Basa Magogo Project

Brief background on how it started...

The Basa Magogo method of lighting domestic coal fires is a fitting example of how Nova develops solutions together with communities. The method was developed in the eMbalenhle community near Secunda some 13 years ago, and the name bears tribute to a granny from that community, Mrs. Nebelungu Mashinini, who perfected the method during testing. Top-down ignition was one of a number of technologies which Nova identified as having the potential to reduce air pollution caused by the domestic use of coal. The tests formed part of an intensive participatory research and development process conducted by Nova during the 1990's. The project was financed by Sasol.

As a technique, Basa Magogo is quite simple: instead of starting the fire with paper and wood at the bottom and then adding coal on top, the opposite procedure is followed. That is, the paper and wood is placed on top of the coal, and the fire burns from the top downwards. The same materials used for the conventional method is used for Basa Magogo. It must, however, be done correctly.

The effect of using the Basa Magogo technique

n this photo, the effect of using the Basa Magogo technique is illustrated. Two braziers, of the type that people typically use, are lighted according to the traditional technique (on the right hand side) and the Basa Magogo technique in front. Braziers are used for demonstration purposes; the method works very well in the coal stoves found abundantly in South Africa’s coal using communities.

Basa Magogo means "Light up, grandmother!" In Zamdela near Sasolburg, South Africa, the method was called "Basa Mama" which means "Light up, Mama" In 2004 Nova and Sasol informed the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) that we had no objection if the DME registered the name Basa njengo Magogo in the Department's name. Nova pointed out to the Department that different communities use different names.

The Basa Magogo Technique

The only way that communities can be convinced to adopt the Basa Magogo method on large scale is by direct demonstration, person to person. Preferably, these demonstrations should be conducted in small groups of 5-10 persons in order to create a relaxed atmosphere where people are free to interact. In 2007 and 2008, Nova added 60 000 more households to its tally of attendants in townships from Maluti a Phofung to Middelburg (click here for a full list of places). The projects were initiated with support from the Fair Climate Programme of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, bringing overseas churches and local congregations and church members into partnership.

Advantages of Basa Magogo

The benefits to households that use Basa Magogo are substantial: savings in purchasing coal have been well documented and are on average R608 per household p.a.

Savings in health costs are more difficult to quantify, but it is estimated to be at least 10 times more. All residents, including those who do not use coal, experience cleaner air and much better health, but the users of this method benefit the most.

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is about 1.3 ton of CO2eq per household p.a., or an additional 60 000 ton of CO2eq p.a. since 2007. These reductions are now included in the Fair Climate Programme (, which is jointly managed by ICCO-Kerk in Actie ( and Fair and Sustainable.

The development of Basa Magogo is a joint effort between researchers and community members that proves that continuous close interaction between people from outside the community and people from inside can lead to the creative step which triggers a substantial positive result.

Training of Teams

Training in the Basa Magogo technique

Nova has a dedicated team providing training on all aspects of demonstrating the Basa Magogo method. Here is an example of fieldworkers attending a practical demonstration on how to light a brazier (called an imbawula) the Basa Magogo way.

Basa Magogo