Planetary Wellbeing 2050

From Sustainable Development Goals towards Planetary Wellbeing 2050

The UN website states that “the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity” (

Although it is the intention of the SDGs to include the creativity, knowhow, technology, and financial resources from all of society in working together towards achieving the goals (compare SDG 17) it is difficult for most persons to remember 17 goals. A simpler model is needed to include important stakeholders such as children in their early childhood, in the vision towards a more sustainable future.

The 7 Planetary Wellbeing Goals proposed in the illustration below include, but are not limited to, the 17 SDGs. Planetary wellbeing is “the highest attainable standard of wellbeing for human and non-human beings and their social and natural systems” (Anto, et al)

700 more Brickstar stoves added with Moody’s Grant

The Brickstar team successfully completed yet another assignment!

In early December 2020 the Nova Brickstar team successfully installed the last of the 700 stoves as part of the Gold Standard registered Brickstar Woodstove – Mahlaba Project (GS 4536) with a grant received from the Moody’s Foundation.

Fig 1 – New stove owner with installation team

This milestone was achieved in the face of some of the the most formidable challenges the Brickstar team has had to face in the history of the project. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing national lockdown set the team back by 3 months. This was followed by the passing of our Project Coordinator, Maria Nyathi, which left the whole team and organisation in dismay. However the team showed great character and persevered to reach this milestone in time and in honour of our project’s ‘Mother’. We look forward to the year ahead knowing that we are stronger and more proficient than ever before.  

In Retrospect . . . Reflective notes from our CXO, Attie van Niekerk

Project Coordinator, Maria Nyathi, visits a stove owner in Sedan Village

During the winter months of this year three Nova directors and the Brickstar project manager conducted a site visit to the Brickstar project area, situated in the northern Limpopo Province of South Africa. The visit was a success and a few important aspects stood out from the interaction between Nova staff members and the Brickstar stove users. What follows are a few reflective notes from the Chief Experience Officer capturing these aspects following the project visit.

The Brickstar Stove project has reached the point where it can be rolled-out at scale. In mind of this fact the team had an interest in the following points:

1.The marketing that was needed

2. Managing mass roll out

3. Coordinating the present implementation cycle

4. The way the stove is used in the household

Looking back on the observations and interactions, a few things about domestic practices came to mind:

In 1997 we visited urban households that used coal to cook food, for warm water and for space heating. People told us how important the coal stove was for them. One mother said: “Even if there is no food in the house, but there is fire, I am still happy, because fire brings the family together”.

When we started to work in the rural area at Molati in 2001, the area was characterised by modest modern houses combined with traditional huts.

During our recent visit, nearly 20 years later, the character of the community had changed from a low-income rural village to one more representative of a town context (tarred roads, brick houses, electricity and private boreholes). There are many fairly large houses – some even double storey, often luxurious. This defined the character of most of the places we visited and observed, more than the traditional style or the low-income housing that are still present.

The mango trees grow easily and there is an unofficial market for the fruit at the mango achar facility. Production can significantly be increased, but people have a complacent attitude: the trees grow randomly from the seeds that are thrown down, and the achar producer travels to the household to purchase the fruit. They are aware that there is a nursery where they can get trees that would give a higher yield, but they look to us to help them improve production. According to Maria Nyathi, our local project coordinator, this wish is not driven by hunger but by the need for extra income,  although many people do not have enough food. Contrary to what occurs in many places in South Africa (I have also seen it in Malawi and Ghana), the practice is not to sweep the bare area around the house on a daily basis, removing the soil around the foundation of the house and leaving it more and more exposed. In the Molati area the soil around the house, the lapa, is mostly covered by dung or cement, protecting the house itself. There are few small-scale activities, such as spaza shops or soccer fields. Waste seems to be a problem – in some places there is plastic in what looks like a compost hole. Households burn plastic waste in these holes.

Nova directors visits a Brickstar stove owner (left) and observes the harvest from a local fruit tree (right)

Domestic practices and usage patterns

Nova uses the terms domestic practice  to describe a pattern, a combination of diverse elements in a set but more or less flexible pattern in which different household members play different roles, usually making use of artefacts and products, to satisfy a fundamental need or needs.

The traditional fire formed part of a domestic practice, as can be seen from the descriptions below.

A common perception of this practice can be described as follows: In most areas of South Africa, before urbanisation, people used to sit around an open fire, and many are still doing that. The fire would be outside, sometimes in the open and sometimes in an outside kitchen. Life happened around this fire. During the day the women would go out in small groups to fetch wood in the veld. They went together for the sake of safety and to socialise. You could hear them talking and laughing when collecting wood and when they walked back home one after the other in a narrow footpath through the veld, balancing bundles of wood on their heads. At home they would be busy around the fire, cooking “slow” food through the day, doing washing, sweeping the yard, and other household chores while the children would be playing around them – the smaller ones closer to them, the older ones roaming further away. In the evening the whole family would gather around the fire, because that was where there was light, food and companionship. There they would relate what had happened during the day and they would tell stories.

Among the Bapedi “my children” are called “bana beso” – children of my fireplace (Mönnig, 1987: 237). African writers provide an even wider interpretation of the gathering around the fire. Leopold Senghor makes a sharp distinction between the light of Europe, the world of the day, and the world of the night, the darkness, where Africa regains its identity:  “Night, death, childhood are unified… and share the essence of Africa, the dead, the mother, the dance, the drum, and the blood of life” (Awoonor, 1976:169).

The preparation of food was at the same time a religious ritual. A Zulu diviner explains to Berglund (1976: 103,104,214): “The shades warm themselves at the hearth. When they are warm, they become hungry and eat that which is left in the vessels”. To step over the hearth is not allowed, because “one does not step over a shade” (a shade is the spirit of an ancestor). Fire is also closely related to sexuality and fertility. The fire enabled people to socialise, to sustain themselves, to relate to the spiritual world, to affirm life and the continuation of life, to experience “the interconnectedness of things” (Mphahlele 1972:24).

Things have changed. As the population has increased, the use of firewood has become unsustainable. First, electricity has provided light in the house and then TV added entertainment. Children and adults migrated from the fire to the TV. Many families find electricity too expensive to cook with, and still cook on a fire. But the domestic practice has largely disappeared. What remained was more of a practical usage pattern: the mother collects wood or she buys wood, she makes fire and cook the food while the rest of the family gathers around the TV. The traditional kitchen becomes a place where you store things. The family has migrated from the traditional fire to the TV. The mother sits alone at the stove, sometimes she joins the children to watch TV so that she can be with them, because the TV is taking them in “another direction”, it teaches them “other things”.

Using fire, either in the Brickstar stove or as an open fire, has become a specific action for a specific aim, without any deep significance, or so it seems. But the fire has not lost all significance.

In a group discussion with a group of mothers I had facilitated earlier this year, they also talked about the children who prefer to watch TV to sitting around the fire. The mother now sits cooking alone by the stove and she feels this situation slipping out of her control. I asked whether we should rather try to find another solution that is also affordable, that does not take the mother away from her family. But they fear that, if they let go of the fire, their ability to win their children back is weakened. Their daughters also become mothers and often leave their children with the mother’s mother. But when they are home, they have to cook, and they have to use fire to do so. And that fire still has significance. Perhaps the fire still signifies a symbol of keeping the family together.

NLC Grant

Nova Institute received a grant from the National Lottery Commission

Nova Institute received a grant from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC). This grant enables Nova to create greater awareness of our Brickstar Project as well as establish new areas were are Chics programme can be implemented.

For more information on our Brickstar Project please see the video below

For more information on our Chics Programme please see the video below

We sincerely appreciate the contribution from the NLC as it contributes to realising our vision of a healthy household culture in Southern Africa.

Brickstar project registered as a Gold Standard for the Global Goals project

The year has kicked-off on an encouraging note with the exciting news that our Brickstar stove project is now registered as a Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG) micro-scale project. The project was conceived in 2012 and has progressed successfully through all its development phases to the point where it is ready for implementation at scale.

Brickstar installations teams after completing training

This is not the first time that Nova has succeeded in registering a project with Gold Standard and to date we have traded more than 200 000 Voluntary Emission Reductions (VER’s) generated from our flagship programme Basa Magogo. Having achieved this measure of success in our flagship project, the question always remained whether it could be done again. Now, finally the Brickstar project is showing potential for the same measure of success.

Once you have developed something that works in one village, the big question is how to take it to hundreds of villages, and where to get funds to do so. Running parallel to our own development of the project we also initiated the Gold Standard’s process of project validation, certification and registration to explore carbon credits as a possible avenue towards a feasible business case for large-scale role out. The process also assists project developers to work rigorously and keep account of each grievance or suggestion raised by stakeholders in the community. Having the project registered as a GS4GG project allows it to generate VER’s which Nova can then trade on the carbon credit market in order to sustain the project over an extended period of time (5-10 years).

