How this innovation works to reduce the dangers of cooking smoke inhalation

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Cooking with open fires inside of homes is a common practice in developing countries. But this everyday activity is causing millions of people to suffer and even die from the harmful effects of smoke.

Project STOKE, an Enactus Mount Royal initiative, hopes to offer a sustainable solution to this problem through high-efficiency smokeless stoves.

 “They produce less smoke, so that helps with a host of different health issues, such as the 4.3 million people who die every year because of cooking smoke inhalation,” said Timothy Lipp, the president of Project STOKE. “Over 50 per cent of children’s deaths under the age of five are related to cooking smoke.”

According to the World Health Organization, these smoke related health issues include illnesses such as pneumonia, stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer.projectstoke-5 editedTimothy Lipp fires up one of the smokeless stoves in Kenya to demonstrate how it works. Photo courtesy of Project STOKE

Lipp heard about Top Lift Up-Draft stoves, which were invented by Dr. Paul Anderson, and saw an opportunity to make a positive impact. He got some friends together, and Project STOKE was kick-started after winning the Change Tank innovation competition in 2015.

The stoves work by controlling the airflow, which forces the smoke back down into the fire to be re-burned, eliminating pollutants and producing biochar, which can be used as fertilizer.

Last summer, they travelled to Kenya to run a pilot program and begin the process of producing and selling these stoves. Since then, over 90 solves have been built and sold in Kenya.

“It was very inspiring to see them accept the technology and be willing to try it out,” said Mercy Maina, the environmental director of Project STOKE.

Not only do the stoves reduce the impact of smoke for the people that use them, they also help the local economies in the communities where they are produced. The stoves are manufactured locally in developing countries and then sold for approximately $18 CDN each.

“One of the things we found is that if we subsidize the stoves, it might help them a little bit in the short run, but in the long run, it won’t help the economy and businesses,” said Lipp.projectstoke-1 edited“Carly, Quinn, Dustin, Mercy, Timothy, Wendelin, and Austin gather around the stove for a demonstration at Mount Royal University. Photo by Emily Holloway

Going forward, Lipp hopes to expand the project into other areas of Kenya and eventually into other parts of the world. They are already working on a second pilot project in another part of Kenya, and they hope to use these early opportunities to learn more about the communities they are working with and continue the success of Project STOKE.

On March 4, the Project STOKE team won the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge at the Enactus Western Regional Exposition in Calgary, and will now move on to compete at the national exposition in May.

More information about Project STOKE and these stoves can be found at

Produced by: Emily Holloway

Thumbnail courtesy of Project STOKE.

The editor responsible for this article is Tara Rathgeber.

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