Categories
Archive

Cooking Bag Helps Poor Households Save Time, Money

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

For millions of poor people around the world, life is lived on the economic margins and household and personal budgets are tight. There were 1.29 billion people in the world living on less than US $1.25 a day as of 2008 (World Bank), and 1.18 billion living on US $1.25 to US $2 per day. There was only a modest drop in the number of people living below US $2 per day – the average poverty line for developing countries – between 1981 and 2008, from 2.59 to 2.47 billion.

Since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008, the world’s poor have seen prices fluctuate wildly as the international financial system fights the effects of the turmoil. In 2008, this led to the Food and Agriculture Organization sounding the alarm about the harmful effects of rising food inflation.

Increasing hunger led to civil unrest and rioting that year.

Anything poor people can do to make their slim daily budgets go a little bit further means more money left over for better quality food and other expenses, like clothing, shelter, fuel and education. One clever invention from South Africa is trying to tackle household cooking costs and shave the cost of fuel required to prepare the family meal. The Wonderbag (http://nbwonderbag.com/) is a brightly coloured, puffy cooking bag that slow cooks a meal in a pot – be it a stew, curry, rice, soups – to save energy.

“The cost and savings per household are significant,” according to the Wonderbag’s inventor, Sarah Collins.

It has many other advantages, too: it is a time-saver, allowing people to spend the time doing something other than just tending the cooking pot. It can also reduce cooking accidents because less time is spent around the stove or fire.

It is an efficient cooking method that uses less water to cook meals. And it even avoids the risk of burning – and wasting – food.

“20 per cent of all staple food in Africa is burned, due to pots being placed on open fires and unregulated stove tops. With the Wonderbag, no burning happens,” confirms Collins.

To date, the Wonderbag has created 1,000 jobs and is looking to increase this to 7,000 jobs in the next five years.

Wonderbag bills itself as “eco-cooking that’s changing lives.”

Eco-cooking seeks to use every joule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule) of energy from the cooking fire or heat source to maximum effect. A pot is placed on the stove and brought to the temperature required for cooking the dish. Then the pot is placed in the Wonderbag. Since the bag is heavily insulated, it reflects back the existing heat in the dish and allows it to continue cooking for up to 12 hours. It can cook rice in one hour and lamb in two to three hours.

It works in four easy steps, summed up on the Wonderbag website: “boil it, bag it, stand it, serve it”.

The Wonderbag claims to use 30 per cent less energy than other cooking methods. According to cost breakdowns on the Wonderbag website, someone with a Wonderbag would use 2.4 litres a week of paraffin – a common fuel for cook stoves – compared to 4 litres without. This works out to a cost of US $2.40 a week with a Wonderbag and US $4.00 a week without.

The trade-off with the savings in money and energy is time – Wonderbag is not suitable for those looking for a quick meal. According to Wonderbag, meat that cooks in 20 minutes on the stove will take five hours in the Wonderbag.

Chicken that takes 15 minutes on the stove takes three hours in the Wonderbag. Vegetables that take five minutes on the stove will cook in an hour in the Wonderbag.

South African entrepreneur and inventor Collins originally developed the Wonderbag for people living in the townships of Durban (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durban). She found many of the residents spent up to a third of their income on fuel for cooking. They would either use paraffin or spend many hours gathering wood or dung.

These common fuel sources for cooking give off toxic fumes and are a health hazard if used for long periods. The Wonderbag means households spend less time inhaling fumes from a stove.

“The Wonderbag will always be a work in progress for me as I look to adapt the bag in line with my consumers’ feedback,” confirms Collins. “For example, we are now about to launch Wonderbag 2, which has an even more efficient insulator than polystyrene and is more readily available and easier to recycle following feedback earlier in the year.”

In South Africa, the bags sell for R170 (US $22) and there are discounts for the very poor. Collins estimates that a family of four could save US $80 a year if they used the Wonderbag two or three times a week.

Collins has used clever marketing strategies to get the Wonderbags out to the public, and 150,000 have been sold so far. One promotion gave away a Wonderbag with every purchase of boxes of curry powder.

Wonderbag has also partnered with local communities. Swartland Municipality (swartland.org.za) purchased 5,000 Wonderbags and distributed them to 4,700 of “the most indigent and deserving households – the poorest of the poor.”

It is also running a promotion in the United Kingdom where, for every Wonderbag bought, one is given to a family in the developing world.

