5 Star Stoves is a company that produces biofuel cookstoves for residential kitchens in Africa. The company was started in 2011 by Willem Malherbe and is currently based in South Africa, although it also services communities in Kenya and Uganda. The creation of 5 Star Stoves was a way to address two separate issues – the need for more income for small-scale rural farmers and high energy costs for coal-based fuel. This new business model takes farmers’ waste biomass, that would be otherwise be burned in the fields, and uses them in high-efficiency stoves that are sold to households that cannot afford conventional technologies. These stoves provide a thermal energy source for cooking and heating water and produce a small surplus of electricity for mobile device charging and lighting. 5 Star Stoves is committed to serving populations that would not otherwise have access to energy services, while also conserving the environment by using only forestry and agricultural waste as fuel. There is no upfront payment for the stove; rather, customers pay for the biomass pellets they purchase as they use the stoves.
The success of 5 Star Stoves has been based its ability to meet the needs of farmers and the local communities, as well as the availability of capital to found the organization. In expanding the adoption of cleaner cookstoves and improving access to electricity, increased financing will continue to be a defining factor. There is a significant market opportunity to introduce clean cookstoves in rural communities in developing countries, reaching this market will require additional much greater access to capital.
Case study written by Allison Khoe, based on correspondence with Willem Malherbe, founder of 5 Star Stoves, and by research shared by Friederike Eichhorn and Sander Chan at the German Development Institute (DIE).
Image: Kopano & Grace Mohapi from the Usizo Thuso Community Center, supporting the Blue Disa Farmers and Lawley Community, with the farming and stoves project. Image courtesy of 5 Star Stoves.