It took dedication and commitment from all role players to see this project through from where it started until today. We are truly inspired by this development and it offers us encouragement to continue pioneering in this form of sustainable development for many years to come.

Nova receives “Leadership in Air Quality Award”!

Nova receives “Leadership in Air Quality Award”!

On 31 October 2018 Nova Institute received an honorary award during the annual Conference of the National Association for Clean Air (NACA), in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. The award was  received by Managing Director, Christiaan Pauw, who attended the conference to present a paper. The National Association for Clean Air periodically recognises and honours an individual or entity for their outstanding and innovative efforts to improve air quality. The award specifically honours initiatives that directly or indirectly reduce pollutant emissions, demonstrate innovation, offer sustainable outcomes, and provide a model for others to follow. The award acknowledges Nova’s leading role in efforts to improve the air quality for low income households of South Africa over a period 25 years.

Nova finds great encouragement in the conferral of this award and the team hope’s to continue and build on our aim of establishing a healthy household culture in Southern Africa.


Nova develops products and services by taking them through phases from a “bright idea” to a full-fledged large scale program.  In the following figure the phases of development of solutions are depicted.  All business units are involved in all phases, but in different ways. The Incubation business unit is mainly accountable for what is done in Phases 1-3, whereas the Implementation business unit is mainly accountable for what is done in Phases 4-6 (see the diagram below).

The aim during the Feasibility phase is to develop a solution that fits into and functions well within the patterns and dynamics of the single household. The aim during the Pilot phase is find ways to take the solution effectively to the wider community.

The phases are not strictly demarcated. During the Pre-feasibility and the Feasibility phases, for example, the way in which the eventual solution will be taken to scale must be kept in mind.

KiA-Stove: Brickstar Newsletter – October 2018

Dear Brickstar supporter,

We are heading towards the end of 2018 and it is with gratitude that we look back upon a year filled with numerous achievements, hard work and learning curves. Here are some of the most noteworthy activities and achievements of 2018:

We concluded the process of installing new Brickstar stoves in 2500 households in the Muhlaba project area in June 2018

We held a Local Stakeholder Consultation meeting in each of our respective project areas, the Muhlaba and Nwamitwa Traditional Authority Areas

 We conducted a series of group discussions with stove owners to understand the uptake, usage and impact of the stove in the household’s cooking activities

 We performed our annual Kitchen Performance Test to evaluate the efficiency of the Brickstar stove

Figure 1 – Above left shows a stove owner who partook in our Kitchen Performance Test, and above right shows one of the fieldworkers who offered his assistance for the test

The prospect of enabling rural households, who have been making use of unclean cooking practices detrimental to their health and environment, to gain access to cleaner sustainable cooking methods, is the main drive and heartbeat of the Brickstar project. Here are some of the testimonies of the effects of the stove which we captured during this year’s interactions with some of the stove-owners:

“The stove is great, most of all it helps me because when I use it I’m able to make hot water for school children. After cooking dinner, I leave the water container on the stove over night, when they wake up they can use the water [to bath] because it is still hot. I’m using less wood. The stove is good. Since they built it, I haven’t used the open fire to cook, thanks.”

“The stove is good because it is preventing our kids from getting burnt by fire and since we have used it, they won’t get burnt, when we cook in the house its hot but where we cook now, where the stove is, it is very nice”

“For me I say this stove is good, firstly it has helped me a lot because sometimes my eyes are giving me a hard time I can’t see properly when I cook on the open-fire my eyes and head were painful, but ever since I started using that stove my eyes now are good. I would like to thank you for the stove that it saves our lives and our wood. In the past, when I used the open-fire I used so much wood but when I use the stove I only use 3 wood pieces and I cut it into smaller pieces. I would like to say thank you.”

One stove-owner also spoke about identity in relation to the stove and its use.

“In the past, I used the open fire because I am an African, it is in our blood. We made fire, and then came electricity, now the stove takes us back to fire and that is nice because the stove works well and fire is our tradition.”

Our project activities for the remainder of the year will entail compiling the Kitchen Test report, monitoring and evaluation of both project areas, and early in the next year we will commence with the installation of an additional 1000 stoves for new stove-owners in one of the existing project areas. We are looking forward to facilitating the expansion of this project, staying true to our vision of creating a healthy household culture in Southern Africa.

We thank you for your continued interest and support!