Across much of Africa many households struggle to access the energy services they require in order to prepare and cook the meals they need to survive on a daily basis. Challenges exist at all levels of the supply chain beginning with access to suitable energy sources (such as paraffin/kerosene or charcoal), the affordability of these energy sources, and the availability of suitable cooking devices in which families can prepare and cook their meals in. However, one product that is helping households and families to overcome these challenges, provide edible and nutritious food for themselves, reduce their energy costs, and help contribute to a cleaner environment is the Wonderbag. According to its website, the Wonderbag is “a simple but revolutionary non-electric heat-retention cooker …. [that can] cook food that has been brought to the boil by conventional methods for up to 12 hours without the use of additional fuel.”
The Wonderbag is ingenious in that it does not require any electricity connection, fire, or stove top in order to work effectively and it can be safely used at any time of the day or night. The bag saves energy by keeping food warm (or cold) using repurposed foam wrapped in between the two cotton layers of the bag. This is effective for retaining all the nice flavours and spices put into the meal, for ensuring that the moisture is retained and for making sure that the food never burns or goes off. The bag can be used for both heating and cooling purposes, it is excellent for the environment because it does not produce any poisonous carbon emissions while being used, and it can result in multiple other benefits for anyone who uses it. Other important benefits of the bag are outlined in the table below.
|Tasty and Delicious Food||Using the Wonderbag can makes meat tender, vegetables firm, and allows all flavours in the food to develop.|
|Good Looking||Wonderbags are designed and made in attractive fabrics (often incorporating traditional African designs) that are easy to wash, wipe, clean, and re-use.|
|Convenient to Use||Families can eat when they are ready knowing that the Wonderbag will keep their food fresh, hot (or cold), and won’t be spoiled.|
|Insulator||The Wonderbag can be used to keep food both hot and cold depending on the user’s need.|
|Portability||The Wonderbag can be used to transport food and other products between home, work, and other destinations.|
|Versatility||As well as for slow cooking the Wonderbag can be used as a yoghurt maker, rice cooker, and bread “prover.”|
|Change Maker||For every household that uses a Wonderbag they are likely to have more disposable income for education, better health, and more food, as well as having more time with their families.|
|Environmental||The Wonderbag is good for the environment (for example, fewer trees need to be cut down, less charcoal needs to be burnt, and less carbon dioxide fumes need to be inhaled while cooking).|
What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that the Wonderbag is a South African product designed to help overcome major access to energy challenges faced across South Africa and the African continent.
Having grown up in Apartheid South Africa and being surrounded by inequality and poverty, Sarah Collins, the designer and founder of the Wonderbag, determined to do something positive about it. To date over one million Wonderbags have been sold and distributed across Africa and in 2013 Wonderbag expanded to the United States and India, and more recently also to refugee camps in the Middle East. It will soon launch in India. Furthermore, in an effort to tackle poverty and the challenges related to it, Collins has also founded the Coalition of Action in an attempt to work towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and united businesses, global leaders, philanthropists and charities, NGOs, and communities around the world together. Some of the large scale international organisations to have already entered the Coalition of Action include Dell, Pfizer, and Unilever.
While many existing sustainable development initiatives – particularly around the challenge of access to energy – are already having positive effects, new and innovative ideas, products, and distribution channels will also be required. The Wonderbag is one such example of such a product. Only established in 2008, the Wonderbag is already achieving excellent results and has the potential to benefit many more low-income families and households across South Africa, Africa, and the globe for many years to come.