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Low-cost stoves that beat winter



ROMA – Lesotho’s famously cold winter is upon us. There is no better way to beat it than use Tumelo Phenya’s stove. With it, you hit two birds with one stone. You cook at a low cost, and you drive away the cold while keeping the smoke at bay. Let’s take a closer look at the Queen’s Stoves, as he prefers to call them. Well, they may be small but they punch above their weight. In the good old days, similar stoves used to be the likes of Farkirk (Fariki) or Jewel. Some among the 2000s generation (Ma-2000) are lucky enough to have seen such stoves only because their grandpas and grandmas—or great-grandpas and mas— kept a firm hold onto them. If you know a thing or two about such stoves, you will agree with us on one thing: they were meant to kick Lesotho’s blistering cold out of the window—at a fraction of the cost. They have largely disappeared from the markets. “Nowadays the options are a bit limited,” said Phenya, who had to stop his studies at the Centre for Accounting Studies (CAS) to pursue technical training at Thaba-Tseka Technical College but still plans to come back to CAS to complete the remaining courses. “You either have to put up with paraffin or gas or electric stoves,” Phenya said. “None of the options are very great in terms of your pocket,” he said. So getting warm in winter these days is becoming the territory of the rich and the privileged. For the rest of us, we are allowed to freeze in icing houses. Wood stoves, he said, are the tried-and-tested method of getting you warm without hitting your pockets too hard. Unlike gas, paraffin and electric stoves, these stoves can use the kinds of fuel that are readily available in your neighbourhood or generally come at a low cost—the likes of wood, cow dung, charcoal, corncobs (liqo), coal, pressed waste paper, you name it. The problem is, such kinds of low-cost stoves are scarce as gold these days. As Lesotho’s legendarily cold winters approached, that got Phenya’s mind racing. “Maybe I could find customers willing to warm themselves up while making a few bucks in the process,” he thought. You see, many a youth out there have lots of similar ideas too. But what separates innovators from intellectuals is the ability to execute, to get things done. Phenya is in that bracket. Ability to execute is a great skill to acquire if you want to be in business. So he got his hand soiled and built the stoves and, good enough, some happy customers are already cooking and warming themselves up. That is, thanks to the Queen’s Stoves. A thing or two will attract you to this stove. First, it is meant to force as much of the smoke to the outside of your house as possible. Smoke is one of the most troublesome things in the use of wood-stoves. That is because, despite the presence of a chimney, sometimes smoke can find a way to force itself into whatever paths it can find within the stoves, right into your bedroom. Of course inhaling smoke is not one of the best ways to ensure you reach a hundred years. “So our stoves come with a back compartment that allows excess smoke to hang around until it finds its way into the chimney and off the house,” he said. His theory is that sometimes the rate at which smoke is produced within the stove can be greater than the chimney’s ability to take it away. “At that point, an excess smoke finds its way through whatever holes are there, into the room.” However, by providing the compartment, a waiting room is, thus, created. Even with all that, some of the smoke still tries to get its way out through small openings on the stoves. “In that case, we have designed our doors in such a way that the smoke hardly finds any means to escape.” Among some of the fuels he has tried in the stoves, Phenya says he is often fascinated by the “wood” made from waste paper. “Not only is it an inexpensive fuel because it is based on waste, I have found that it burns longer than other fuels in my experience.” Of course, the recycling of waste is itself a bonus. His observations make sense. Paper is, after all, a concentrated wood. Yes, paper is made of wood’s cellulose fibres after other parts of wood such as barks, lignins and hemicelluloses (if we were to be a little scientific), were removed. Dear future customer hereby reading this, we wish you a good winter with the blessings of the Queen’s Stoves. Own Correspondent

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