Producer's Notes: Darfur Stoves Project

There are times when you are in the production trenches, plumbing the depths of a story, that you realize how lucky you are to work on QUEST. Assisting QUEST Producer Amy Miller on this segment was yet another occasion to experience such a sentiment, as we found out about the amazing work of Ashok Gadgil and his colleagues to help the women and families who've been displaced as a result of the genocide in Darfur.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, in 2005, Ashok Gadgil, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, led a team of four people to north and south Darfur to determine how families were cooking their meals. This may seem like an odd fact-finding mission but it had very real consequences for alleviating the suffering and violence the Darfuri women experience. Every other day, many women leave the relative safety of the refugee camps to travel six to seven hours to collect fuel wood for their meals. In the process, they risk rape and mutilation at the hands of the Janjaweed, a state-sponsored militia which has been lodged in a genocidal fight against Darfuri rebel groups pressing for more autonomy from the government in Khartoum. Three years later, Ashok Gadgil and Ken Chow of Engineers Without Borders are on version eight of the Berkeley Darfur stove, an elegantly simple yet effective ten pound metal stove which is four times more efficient than the traditional three-stone fire with which the Darfur refugees have traditionally cooked. Ashok and his colleagues on the Darfur Stoves Project hope to have five to six manufacturing plants operating in north, west and south Darfur, producing hundreds of thousands of stoves a year from the flat-pack kits of the stove Ken Chow has engineered.

For me, this QUEST segment highlighted how scientists with the brilliance and dedication of Ashok Gadgil can think up solutions to problems that have the potential to alleviate suffering and help the economic lot (each stove saves roughly $250 dollars in fuel wood annually for a Darfuri family) of hundreds of thousands of people existing within the margins of survival. Fortunately, there are organizations, in addition to the Darfur Stoves Project, that are also helping to get more stoves into the hands of Darfuri refugees, including The Hunger Site, Global Giving, The Child Health Site. You can visit these non-profit organizations and purchase a Berkeley Darfur stove on behalf of a family in Darfur, and also make a donation to the U.S. chapter of Engineers Without Borders to support their projects in Asia and Africa.

On a final production note, our QUEST segment about the Darfur Stoves Project was immensely helped by U.N.'s archival footage department and the U.N. Mission in Sudan, both of which gave us footage of the stark conditions in the Darfuri refugee camps. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees also accepts donations for their international humanitarian activities.