Madagascar is one of the poorest nations on Earth. 77% of Malagasy people live in extreme poverty. The loss of tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic also hit the region hard: 15% of Madagascar’s GDP previously came from tourism.
Driven by desperation to survive, rural communities are cutting down more forests for firewood and charcoal production, and illegally exporting precious timbers. People are also resorting to poaching wildlife for food and for earning money from the illegal pet trade – all in order to feed their families.
These actions are directly threatening the country’s wildlife and biodiversity. Madagascar, about the size of France, has a population of 28 million and is home to more than 15,000 species of plants and animals, 90% of which exist nowhere else in the world. Most of these endemic species live in and rely heavily on the country’s forests. Without these natural habitats, critically endangered species like the Blue-eyed Black Lemur and so many others will be lost forever.
Like many others in Madagascar, Patrick and his family have struggled with the loss of income over the past few years as the tourism industry ground to a halt. Instead of resorting to survival measures which would further damage the environment, Patrick channelled his efforts into creating a brilliant and scalable business idea: improved, cost-effective cooking stoves and sustainable eco-charcoal produced from waste products.
Sustainable, eco-friendly cooking
The main cooking method in Madagascar is burning firewood or charcoal on an open stove, which directly contributes to the destruction of local habitats as swathes of forest are cut down for fuel. Patrick has designed, tested and refined a new method of producing charcoal briquettes from ash, waste agricultural and household organic materials, which significantly reduces the need for firewood. The abundance of these naturally occurring waste products means that production costs remain low – vitally important for the uptake of this new fuel within the communities.
The traditional Malagasy stoves are also very inefficient, wasting a lot of heat and requiring a lot of fuel. Patrick has developed an improved, more efficient charcoal stove that burns at much higher temperatures compared with the traditional stoves. This reduces cooking time and therefore the amount of fuel needed. Patrick has already developed a successful prototype and is now commissioning a local craftsman to produce stoves made of clay – an abundant resource in the country.
Donations to SOS MADAGASCAR will help Patrick start producing the sustainable eco-charcoal and fuel-efficient stoves that he has engineered, which he will then sell to local communities. By developing this into a secure, sustainable business Patrick will help generate jobs and contribute to the local economy while serving his main passion: helping protect Madagascar’s natural habitats and the critically endangered species that rely on them.
Once the business is up and running, 50% of the profits will be invested into Patrick’s Blue-eyed Black Lemur project, an initiative he began some years ago to involve local communities and tour guides in the active protection of this critically endangered species.