fight malnutrition and improve their cookstoves. Sun24 offers African women education about how to arrange and enhance the efficiency of their open-fire cookstoves. Additionally, Sun24 educates women on how to remove embers from their cookstoves with tongs, allowing the embers to crumble to create biochar. Biochar is mixed with urine and applied to crops as a fertilizer, which has the potential to boost agricultural productivity.
Sun24 President Kevin McLean founded the U.S. non-governmental organization in 2016. Sun24 partners with many developing countries, including Bangladesh, India, Uganda, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Nepal. At its core, Sun24 strives to improve the effectiveness of cooking with biomass such as wood, dung and charcoal in lower-income countries. In the past couple of years, two of Sun24’s biggest successes include the usage of rock beds when cooking and mixing biochar and urine to create fertilizer.
To expand on its rock beds success, Sun24 discovered a way to reduce firewood use by one-third. By laying small rocks on the floor of a traditional cookstove, more air is circulated and less wood is needed. Sun24 trains African women how to arrange rocks beneath their firewood to make their open-fire cookstoves more efficient.
Additionally, Sun24 recently discovered that the mixing of biochar and urine can create an excellent fertilizer for crops. While the majority of the African population lives on small-scale farming, subsidence farmers like to grow and raise their own food. These farmers usually cook with open-fire cookstoves, even though many are on the verge of starvation and malnutrition. However, urine is high in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, all of which are found in commercial fertilizers. When urine is mixed with biochar, the biochar absorbs nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, transforming it into great fertilizer. Now, farmers can make their own fertilizer for free and save some money.
Cookstoves Contribute to Climate Change
One of Sun24’s objectives is to make open-fire cookstoves less harmful to the environment. Some detrimental effects open-fire cookstoves can cause include deforestation, outdoor air pollution and the emission of carbon dioxide and black carbon, which all contribute to climate change. Furthermore, women and children become ill from the smoke from these cookstoves, which kills four million people each year.
Families in sub-Saharan Africa spend an average of 14 hours each week gathering firewood. The necessity for firewood in open-fire cookstoves contributes to deforestation. Moreover, smoke inhalation from the cookstoves can cause health risks and is a major contributor to outdoor air pollution. Emitting carbon dioxide and black carbon create “dirty air.” According to the Africa Clean Cooking Energy Solutions Initiative, solid-fuel cooking accounts for 6% of worldwide black carbon emissions in sub-Saharan Africa.
Decreasing the Environmental Impact
A few years ago, Sun24 found that placing a few rocks on the ground elevates the fuel, allowing air to circulate beneath the fire. The rocks increase efficiency by one-third, resulting in one-third less firewood being used to cook. This also decreases deforestation rates and saves families the long hours of collecting firewood. In addition, the quality of both indoor and outdoor air has improved. By using less firewood, families are reducing their carbon emissions by millions of tons every year.
Furthermore, hundreds of millions of farmers cook with wood. Biochar may be made for free, allowing these farmers to boost their agricultural yield. Biochar is virtually pure carbon that is sequestered in the soil, resulting in a significant reduction in climate change. The majority of climate experts feel that lowering carbon emissions alone will not suffice. Carbon must be removed from the atmosphere, which is where biochar comes into play. Biochar separates the carbon from the soil, allowing African farmers to bury it.
Biochar Can Decrease Poverty
Billions of people in developing countries live on smallholder farms. Many are on the verge of hunger, cultivating their own food to make ends meet. Studies show that women may remove embers from open-fire cookstoves without increasing the amount of wood needed to cook their meals. When the women crush the embers, it creates biochar, forming a useful fertilizer. Impoverished farmers may make biochar at home for free. Therefore, those who cannot afford commercial fertilizer can use biochar and considerably boost crop productivity.
All the training Sun24 and its partners do worldwide helps millions of families who use open-fire cookstoves every day. President of Sun24 Kevin McLean spoke with The Borgen Project on the NGO’s impact and goals. McLean stated, “Millions of women are using rock beds. Removing embers was conceived just four months ago, but we expect to have one million families trained by the end of August.” As more awareness is spread about Sun24’s work, new goals and initiatives will be met. As Sun24 helps improves cookstoves, families in developing countries living in extreme levels of poverty will be able to cook from their homes in a safer environment.
– Mary McLean
Photo: Wikimedia Commons