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Agricultural Development

Fostering a sustainable environment


For generations, firewood has been the sole source of energy in Rural Gambia and other developing countries. It is mainly used for cooking, heating and light at night. This has put a strain on forests and the environment. With help from AHEAD, however, village women are saving time, labor and natural resources when they prepare their daily meals.

These women cook with a “rocket stove,” a small circular grill resembling an upside-down Dutch oven with a short, wide tube protruding from its side. Sticks are feed through the tube and ignited. The metal stove contains the fire and sends its heat directly to the pot atop the grill. The food cooks with one-tenth of the fuel needed for an open fire, while the air is free of smoke from fires in dozens of compounds.

AHEAD board member Malcolm Gee says the organization works hard to satisfy demand for the device

“The women love them. They’re excited about them and they think it’s great.”

The stoves are made from sheet metal. AHEAD purchases materials with donations from Alternative Gifts International (AGI), a crowd-funding site for non-profits. The stoves are constructed by local metalwork students and sold to women for $8 on a six-month installment plan.

Isatou brought her stove in SangarjoVillage, The Gambia. She says the device saves time and labor.

“The stove helps me to cook faster than on an open fire,” she says. I also use less wood and there is very little smoke from the fire. The stove helps us reduce air pollution.”

The rocket stove project demonstrates AHEAD’s commitment to working with villagers to enhance traditional ways of life instead of replacing them.


Gee originally thought solar cookers would provide an efficient, sustainable way to prepare food. He tested two styles: a panel cooker and a box oven. The village women liked cooking with solar energy because they did not have to walk long distances to fetch firewood, but it limits the amount of food they can cook at one go.

“The stoves were meant to cook food for a family of four, but Gambian families have about eight to 10 people,” Gee says.

After Gee tested prototypes in the Gambian, requests flowed in.

Gee introduced another sustainable cooking technique as well: the heat retention oven. The “oven” is simply a container packed with insulating material. A hot pot of rice is placed in the container for a couple hours.

“(The rice) will continue to cook and will be warm when the stew is done,” Gee says.

Village women use baskets stuffed with banana leaves, newspapers or even rags.

“One woman took a plastic tub that was a couple feet high and used it as her heat retention oven,” Gee says.

Your $25 Donation Provides a Rocket Stove for One Family

Your contribution is tax-deductible. AHEAD is a 501(c)3 organization that is recognized in the United States and Tanzania.