A Recipe for Change indeed.Who’d have thought that one of the most revolutionary non-electric heat retention cookers would be as simple as an African-print beanbag?
One who did is entrepreneur Sarah Collins, founder of the Wonderbag, a South African-made, ‘powerless’ non-electric heat retention cooker that’s finding its way into kitchens around the world.
Initially, the bags were made by an non government organization (NGO) in Pretoria, and sold at flea markets. Rapid growth over 10 years has resulted in a global business that not only has a market in South Africa but the UK, the USA and 32 other countries.
Globally, according to Sarah, 1.5 million have been sold to date. That’s an impressive figure for a no-plug, fabric slow cooker handmade in little old South Africa. Sarah says the States has a well-established slow cooking culture. “About 68 per cent of people cook with crock pots.”
But for Sarah, named one of Fortune magazine’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013, it’s no surprise. It’s a marvellous success story and an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.
But there’s another, even better story. And this one’s about making the world a better place. Underpinning the creation of the Wonderbag was Sarah’s long-held wish to ease the impact of health, social, economic and environmental problems that face Africa and developing countries.
“I want to see development done successfully and not through failed systems of NGOs,” she says.
“My main drivers are female economic empowerment and creating a business that is successful financially, socially and environmentally.”
The aim of Wonderbag is to drive change socially economically and environmentally
‘One million people using Wonderbags three times a week means 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide saved’, announces one poster.
‘5 million paraffin users will save $1.8 billion on fuel in a year’, announces another.
“Our general statement is that you can save 60 to 62 per cent of all your cooking fuel requirements through Wonderbag usage,” Sarah says.
Reduced reliance on fossil fuel is always good news for the environment, as is saving trees.
In rural areas, cooking over wood fires is still the norm. If Wonderbags are used, the need for firewood is reduced and this translates into hacking down fewer trees.
It also translates into a range of health and social benefits for rural women and girls, who are usually tasked with collecting firewood. So, for example, less time spent collecting wood means girls have more time to go to school and women have more time to spend with their families, or to find ways of earning an income that could lift them out of poverty.
And when open fires no longer form a big part of daily life, indoor pollution diminishes and the number of burn injuries are reduced.
The demand for Wonderbags in Africa is so great that Sarah and her team are in the process of finalising a partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross.
By using the organisation’s infrastructure and resources on the continent, Wonderbag hopes to bring more of the subsidised bags into the hands of communities who need them the most.
The journey from flea market to world stage is truly, er, wonderful and I ask Sarah what stands out for her. She tells me there are many highlights, including receiving a vote of confidence from former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and prime ministers from around the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2013.
Wonderbag also received the nod from Time Magazine when it joined the list of 50 Genius Companies 2018 and was added to the London Stock Exchange’s 2019 Companies to Inspire Africa report.
Sarah was also dubbed as one of Forbes Woman Africa‘s New Wealth Creators earlier this year.
And right up with that is another defining moment for Sarah. “A woman came to me in rural KZN and said she could now afford to send her children to school because of Wonderbag.” Now that’s life changing.
Wonderbag Foundation distributes bags to the underprivileged through its Buy And Give (BAG) scheme that operates throughout the world. For each Wonderbag bought, a portion of the proceeds is donated to the Wonderbag Foundation. These proceeds are then used to purchase and donate subsidised Wonderbags to families in Africa.
The Wonderbag Foundation has also launched an initiative called Wonderfeasts which focuses on educating communities about the benefits of using a Wonderbag.
You can donate directly to Wonderbag and its initiatives via wonderbag.org/donate.
Acknowledgement: Andrea Abbott who had the pleasure of meeting the Wonderbag’s creator, and learning about the wondrous journey this product has achieved in just a handful of years.
Read the full article here, courtesy of Country Life.