Cleaner Cooking in Slums

People-driven Initiative for Cleaner Cooking and Improved Women and Child Health in Slum Communities

Toxic smoke of household cooking with charcoal or paraffin kills 4.3 million people annually (more than HIV/AIDS and Malaria combined) and primarily affects women and children. In slums, the indoor air pollution risks are coupled with grave risk of fires that frequently destroy lives and livelihoods.

SDI’s people-driven clean cooking initiative improves public health in slum communities by providing valuable solutions for the poorest households – especially women and children. Click above to learn more. 

Innovations in Solar Energy for Slums


Posting on the newly formed East Africa Solar Hub instant message group, Sammy Lema Manfere (Dar-e-Salam) wrote, “Hey guyz we nw cross the border.”

Compatriot Kasugga Abubaker (Jinja) replied from Nairobi, “Waawo, checking out now at the hotel!”

Such is the interconnectedness of the SDI Federations which inter-country exchanges enable.

Between the 24th and 29th of April 6 members of the Tanzanian and Ugandan slum dweller federations completed a 5 day solar PV technical training course in Nairobi. The course gave the 6 comprehensive knowledge for the design and optimisation of PV systems and makes them thought leaders and potential innovators in their national Federations.

“I learned all about calculations to arrange the number of batteries according to the number of PV panels, and the type of charge controller to use,” reported Sammy Lema Manfere (Dar-e-Salam, Tanzania).

The week prior Federation leaders had secured political support from Jinja Municipal Council for a targeted subsidy for solar home systems and budgetary allocation for off-grid street lighting.



Without Power: Mumbai’s Pavement Dwellers

With no electricity, kids study under a street light at night. 

**Cross-posted from the SPARC/MM/NSDF blog**

If you can read this, you’re not affected. For most urban dwellers electricity is available at the flick of a switch, to power our numerous appliances from our coffee machines to our computers and TVs, but not for all: many of the urban poor still have no access to electricity although the power cables are literally just two meters above their heads.

In the new Energy Justice program of SPARC we have just recently started a survey in order to better understand the needs and problems of the urban poor related to energy. Last week we have been at a settlement of pavement dwellers next to the Western Express Highway in Goregaon, Mumbai who have lived there for at least the last 10 years. Although none of the households have access to electricity, they have energy expenditures between 300 and 750 Rupees per month just to be able to illuminate their homes in the evening with candles and to charge their cell phones at the next kiosk. This costs them between 10-15 Rupees daily.

Pavement dwellers at Goregaon Western Express Highway. 

It is hard to believe, but most of Mumbai’s households have to manage with less than a dollar per day per capita, some of them even with half a dollar. It’s no wonder then that these households seek to avoid spending any money where it is not absolutely necessary and therefore cook their meals on traditional three-stone-stoves. Because most of the men work as casual laborers and are out of the house, it is the task of the women to collect the wood which lasts between 1 and 2 hours every day. Cooking with open fire or on three stones is not only time intensive but also health threatening as the smoke causes respiratory diseases. And this is not done with a cough – the Worlds Health Organization (WHO) estimates that annually more than 4 million people die because of cooking with solid fuels, of which 50% are children below the age of 5. (

We have started our new Energy Justice program in order to develop solutions jointly with the urban poor that will provide better access to modern energy and reduce costs. We will keep you updated here about the further development of this project.

Author : Vincent Moeller is working for SPARC as an advisor on Renewable Energy and Climate Change since June 2014.


“Green Shack” Features Community-based Planning at Design Indaba 2013

The Green Shack

**Cross-posted from the SA SDI Alliance blog** 

By Walter Fieuw, CORC South Africa 

In 2012 the community of Mshini Wam initiated an innovative approach to the in-situ upgrading of their dense informal settlement. Working closely with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN)—a collective network of informal settlements linking informal settlement civil society groups in five cities in South Africa—and the support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami, the community worked with City of Cape Town officials, engineers and field officers to upgrade their informal settlement.

Mtshini Wam Profiling

Reblocking is a community-led in-situ re-arrangement of shacks in accordance to a community design framework which opens up safer and more dignified public spaces (called “courtyards”). The community was in charge of implementing this project and more than 50 short term job opportunities were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in partnership with the City of Cape Town.

Through the “re-blocking” and community mobilisation processes, topographical, institutional and social issues have been overcome. The “re-blocking” is a priority as it will allow better access to services. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The city will partner to provide sewer and water lines, as well as electrical poles and electrical boxes for each family.

Re-blocking is more than just technical solutions to improving access to services. It is about a community process that starts with the empowerment of woman through savings schemes, the cohesion and unity of community working together on a broad-based project, and the formation of partnerships with government and other stakeholders in the long term development of the Settlement. 

In November 2012, the Mshini Wam community was introduced by long-term development partners Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL). A pilot project was initiated around the building of a “green shack”, which incorporates low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design principles in the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. By installing vertical gardens on shack walls and “liter of light” which amplifies natural light through a chemical-based dispenser installed in the roof of the shack. The pilot project drew a lot of media attention. The gardens were installed and subsequently the community started greening the courtyards created through reblocking by installing similar gardens.

All sketches courtesy of TEL

According to TEL’s website,

The Green Shack looks at how simple, low-tech design can transform temporary spaces into “home” spaces. It is focused entirely on what we can achieve now… The next two sides of the cube represent the sun-facing walls of the shack. On these two sides The Green Shack suggests they be wrapped with a fire-proof boarding, covered by a vertical thriving organic vegetable garden. This wall garden creates food for the household. This wall is drip irrigated using a low tech, slow-release gravity fed system via a pipe made of re-cycled car tires. Rain water is also captured off the roof and stored on site. The slow-drip nature of the irrigation system ensures that the wall is constantly wet.

The term “blocking” refers to building or re-building shack according to a spatial development plan. The concept of the “Green Shack” is intended to “piggy-back” this infra-structure development and create what we call “Green Blocks”

With TEL’s low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design products, embedded in the social processes of ISN and the reblocking support from CORC, iKhayalami and ISN technical coordinators, the “green shack” and “green blocks” could inform a new way of looking at productive spaces in informal settlements. For this reason, the South African SDI Alliance partnered with TEL at this year’s Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This is a opportunity for exhibiting community based planning meeting innovative design.

Be sure to visit the green shack from 1 – 3 March 2013 and have a first hand experience of “green shack” built on site.

Stephen Lamb showcasing the vertical gardens at Design Indaba 2013

The “green shack” from the inside, a 20sqm floor space