Globally as well as in Southern Africa the level of domestic wood use has become unsustainable. It is estimated that three billion people around the world still make use of traditional cooking methods that require biomass for fuel.

These households traditionally cook their meals on an open fire in separately built outside kitchens. Most of these outside kitchens have little or no ventilation, which means that the person cooking inhales the smoke produced by the fire. This situation is detrimental to any person present in the kitchen while cooking is in process, and even more alarming where children are present.

In response to this, the Brickstar stove was designed over a couple of years by Nova and about 20 residents from Molati, a rural village situated in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

The story of how Brickstar came about is told in more detail under What we do …. with households, where it serves as case study of how we work with households.

The stove is built by residents, with technical support from Nova, to suit their needs and requirements. The installation teams make use of locally available materials that is readily available in the area, incorporating the skills that the community members already have and at no cost to the end-user. The incorporation of the Brickstar stove into household cooking practices allows for a 40% decrease in firewood consumption and almost completely eradicates the presence of harmful smoke, which the user and children at times were exposed to, in the closed-off area of the kitchen. This occurs due to a more efficient firewood combustion, which has the effect of significantly reducing the amount of smoke released.

The strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the stove still needs to be finalised. There are several important prerequisites. One is that the stove is designed to meet the needs of the residents, and that has been done to a large extent. Another one is that the stove must become part of the normal daily domestic practice of the household. We are currently evaluating different ways in which this has happened, or failed to happen, in order to come to a better understanding of the different household routines.

The Brickstar Programme is aligned with Nova’s mission to research, develop and implement ways of improving quality of life with households in their environment. The programme aims to reduce poverty and achieve greater access to sustainable energy through the installation of Brickstar stoves in rural households in this part of Limpopo.


The ability to accurately measure results is an important aspect of the programme. Since the households cannot pay for the service of installing the stoves, we plan to take it to scale with programmes such as Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG). Up to date we have generated more than 4 500 GS4GG credits, and we have sold 2 500 GS4GG credits. We are not able to develop a business case by selling Gs4GG credits alone. We are looking for a grant of R10 million, in order to implement and maintain 10 000 stoves over 10 years.

The Gold Standard has developed standards for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were formulated by the United Nations where social and climate benefits are considered and validated. Such programmes make reliable measurements important. The project contributes to job creation and other social benefits in the local community; it also contributes to the reduction of energy poverty, women empowerment and rural development. Not only does it save 40% wood, it also has a huge positive impact on the health of households and families, and specifically children. Further research opportunities include topics such as resilience, climate change, sustainable wood use, and biodiversity.

It is very important for us to measure our results in order to ensure that the outcomes that are planned are also achieved. Monitoring and evaluation activities include a baseline assessment, quality control when the stove is built and annual monitoring of fuel use in the form of Kitchen Performance Tests. For this Nova trains local residents to conduct surveys using smart mobile devices.

To date the Brickstar team has installed approximately 10 000 stoves in rural households situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The fact that households do not have to pay money for these stoves makes the project feasible as most of these households are rural low-income households. However, they participate by making their own set of 25 bricks, and help to build the stoves, thereby acting as active participants in the stove installation process. Through the use of the stove a household can save 2t of CO2 per year if they make use of it instead of the traditional open fire method. Findings from the most recent Kitchen Performance Test showed that households making use of the stove can save 2.6 kg of wood per day.


The GS4GG’s is a new standard that sets the foundation for results-based finance in achieving climate and development outcomes, that track to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. There is a tremendous gap between the average historical prices for carbon credits compared to the economic value of impacts they deliver. GS4GG aims to address this discrepancy by more rigorously quantifying the beyond-carbon benefits and allowing for these to be either sold on top of the carbon emission reduction or at least more accurately accounted for within the price of a Gold Standard carbon credit. GS4GG is intended to serve as one, comprehensive and integrated standard that will enable various outcomes — from reduced greenhouse gas emissions to water benefits and improved health — to be certified through a unique standard and a single certification process.


The Brickstar project is unique in comparison to other cook stove projects in the sense that it is not a product that is manufactured in an industrial context and then distributed to the end-users. The stoves are locally produced within the project area by the end-users themselves, making use of freely available materials. The making of clay bricks is a traditional custom within the project area and not some alien practice introduced by Nova.

Over a period of four years the project has temporarily employed more than 50 members from the project area communities. These part-time employees went through a rigorous training process during which they were equipped with the necessary skills to implement the project. The skills included technical training on stove building, data logging on smart mobile devices, and appropriate household engagement. Nova is presently evaluating an extended training program for temporary workers, that would better equip them to apply for other jobs or even to become entrepreneurs.


The more efficient combustion of firewood and the improved insulation that the stove provides have the effect that much less firewood is needed to prepare the meals previously cooked on open fires. The Brickstar stove allows households to save 40% firewood when compared to open fire cooking. The Brickstar stove operates on the premise of insulation and airflow. The insulation factor gives the stove a closed-off design, which means that the fire is completely covered from the outside. This creates a safer cooking environment, especially with regards to children that might be playing around the cooking place.

Traditional cooking methods require biomass for fuel. In this context the responsibility is placed on women to collect the biomass fuel or firewood, as they are also largely responsible for preparing their households’ meals. The fact that the stove allows households to save up to 40% of their firewood further results in the person responsible for collecting firewood spending much less of their time performing this task.


Lisbeth Mashele (below) was one of the first women to have a stove installed in her house during implementation in her village. She took the opportunity to explain to the rest of her community members who attended the village demonstration how she has benefited from the stove since taking it into use. Lisbeth emphasised two points which particularly stood out for her. Firstly, she explained that preparing her meals on the Brickstar stove caused the whole cooking process to go much faster than what she was used to when cooking on an open-fire. Secondly, Lisbeth told her listeners that she was amazed by the fact that she could leave her left-over food and bathing water on the stove overnight, to find it still at a perfectly heated temperature the next morning.


– Number of households with installed stoves: 10 000

– Number of local residents temporarily employed through project: 68

– Total project size: 28 Villages in the Limpopo province

– Estimated amount of bio-fuel saved by project annually: 1365t/annum

– Average monetary value saved by household on fuel per month: R 50 (about $4)