Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about nonprofit organizations and their impact

Thousands of words, including many on this blog,  have been written about the so-called clean cookstove sector. But the fundamental problem with cookstoves has been captured in a single sentence by Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation. “The cheap stoves aren’t good enough,” Starr says, “and the good stoves are way too expensive.” Yep. Cheap …

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Nonprofits that make cookstoves for the global poor have not been blessed with an abundance of resources. So  you would think that the community of stovers, as they’re known, would be pleased by a big infusion of money into the sector from the US government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nope. The National Institutes …

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Haiti is a tough place to do business. The impoverished Caribbean nation ranks 181 of 190 countries analyzed by the World Bank. The cookstove business is tough, too. No one has built a profitable cookstove company at scale, even with subsidies. So why would anyone start a business making and selling cleaner cookstoves in Haiti? For Duquesne …

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It would appear, at first glance, to be a simple problem to solve: An estimated 3 billion of the world’s poorest people cook their meals over open fires–fires that make them sick, pollute the air and generate carbon emissions. Providing those people with efficient cookstoves improves their lives and the health of the planet. But …

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Today, The Washington Post published my story about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in its Sunday Outlook section. Clean cookstoves strike me as a classic example of a well-intentioned development intervention about which evidence of impact on a meaningful scale is lacking. I’m going to try to  draw a couple of lessons from my reporting but …

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In my last post to Nonprofit Chronicles, I wrote about longstanding efforts by governments, NGOs and companies to get cookstoves to some of the 3 billion people who prepare their food and heat their homes using smoky, open fires. The post generated some thoughtful pushback, including an email from Jacob Moss, a longtime EPA executive …

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No one is getting rich making cookstoves for the poor, least of all Harry Stokes. Stokes is the unpaid executive director of a small nonprofit called Project Gaia, which has been trying since the late 1990s to get cookstoves that burn ethanol or methanol into the hands of some of the estimated 3 billion people …

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Carbon offsets have delivered many millions of dollars to finance cookstoves, for better or worse–probably, alas, for worse. Since the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was formed in 2010, so-called clean cookstoves distributed to poor people in the global south have been paid for, in part, with carbon offsets purchased by companies, western governments and …

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Chickens. Cows. Cookstoves. Toilets. Solar panels. Job training. Clean water. Western NGOs dole out lots of stuff to help poor people in the global south become less poor. Do such programs work? It’s hard to know, but when researchers for a series of World Bank studies called Moving Out of Poverty asked 3,991 households in …

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You could call Jonathan C. Lewis a late bloomer. Not until he retired from business in his mid-50s did he rediscover his 1960s activist soul and become a full-time “social entrepreneur.” Lewis founded a nonprofit impact investing firm now called MCE Social Capital that makes loans to poor people in the developing work. He created Opportunity Collaboration, …

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