Basa Magogo: Light It Up Grandmother!

A pioneering project in South Africa’s townships is saving lives, reducing emissions and enhancing the quality of life for vulnerable communities.

The Challenge

Reliance on coal is part of daily life for many South Africans, with approximately one million people using it as an affordable way to heat their homes and cook their meals. The impact of this is vast and far-reaching: a quarter of hospital admissions for respiratory problems and disease are caused by inhaling these deadly fumes. Further, the use of coal stoves is time- and labour-intensive, as it can take an hour for suitable cooking temperatures to be reached.

The Solution

The Basa Magogo Alternative Ignition Technique project is a unique project that seeks to change coal-lighting behaviour. This is done through an integrated programme whereby trained locals show households the Basa Magogo way to light a coal fire. The result is a fire that uses less fuel and burns cleaner, thereby reducing carbon emissions and negative health impacts.

Basa Magogo means ‘Light it up! Grandmother’ in Zulu. The technique was named after Granny Nebelungu Mashinini, a community member from eMbalenhle near Secunda, who perfected the method when the Nova Institute introduced and tested the technique in communities in 2004.

Conventionally, coal fires are started by first lighting firewood at the bottom of the stove or brazier and then adding coal on top. The Basa Magogo alternative takes the opposite approach – the coal is placed at the bottom and firewood is added on top and then lit. The technique results in a more effective top-down ignition process that’s quicker, healthier, cleaner and cheaper.

In order to teach the new technique and create shifts in mindset and behaviour, a comprehensive programme of small group demonstrations, surveys, monitoring and maintenance has been mastered and takes place throughout the year.

Carbon Credits

This project is registered under the Gold Standard, thereby allowing companies to credibly offset their carbon footprint in order to make a sustainable social impact in South Africa. The Basa Magogo social, environmental and economic impacts are measured and monitored by internal and external researchers and audited by independent auditors as required by the Gold Standard guidelines.

Key SDGs impacted

Economic Benefits
  • Coal purchase savings average R800 per household per year, allowing additional time for economic activities as well. Savings in health costs are trickier to quantify, however based on several well-documented surveys, health savings are estimated to be ten times the amount saved on coal spend.

Household Benefits:

Studies by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa also show that the time needed to reach cooking temperature using Basa Magogo is only ten minutes compared to 60 minutes needed for the conventional heating method.

Health Benefits:
  • This cooking method results in a 90% reduction of indoor smoke and a further 80% reduction in ambient air pollution, better visibility and reduced health risk.

Environmental Benefits:

50% less coal is used to produce the same amount of heat and so 300 kg less coal is used by households per year. This works out to 1.3 tons of CO2 reduced per family, per year!