Early this year, I stumbled across a fabulously simple, but effective product which aimed to revolutionise cooking by saving energy and money – the product, Wonderbag.
The Wonderbag, from social enterprise Natural Balance, is an insulated bag in which people can cook anything from meaty stews or vegetable curries to simple rice and soups. You just heat up your pot of food on the stove, kick-starting the cooking process, and then place it in the Wonderbag.
But why is this so great, well once you’ve brought the food up to the boil, by placing your pot in the Wonderbag it continues to cook in the bag without the need for more fuel – saving you energy and money. It also means you do not need to tend to the cooking, leaving your free to do other things. A great boon for busy mums in the UK, but an even bigger plus for mums in third world countries, where fuel is expensive and a mother’s time is greatly stretched.
This is where the Wonderbag is now changing lives, working in countries like Rwanda, Wonderbags are having a hugely positive impact on the environment and also helping to alleviate poverty – from reducing fuel usage to job creation and freeing up valuable time.
Recent trials across Rwanda found that the average family’s fuel usage is reduced by up to 70 per cent when using the Wonderbag, saving 4.9 trees per household every year. This is vitally important as the population has limited access to clean and safe cooking fuels and consequently the country’s natural resources are depreciating rapidly, disrupting the balance of the local ecosystem. The Wonderbag also dramatically reduces cooking times on open fires and paraffin lit stoves – on average five hours – saving anywhere from 50-90 per cent of the time food needs to be on an external heating source. In addition, up to 80 per cent less water is used as there is no evaporation due to the heat retention properties of the cooker. This is the equivalent of five meals cooked with the same amount of water required for one meal using traditional means.
Speaking of the expansion into Rwanda, Sarah Collins, founder, Natural Balance said: “Our business is at a revolutionary point with governments and organisations alike recognising the extraordinary opportunity the Wonderbag provides for them to contribute positively to society. As Africa’s most densely populated country, Rwanda is a vital territory for our business as we look to continue to promote the benefits of the Wonderbag and set up our central East Africa head office. The expansion marks the start of a global programme of growth across both developing and developed nations in the coming months.”
The recent launch into Rwanda comes after a year of significant change and continued success for Natural Balance which actively seeks to launch in to countries and communities identified with high poverty rates, a shortage of fuel supplies, a high incidence of health problems associated with air pollution, and/or injuries resulting from fuel fires. As of June 2012, 500,000 Wonderbags have been distributed throughout South Africa directly improving the lives of over 2.5 million people. Furthermore each Wonderbag can prevent the emission of half a ton of C02 each year, even if only used three times a week. This is the equivalent to the annual emissions of over 45,000 European households, or more than 400,000 return flights between London and New York. Moreover, since September 2011, over 2,000 temporary and permanent jobs have been created in local communities by Natural Balance by establishing factories which produce Wonderbags.