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A group of brightly attired women is busy preparing an afternoon meal in the village of Mborurokh Cissé.

A woman in the village of Mborurokh Cissé uses a Jambaar stove.

This scene, played out daily across Africa, is taking on a new look in rural Senegal thanks to the efforts of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to encourage cooking with Jambaar stoves.

Use of the stoves is one way CRWRC and its local partner, the Beer-Sheba project, a faith-based environmental advocacy organization, is addressing Senegal’s severe “degradation of natural resources.”

“Wood is so difficult to purchase in Senegal; that stove has really helped the women in my family,” said Mor Cissé, village chief and new owner of a Jambaar cooking stove.

Traditionally women in Senegal cook on open fires of wood or charcoal. Because the fire is not contained, much of the heat is lost during cooking. Additional wood or charcoal must be added often.

This wood was once plentiful, but the forests of Senegal have been severely depleted, creating many environmental problems and causing the cost of wood to soar.

The metal Jambaar stoves are lined with a thick layer of clay, saving fuel by generating more heat and retaining it much longer than open-fire cooking methods.

“Without the stove, we were putting wood into the fire from all sides,” Cissé said. “Now it only takes two little sticks to do the same amount of cooking.”

Since each stove costs as much as $18 USD, putting it out of reach for many families, CRWRC and Beer-Sheba have encouraged the formation of savings groups.

Members contribute about $1.11 each month to an account, enabling the group to purchase one stove per month until all the members have a stove.

The stoves are only part of addressing Senegal’s environmental degradation, said Eric Toumieux, pastor and founder of the Beer-Sheba project. “Beer-Sheba wants to educate people on protecting trees, forests, water sources, and ground cover.”

Creating environmental awareness, promoting ways to save energy, and teaching innovative methods of farming are also ways for CRWRC and Beer Sheba to strengthen the ability of Senegal’s Christian ministries at the community level.

“The church is really growing and making progress,” Toumieux said. “It’s a minority here in Senegal, but it’s an influential minority.”

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