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Thursday, 1st July 2021

Changing the world on a budget: How SEED supported staff to move to Fuel Efficient Stoves

By Peter Bates

SEED Madagascar is a conservation and development NGO working in some of the most biodiverse, fragile, and economically underdeveloped environments in the world. As part of our commitment to mitigating our impact on these ecosystems in February 2020 we established SEED’s ‘Positive Footprints’ programme which reviewed the impact that SEED had on the environment across all of its activity.

A traditional open cooking fire also consumes a lot of wood, as well as posing safety risks

As part of Positive Footprints, one of the changes we made was to launch a new savings initiative that we hoped would promote the use of fuel-efficient stoves. As the initial outlay was a deterrent, SEED supported staff to make the initial financial outlay needed to switch from more charcoal intensive stoves.

Around 70% of the population cook using charcoal, however this causes a host of problems and challenges. Health problems caused by the inhalation of smoke from traditional charcoal burning stoves contributes to acute respiratory infection – the leading cause of death in children under 5 years old in Madagascar (WHO, 2013). Pollutants from stoves also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, cataract, low birth weight and stillbirth (WHO, 2016). Environmentally, partially due to charcoal production, Madagascar has lost 44% of its forests within the past 60 years (Vieilledent et al., 2018). With the trees planted for charcoal fast depleting, many people have now switched to native or fruit tree species such as mango trees, litchis and tamarind.

Charcoal production is one of the causes of forest loss in Madagascar.

Traditional open stoves also pose a grave safety risk. The design of the new stoves means that stray sparks are less likely to start a fire – which can be devastating in communities of tightly packed wooden structure homes. A fire that destroyed 37 homes in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Fort Dauphin in November 2020 is a stark reminder of this fire risk.

Finally, financially fuel efficient stoves make sense as, during these times of rising costs in Fort Dauphin, they will also reduce the amount that families are spending on charcoal and wood.

To financially support staff to make this change, SEED invested a small amount of funding into a savings scheme. The FESSS was structured to spread the cost over a number of months and staff also benefited from a subsidiary on the final payment of their first stove – a 2,000 Ar saving on the small stove and 4,000 Ar on the large one.

  Small Stove Payments Large Stove Payments
First Month 6,000 Ar 12,000 Ar
Second Month 6,000 Ar 12,000 Ar
Third Month 4,000 Ar 10,000 Ar
Fourth Month - 10,000 Ar
Total paid (including subsidiary) 16,000 Ar 44,000 Ar

To put these costs in perspective, the 16,000 Ar for the small stove is equivalent to two days salary, or 15 cups of rice, and many families simply couldn’t afford this. However, staff projected an average fuel saving of 50% compared to traditional stoves, and they calculated that within 3 months the large stove would pay for itself in fuel savings, and the small stove within two months.

Fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly stoves at the SEED office in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar

The FESSS was structured so that payments were due on or the day following pay day, ensuring that payments were due when people had the money available. To track progress towards a stove, staff were provided with a ‘fuel efficient stove savings card’ and staff were able to collect their stove following the penultimate payment.

Five months on and there has been a steady uptake since we launched the scheme in January 2021. Just two weeks after launch, 20 members of staff had signed up for a small stove and 12 for a large stove. By the end of May 2021, 12 members of the team had paid for and collected their large stove and 32 members of the team had paid and collected small stoves.

Those purchasing the stoves reported using around 50% less charcoal with their new stoves representing a saving of between 30 to 90 kg of charcoal per family per month. This equates to approximately 90 to 270 kg less CO2 emissions directly from the charcoal burning – plus the CO2 saved in the manufacturing and transport of that extra charcoal.

All in all, this Fuel Efficient Stove Savings Scheme has been a definite win/win – a win for the environment and a win for people’s pockets.


  1. Vieilledent, G., Grinand, C., Rakotomalala, F. A., Ranaivosoa, R., Rakotoarijaona, J. R., Allnutt, T. F., & Achard, F. (2018). Combining global tree cover loss data with historical national forest cover maps to look at six decades of deforestation and forest fragmentation in Madagascar. Biological Conservation, 222, 189–197.
  2. WHO. (2013). Madagascar: WHO statistical profile. [Accessed: 1st April 2021]
  3. WHO. (2016). Household air pollution and the sustainable development goals. [Accessed: 1st April 2021]