Berkeley-Darfur Stoves®

The Berkeley-Darfur Stove® was developed by scientists and engineers at the Lawrence Berkeley National lab, with evaluation and feedback from the women of Darfur.  The Berkeley-Darfur Stove® was based on the Tara stove first developed in India. However, before it was deemed suitable for distribution to Darfur, the stove underwent 14 modifications after several field tests.

Key Takeaway

Understand local customs and behaviors to determine whether your target audience requires a specially made design. Sometimes a “one-size-fits-all” model is so full of design compromises that the final result is not suitable for anyone.

User-Centered Design

While the Tara stove was determined to be the best fit, the stove required further changes for the local food type, cooking style, pot shapes, and environmental conditions in Darfur (namely wind and sand). For example, in Darfur, the traditional meals are continuously stirred over high heat. Assida, a sticky dough made of flour, oil, and water that the Sudanese top with fried onions, tomatoes, meat or yogurt, okra, and spices is their daily staple. To cook assida, it is necessary to stir the contents of the pot vigorously; not an easy task given the windy conditions in Darfur and potential instability of the pot-stove combination. Watch an amusing video of some Americans trying to make assida over a conventional stove.

Engineers on the Berkeley-Darfur Stove® project relied on input from the Darfurti women to ensure the design of a durable fuel-efficient cookstove that could preserve cooking traditions and are more likely to be integrated into Darfurti households. Their philosophy is that “the user is the only person who can say definitively whether a product is functional and will continue to meet their needs in the future.” To accomplish this, regular field evaluations, performance testing, and user feedback is necessary.

Design for Manufacturability

In addition to re-designing the product to meet user needs, Berkeley-Darfur Stoves® also conducted a design for manufacturability analysis and supply chain study.  In the video below (skip to 3:40, although we also recommend watching the full video), Ken Chow explains how the product was specifically designed to be locally assembled in Sudan. Each stove starts out as a flat sheet of metal in Mumbai, India, and is then stamped into the various stove components. The “flat-kits” are shipped by boat to Sudan, and then taken overland to Darfur.

Once in Darfur, the stoves are locally assembled and then transported to refugee camps for sale.
The Berkeley-Darfur Stove® team chose a hybrid approach of mass manufacturing and local production to ensure high quality, low cost products. Full production of the stoves in Sudan would be extremely costly due to lack of access to the correct materials and equipment and lower production capacity.  As well, the supply chain analysis revealed that shipping fully assembled stoves from India would be significantly more costly than assembling them locally in Darfur.

From the beginning, design for manufacturability and user input were critical elements in the development of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove®. The stove has been specifically designed for the conditions in Darfur, and would need to be modified for users in other places.

Producer’s Notes: Darfur Stoves Project
By Sheraz Sadiq
Courtesy of KQED QUEST

End Notes

Darfur Stoves Project website.