A South-Africa-based entrepreneur and a social activist have teamed up to develop a new product that can be used for cooking in rural areas of Africa, where traditional cooking methods can cause smoke inhalation and deforestation. Sarah Collins and Moshy Mathe have created a new tool called the Wonderbag, an item that can store a pot of boiling liquid and keep it warm so that it continues cooking. This tool is useful in developing countries where individuals are forced to use wood or charcoal for cooking, which can easily lead to a disaster when used in small spaces. The Wonderbag product uses polystyrene foam, often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, for insulation while safely storing the cooking pot of food.
Collins and Mathe came up with the idea for the new cooking resource for developing countries when they learned of both the ecological and humanitarian disasters that can occur from continually cooking with an open flame. Because of little access to energy sources, most individuals in these areas use charcoal or wood fire for cooking, which – aside from the obvious danger of smoke inhalation – means they are continuing to cut down trees and cause deforestation. It is also common that the responsibility of finding the tree-wood for cooking falls on the young women and girls of the family, which means that they are taken out of schooling to meet this need. The Wonderbag allows the family to cook the food they need to survive while not being as attentive to it as they would have to be with wood burning. Using this bag also allows the family to use only the charcoal or wood energy required to allow their liquid to boil, eliminating the remaining hour-plus of fuel-burning. Also, unlike solar-cookers of its kind, the Wonderbag can be used in the dark.
Since developing the product in 2011, Collins and Mathe have worked to distribute over 600,000 units in South Africa, and have sold 4,500 more in the UK. According to Collins, “With the help of our partners, we’re on a mission to see 100 million Wonderbags in homes around the world, saving more than 100 million [tons] of carbon over the life of those bags. That’s equivalent to over 200 million people avoiding long-haul flights.”