It is pleasing to know that something good came out of the load shedding period that South Africa experienced during 2008. On one of those long dark nights in Johannesburg, Sarah Collins leapt out of bed at two in the morning with a brainwave. She had an idea of how to overcome load shedding and provide economical cooking based on her childhood growing up on a farm in a remote part of the country. She had watched her grandmother bundle blankets and cushions around a hot pot of stew to keep it cooking and conserve her limited fuel. She also remembered watching the San people bury food in the ground while they were cooking and eventually came up with a prototype for a heat-retention cooker, the Wonderbag. After food is brought to a boil, the pot is placed into this heavily-lined bag where it slow-cooks for up to eight hours.
Last week, in association with the City of Cape Town and Greenaudits, we arranged a workshop for 22 cooks from the pre-schools we work with in Masiphumelele to introduce them to the Wonderbag.
The ladies got to sample, rice, soup and stew cooked in the bags and the environmental benefits and cost savings were explained to all attendees.
In the last five years 700, 000 have been sold or donated across Africa and elsewhere in the world. Their use has saved energy use and reduced indoor air pollution from cooking on solid fuels, especially wood. This of course has enormous benefits for the children in a pre-school environment. Smoke inhalation is decreased and burns from cooking fires are minimized. And by freeing up time spent cooking, the Wonderbag gives back time to the pre-school staff to spend more time with the children.
All 22 participants received a Wonderbag for use in their pre-schools and we look forward to seeing them in use in the future.