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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Eritrean cookers saving firewood
By Ed Harris
BBC News, Eritrea

An Eritrean girl stands behind an old stove and in front of a small building housing her mother's improved mogogo
The new mogogo behind this girl is much safer than the older version, in front

An award-winning fuel-efficient cooker is helping Eritrea save its trees by reducing the consumption of firewood by 50%.

The design is an improved version of the traditional mogogo stove used for baking the traditional bread called injera.

Deforestation was already a serious problem before Eritrea's independence in 1993 as a lot of vegetation, used as cover by Eritrean guerrillas during their 30-year struggle for independence from neighbouring Ethiopia, was destroyed in fighting.

But persistent drought and the displacement of more than a third of the population during its most recent war with Ethiopia have compounded the problem.


The new improved mogogo looks a like a large, enclosed, solid, clay box. It's just above waist high, with two hot rings and what looks like an exhaust pipe.

Lemlem Ghilazgi pours bread mix onto her improved mogogo
Now it is very good, tasty. It's very good injera
Grandmother Lemlem Ghilazgi

It is able to reduce fuel consumption by cleverly channelling the flow of air, insulating the fire and keeping the firewood off the ground.

Lemlem Ghilazgi, a grandmother of three who was driven to the south-western village of Bimbilna during the 1998-2000 border war, says her new improved mogogo makes her bread taste better.

"This mogogo stove is like an electric mogogo," says Lemlem, who built her mogogo with support from CARE International and the British embassy in Eritrea.

"We can use it properly and we can get good injera from here.

"With the previous one, we could only use hard wood and sometimes the injera would burn... But now it is very good, tasty. It's very good injera."

It is also much safer and there are fewer accidents, as children can no longer fall onto an open source of heat.

Less smoke is another benefit, significantly reducing respiratory infections.

Afwerki Tesfazion, who works at the Minister of Energy and Mines, which pioneered the design in the late 1990s, says at first people were doubtful about the new technology, but they are now changing their tune.

He remembers visiting one priest, who was taking coffee at home while his wife was baking.

"We asked him what the advantages were. He said: 'It is self-explanatory, you see me here in the kitchen, this is never thought of before.

"'I would not dare go to the kitchen before, but this time you see me sitting with my wife, taking coffee in the very kitchen that was a taboo for a man to go in.'"

It seems this world-class Eritrean invention is taking a small step forward for Eritrea's trees and maybe for Eritrea's coffee drinkers too.

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