The popularity and success of the Wonderbag prompted the multinational food company, Unilever – one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods – to purchase 5 million bags for distribution. According to the Wonderbag website, this could lead to savings of US $1.35 billion on fuel for the users.

“The partnership has also enabled us to scale up and test the Wonderbag in different markets,” explains Collins.

Wonderbag hope to expand to 12 or 15 developing countries in Africa in 2012.

The company says it plans to target developing countries with high poverty, fuel supply shortages, high incidence of health problems from air pollution, and high incidence of injuries from fuel fires.

And for Wonderbag’s success so far, Collins has this advice: “Immerse yourself in your product and the way of life of your consumers. Understand it and them inside out so you can be your best advert. Word of mouth is by far the best form of advertising and the truth out of your own mouth is a great start.”

Resources 

1) Haybox: Haybox is another variation on the concept of heat retention for efficient cooking. Website: http://haybox.co.uk/

2) How to build a clay oven. Website: http://clayoven.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/1-building-a-clay-oven-the-basics/

3) Solar ovens and cookers are another way to cut costs when making meals.This website has many designs and plans on how to build a solar cooker. Website: http://solarcooking.org/plans/

Follow @SouthSouth1

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsnovember2010issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Mongolian Enterprises Target Healthy Urban Lifestyles

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In the Northeast Asian nation of Mongolia – landlocked between Russia and China – the traditional diet is based on the nomadic ways of its herders. Rich in meat and milk products, it is a diet that has evolved from the need to survive in a harsh climate doing hard physical labour – winter temperatures can drop below minus 50 degrees Celsius.

Social changes brought about by Mongolia’s economic journey since embracing free markets and democracy in the early 1990s have led to a growing urban population. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, has seen its population balloon for a variety of reasons – from collapsing rural economies to environmental disasters to the need to find work and opportunities – and is estimated to be over a million, out of a national population of just 2.6 million (World Bank).

Mongolia is experiencing serious food security problems due to factors including economic inflation and weather-related disasters, and is also confronting problems common to many countries in the age of globalization. According to the World Diabetes Foundation, 10 percent of the population is at risk of the disease, which it calls a lurking catastrophe.

As the paper “Lessons from a small country about the global obesity crisis” by Kelly D. Brownell and Derek Yach notes: “Globalization changes many features of modern life, including diets. As trade changes, diets can become more secure (hunger becomes less of a problem), but the cheapening of calories, the reliance on imported food, and the influence of food marketing drive up consumption and drive down nutrient density. Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases are not far behind.”

In response to these problems, increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles has led to some new business ventures in Ulaanbaatar. This past summer, saw the opening of an organic vegetarian restaurant and shop: the Organic Café Shop, reports Green Traveler Guides.

Started by business partner-sisters  Bayarmaa Jarantai and Enkhmaa Jarantai with nephew Lkhagvasuren, the modest four-table restaurant and shop is a mini-revolution for a country as meat-loving as Mongolia. It serves up organic vegetarian meals and sells certified organic products. The spark of inspiration came when Bayarmaa read three books on the macrobiotic diet translated into Mongolian. The macrobiotic diet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrobiotic_diet) avoids highly processed foods and uses grains, beans and vegetables as its staples.

The cafe’s menu includes: vegetable salads (shredded cabbage, bell peppers, carrots and seasoning), stir-fried vegetables with tofu and asparagus soup, 10-grain soup, eggplant, and Mongolian vegetarian fried vegetables. Prices range between 2,500 Mongolian tugrug and 4,500 tugrug (US $1.75 and US $3.00).

The vegetables are sourced locally from Mongolian farmers and gardeners and are chemical-free. While not officially certified as organic, they are effectively that.

The shop sells certified organic products from China. The products include rice, grains, sugars and jams. (Made-in-Mongolia organic produce is a business opportunity waiting to happen: so far there are no certified organic packaged-product producers in the country).

The sisters import the products from Lohao City (http://www.lohaocity.com/eshow.asp) organic food market in Beijing, China.

But despite the Organic Café Shop’s good intentions, it is not immune to the country’s food security issues: Bayarmaa admits to being puzzled about how she will be able to continue to source the fresh vegetables she needs during the harsh winter months. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest national capital in the world and fresh produce has to be imported at considerable expense.

Another enterprise promoting healthy living in Ulaanbaatar is the Ananda Café and Meditation Centre (http://www.anandacenter.org/), a vegetarian restaurant and yoga (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga) centre. Yoga is the traditional physical and mental discipline from ancient India used to keep physically fit. It is a form of exercise that appeals to a wide age range and can be done pretty well anywhere.

