NDZiLO, the little ethanol stove company that could, has won my heart. Simply put, this Mozambican company tackles environmental and social problems without charity handouts but with a tremendous amount of passion for solving customer problems.
Mozambique, by the numbers, is a very poor country with Gross National Income per capita of $510 per year, and an average life expectancy of 49 years. Numbers don't tell the whole story, of course - the country is also full of individuals with tremendous pride, spirit, and passion for their country. A great example is Thelma Venichand in this video.
What does NDZiLO actually do, and how do they do it?
As we found out during a trip to Mozambique last year, here's the issue. Mozambican women spend hours a day cooking the family's meals over charcoal stoves, which are dirty, smelly and cause respiratory problems. They also don't make the greatest cooking vessels, with their uneven heat and cooking surface. On the environmental side, charcoal is a very inefficient fuel source, and charcoal comes from trees, which are often clearcut from forested regions. The planet takes it on both ends - first because those trees, aka carbon sinks, get cut down, and then because they are burned inefficiently, they release global warming pollutants.
Ethanol is a clean-burning fuel, and ethanol stoves make cooking faster, cleaner, and more pleasurable. So, NDZiLO sells ethanol stoves, often woman-to-woman, like Avon. They are able to sell them at a reduced price because of a carbon offsetting deal created by parent company Cleanstar Mozambique, but the fact that they are for sale, rather than just given away, means that they go to people who will actually use them, which makes the avoided carbon easier to count.
This initiative would be cool enough if it stopped there, but Cleanstar Mozambique takes things a lot further, looking at the ethanol source as another opportunity for economic development. NDZiLO ethanol is produced in country from cassava, a staple stock that doesn't have very much nutritional value.
So, NDZiLO's economic development happens throughout the value chain: through funding farmers, cassava processors, and ethanol and clean cookstove sellers. They tap into women's neighborhood knowledge to develop sales channels, provide needed jobs to unemployed women, and address both local and global air pollution problems.
Yes, yes, we've covered this all before. But we've never heard NDZiLO's Thelma Venichand tell that story herself. Make sure to play the video all the way through - the staff created a great theme song for the company and they sing it at the end.
Image credit: Cleanstar Mozambique
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.