53-year-old Chrissy Magadu from Malawi has not had an easy life. But a knack for spotting a good business opportunity - combined with excellent sales skills and a head for detail - has opened up exciting new possibilities for her and her family.
When Chrissy's husband died, she was left all alone to support her three children, her disabled mother and her grandchild, Bessy. As Bessy clings to Chrissy’s skirt, a fist in her mouth, Chrissy explains that when her eldest son, Christoff (now 23), went to secondary school, she was worried about how she would afford the school fees.
Then, one day, an exciting opportunity opened up to her.
As she was walking back home from collecting water, she stumbled upon a recruitment drive by United Purpose to find local promoters for eco-friendly cook-stoves. Chrissy learnt about how these stoves – constructed from local materials – use significantly less wood than traditional open fires. She applied to become a stove promoter, passed the reading and writing test, and was selected to promote the stoves in her village. She was linked with a group of stove producers trained by United Purpose, from whom she could bulk-buy stoves to sell on in her local area.
At first, Chrissy wasn’t sure how to go about this, so she approached her village chief. He was inspired by her excitement and agreed to help her. He met with other chiefs in the area – and soon all of Chrissy’s neighbours and friends wanted their own stove. The demand was so great that when the first stoves arrived there were not enough to go around. So she started taking pre-orders and within a few weeks, she was selling 10 stoves at a time.
Chrissy keeps her records meticulously, tracking all of the sales she has made over the past few years. For each she stove she sells, she receives a small commission from the stove production group, which enables her to buy small items for her house and more food for Bessy from the market.
On World Environment Day in August 2017, the National Cookstove Steering Committee invited Chrissy to the Bingu Stadium in Lilongwe to receive an award from the Minister of Mining, Energy and Natural Resources for selling the most stoves in the whole country – a grand total of 244.
“I was so proud and happy,” she says, smiling widely. With the prize money, she was able to pay off Christoff’s school fees in full, and he graduated later that year.
Chrissy is also pleased to see the women in her village using the stoves she sold them. “It’s nice to see,” she says. “These women used to have to walk very far to get firewood, sometimes every week. Now the wood lasts two months. They have more time for other household activities, and some have joined the savings and loans group in the village. And the stoves produce less smoke, so the husbands cook with their wives.”
United Purpose's eco-friendly stoves save carbon, as they use 60-80% less firewood than traditional open fires. The environmental good is quantifiable and converted into Gold Standard carbon credits. Organisations in the UK and beyond can buy these carbon credits to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions - and the money they spend on this goes straight back to Malawi to maintain existing projects and fund new initiatives. Find out more about our carbon initiative here.