The Ananda Centre offers courses in yoga and meditation, vegetarian cooking classes and nature retreats.

Resources

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Better by Design in China

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In recent decades, China has been known more for its inexpensive manufactured goods than as a producer of high quality products. But this is changing as the country seeks to move up the economic chain.

China’s long-established design traditions were largely overlooked as the country made its breakneck push to become the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. But now Chinese manufacturers want to be known for high-quality designs and products rather than just for cheap-and-cheerful merchandise.

China is a critical lesson for the rest of the global South, and offers much inspiration to any country trying to develop, modernize and eradicate poverty.

The country is the main reason for the dramatic reductions in global extreme poverty rates, and it can be proud of using its average yearly economic growth rate of 10 per cent to lift 440 million Chinese out of poverty – the biggest reduction of poverty in history (The Economist). The strategy of exporting manufactured goods into Western markets at competitive prices has dominated the past 20 years.

But China faces a dilemma as other nations in the global South are moving into this niche. It needs to quickly become a high-value nation, with unique products and designs generated in the country.

Luckily, a renaissance in Chinese design in the last five years has been gradually grabbing the attention of the world’s creative community.

Innovative Chinese designers are creating home furnishings and interiors that are being snapped up by European companies.

The Italian kitchen utensil design company Alessi turned to eight Chinese architects – including Ma Yansong and Yung Ho Chang – to design a range of trays called (Un) Forbidden City. The architects’ designs were manufactured in Italy – a reversal of the pattern that has dominated for the past 20 years.

The architects drew on Chinese traditions and 21st century technologies to design the trays. One was made using a 3D scanner which captured images used to make a mould.

The drive to change and transform China’s global economic role was promoted in 2011’s Beijing International Design Week (http://www.bjdw.org/en/), with its theme of transforming “Made in China to Designed in China.”

“When you have so much of a manufacturing base in one place, it’s natural that people start thinking about how to climb the value chain,” Philip Tinari, director of Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) (http://ucca.org.cn/) – a champion of new artists and designers – told howtospendit.com.

“Chinese design has become something to rally around and, unlike art, enjoys great official support because it’s a way of improving China’s long-term economic position, as opposed to expressing thoughts about what’s been going on.”

Other Chinese designers grabbing attention include Chen Xuan, who makes tables; chair-maker Gui Yang; Li Bowen, a maker of wicker chairs; and Ge Wei, a maker of jewellery boxes.

Designer Huo Yijin makes contemporary tea trays, using heat-reactive lacquer coating to create dazzling effects.

“Users can see the wonderful effect of water and temperature reacting on the tea trays when they drink Kungfu tea in the traditional way,” Huo explained.

Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province – a city that has been making ceramics since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) – is now attracting craftspeople from around the world looking to tap into its expertise and skill. One attraction is Mr Yu’s Big Ware Factory. Its unparalleled ability to create giant-size pottery is a design niche with much potential.

Many foreign creatives are being drawn to China for its can-do attitude and the ability to break with conventions stifling creativity in the West. The next five years could see the world’s design centre of gravity shift eastwards again.

Resources

1) Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA): The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is a comprehensive, not-for-profit art center serving a global Beijing public. Website: http://ucca.org.cn/

2) ChinaShijitanContemporaryArtCenter: A mixed-use art venue with experimental theatre, exhibition space, art gallery and production spaces. Website: http://www.ar-chiasmus.cn/project_6.html

3) Pearl Lam Galleries: Pearl Lam Galleries lead a stable of International and Chinese artists who are multidisciplinary, refuting the hierarchy of art forms. The galleries do not follow the model of Western galleries; rather, they have evolved from the philosophy of Chinese Literati, which does not segregate between the different art disciplines. Website: http://pearllamgalleries.blogspot.co.uk/p/about.html

4) School of Design of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA): The Central Academy of Fine Arts, located in Beijing, the capital of China, is an academy where culture, history and art are flourishing, which enjoys the best art resources of the world. Website: http://www.cafa.edu.cn/aboutcafa/lan/?c=1101

5) Beijing’s legendary 798 art district: “798” is located in the Dashanzi area, to the northeast of central Beijing. It is the site of state-owned factories including Factory 798, which originally produced electronics. Beginning in 2002, artists and cultural organizations began to divide, rent out, and re-make the factory spaces, gradually developing them into galleries, art centers, artists’ studios, design companies, restaurants, and bars. Website: http://www.798space.com/subpage_en.asp?classid=17

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022