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FILM | What's Cooking ? - Ethiopia


In Ethiopia, one of the most popular staple foods is injera (household bread) which is a large flat pancake eaten by the majority of Ethiopians at least once a day. Injera baking is the most energy-intensive activity in Ethiopia. It accounts for over 50% of all primary energy consumption in the country and over 75% of the total energy consumed in households. The food is so popular that the average family burns around 20 kilogrammes of wood a week just making injera.

Traditional injera baking has unique requirements. Injera needs a quick, fast heat, evenly distributed over a 60 centimetre ceramic plate called a mtad'. The flat plate mtad' is balanced upon three stones above the open fire and fuel is fed under the mtad from all directions. While this produces hot, fast flames which are essential for good injera, the energy consumption is highly inefficient - approximately 93% of the fuel is wasted - unsafe and unhealthy.

Injera baking is an unpleasant and dangerous activity. Highly flammable fuels, such as leaves and twigs, are used by cooks to achieve the high heat necessary to cook injera quickly and these often flare out as they ignite, causing injury through burns. Large amounts of smoke are produced by these fires and many women complain about stinging eyes and coughing.

Mirte Stoves
The Mirte stove has been specifically designed to cook injera. By enclosing the fire, the smoke is removed which cuts down on weeping eyes; the stove reduces the chance of getting burned because there is no longer a risk of back flashes from fuel as it ignites and there are no dancing flames; it is clean and modern; it saves energy and reduces the expenditure on fuel because it only uses half the amount of fuelwood as the traditional fire.

The Mirte stove can be produced either on a large-scale by mechanical means, or on a small-scale by hand. Hand production is ideal for the Mirte because it encourages decentralised production and therefore, expands the geographic range of the product. The cost of the stoves reduces as the number of producers increases.
Stove Design

The mirte stove is a multi-section stove made from moulds - one mould is used for the four pieces of the main stove and two moulds are used for the chimney rest. The stove is made using lightweight materials and can be assembled and disassembled in order to be moved or transported
The Mirte stove was originally designed using light weight pumice with cement in a ratio of 5:1. Although pumice is a major source for constructing building materials in Addis Ababa and other areas in the Rift Valley, it is not found everywhere in Ethiopia.

Another common material that is more widely found than pumice, especially in the northern areas, and is used extensively in the building materials industry, is scoria or red ash. In areas where no pumice or scoria is found, sand and cement are used. Compared to traditional injera baking, all these materials improve the efficiencies of the stove by nearly 100% in household use and fuel consumption is reduced by 50 %.

The scoria-cement mix is proving to be extremely popular with the consumers in Addis Ababa because it is cheaper to produce than the pumice-cement mix stove, and it also increases the robustness and durability of the stove.

Fuelling the Mirte Stove
In an attempt to save Ethiopia's scarce forestry resources, the Mirte has been adapted to cook injera using fuels other than wood, for example, dung and agricultural residues, such as sawdust and coffee husk waste. With the exception of animal dung, the Mirte performed as well with other fuels and materials as with the original woody biomass pumice-cement stove design.

Commercialisation of the Mirte Stove
The Mirte is now commercially produced in a dozen areas in Ethiopia by over 30 production units, employing over one hundred people. Nearly, 50,000 stoves have been sold since mid 1995 and 30,000 of these have been sold since April 1997. The popularity of the Mirte stove is expanding rapidly to small urban and rural areas, and over one third of the stoves have been produced and sold outside Addis Ababa. The major demand for these stoves is in the rural north of Ethiopia where woody biomass is very scarce.

Women have been active participants in the production, sale and installation of Mirte stoves. In fact, one in three Mirte producers are women. The stove needs to be installed in households by trained artisans and many women have been trained to carry out this task. They are also the primary beneficiaries of the improved stoves, both as household cooks and as small-scale commercial injera bakers who bake and sell from their homes and often depend on injera baking as their sole source of income.

The Mirte stove was designed specifically to cook injera in Ethiopia and provides a safe, healthy and fuel efficient alternative to cooking over an open fire. However, it would be possible to adapt the stove to meet cooking requirements in other countries while maintaining its benefits in health, safety and fuel efficiency.

For further information, please contact:

Melessew Shanko
Megan Power
P.O. Box 180884
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 1 613395

Alastair Gill ESD Limited
Overmoor Farm Neston
Corsham Wiltshire
SN13 9TZ England
Tel: +44 (0) 1225 812102
Fax: +44 (0) 1225 812103

ITDG would like to thank Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD) - and in particular Mike Bess.
This programme is one in a series of five about what ordinary
women, often in very challenging circumstances, are doing to
build better lives for themselves and their families.

TVE/ITDG gratefully acknowledge support for the HANDS ON programmes from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission (EC), the UN Foundation and UNDP/The Equator Initiative in collaboration with the Government of Canada, IDRC, IUCN, BrasilConnects and the Nature Conservancy.


2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon