Nearly three billion of the world’s inhabitants use solid fuel for cooking and heating. Of these, about 80% burn biomass, which includes wood, charcoal and dung.

In Malawi specifically, 93% of energy use is from burning wood. This results in widespread deforestation and in smoke that kills the world’s largest number of children under 5.

Environmental projects are challenging in terms of motivation and incentives. Health projects are equally as challenging because of perception and dependence on governments. Combining both is doubly challenging. Hestian Innovation tackles both problems in Malawi using a business model.

Hestian Innovation produces three different types of stoves for different types of users. Each stove improves the efficiency of burning wood significantly (up to 80% for stoves), thus reducing the amount of smoke produces and the amount of firewood consumed.

But many organizations have produced improved stoves for rural Africa. This is not the innovative part of Hestian’s model.

To market and sell their technologies, Hestian uses decentralized production. All of their stoves can be made from locally available materials in rural villages. Hesitan identifies potential rural production sites for their products, and provides seed capital and training to get things started. Employees – often women with ceramics experience – will produce the entire stove at the site and then sell directly to the end user in their surrounding villages. They take a commision on every product they sell, thus motivating them to make more and sell more stoves.

Hestian then has no marketing costs – because their employees take care of that – and no transport costs – because their products are manufactured at site. They can instead focus on monitoring the quality of their products at each production center, and can use their resources to continue to set up new centers. It’s expansion and dissemination made easy – something that centralized companies can only dream of.

(Note that I already wrote a post on Hestian Innovation here, but I think this organization is so cool that I’m writing on it again for Doing It Right week.)

(Photo: Ofuman, Ghana, 2008)