Question#1 What was your company’s distinctive strategy for incorporating technology to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal?

Our goal is to tackle the global crisis of access to clean cooking. We focus on the poorest rural communities in LDCs that are dependent on scavenged wood fuel, and cooking on traditional 3-stone fires. These communities cannot afford clean cooking technology. We provide, free of charge, a top-quality improved cookstove together with life-long integrated education and support. This is wholly funded through the sale of carbon credits produced by the stoves which use 71% less wood than traditional fires. By incorporating technology to accurately monitor stove usage we are able to ensure the integrity of the credits generated and so maximize investment that sustains the project and enables us to operate at scale and for the long term. Twice-yearly household visits and surveys provide detailed data on how the stoves impact families’ health and well-being which allows accurate tracking of progress and impact on a range of SDGs.

Question#2 What challenges did you face while working on your project/ initiative, and how did you overcome them?

We operate in difficult-to-access rural communities in Rwanda, The Gambia and Sierra Leone. The logistics of distributing stoves to families and then visiting every single family to ensure they understand both how and why they should use the stove is a huge challenge. Without these household visits, long-term behavior change cannot be achieved. We were also committed to operating at a scale that makes significant progress in tackling dirty cooking. Developing the network of community workers and designing the technology that can enable them to support millions of families was a huge challenge and our innovative approach has been developed and refined over a decade so that the DelAgua app technology is easy to use for our local employees, the majority of whom had never held a smartphone before.

Question#3 How did you involve local communities and stakeholders in your work, and what was their response?

DelAgua always works in partnership with host country governments so that we are supporting their own SDG goals and priorities. Before any stove distribution takes place, local community leaders are closely consulted and involved in, selecting the stove beneficiaries. The second major way in which the community is involved is through the network of community-based staff we train and pay to carry out the essential work of household visits and education. We employ over 8,000 local community staff. This is bringing long-term employment to rural areas where such opportunities are very scarce as well as teaching valuable skills around communication, using technology and data capture. The training DelAgua provides is extensive and feedback from our teams shows us how much they benefit from, value, and enjoy the transformational work they do in their local community. They see immediately the impact the stove has on the health of families, in particular women and children who bear the brunt of cooking duties and suffer the most from illnesses caused by smoke inhalation from household air pollution.

Question#4 Which organizational skills and assets can be harnessed to provide its goods/services without negative environmental and social impacts?

We believe in skills transfer, which means that over 95% of our staff are local. They understand their country and communities best. The social impact is multiplied as not only is the project transforming lives and the environment through the reduction in wood use, but we are providing employment that grows skills and boosts the economy. One of our main assets is the infrastructure we have developed that reaches hundreds of thousands of homes in rural areas. This allows us to provide the crucial last-mile distribution that is very difficult and expensive for other organizations to achieve. We offer our infrastructure for the distribution of other products and services that improve health and well-being.

Question#5 What is the role of businesses, governments, and civil society in achieving the SDGs, and how can they work together?

The DelAgua Live Well program is a powerful example of how business, government and civil society can work together. We believe it is only by engaging all three that real change can be achieved. Live Well always partners with governments so we are aligned with their goals, and we require a network of community workers based in the communities we serve, to enable education and behavior change to happen. We provide all the funding, training, technology, and logistical expertise. It is this three-way partnership and collaboration that enables Live Well to be the largest stove program of its kind in Africa. Governments see that our approach is able to tackle dirty cooking at a scale and pace that they have previously been unable to do, and that is why Live Well is expanding, at the invitation of other LDC governments, into new countries across Africa. Investors have confidence in what we deliver because of this three-way partnership, so investment continues to grow.

Question#6 What impact has your project had, and what are your future goals?

We have distributed 1.5 million stoves to date, impacting 7.5 million lives. Wood use is cut by 71%, so time spent gathering wood is reduced by >70%, allowing women to spend more time on productive activities, and children no longer miss school because of their wood-gathering duties. Household air pollution is cut by at least 73%, which reduces the smoke inhalation that causes chronic lung disease and also the daily suffering of sore throats and stinging eyes. Cooking times are significantly reduced, >50% so women spend less time cooking and because the stove lights easily and cooks quickly, they can cook more frequently for their families, improving childhood nutrition. There is a 46% reduction in diarrhea in children under 5 when using boiled water.

Deforestation is reduced and on completion of 2.3 million stoves in Rwanda by the end of 2023, Live Well will be saving the equivalent of 64km of forest annually. Saving forests is also preserving vital wildlife habitats including that of the endangered Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda.

Question#7 What advice do you have for individuals/organizations seeking to create positive change and contribute to the SDGs?

Start by truly understanding the communities you intend to support. We invest heavily in talking to the women who use our stoves. It is vital to provide a product or service that works for them and not the other way around. Projects fail when a stove which might appear appropriate fails to perform in real world conditions. Our stove reflects what women want and the reality of their lives. Secondly do everything you can to develop local talent and train them in skills which can provide a lifelong economic advantage for them. Thirdly focus on impact. Do everything you can to focus your investment on achieving real impact on the ground. Be brutally honest with yourself about how effective your organization is and constantly look for ways to improve. Tap into the expertise of your team, especially those on the ground delivering projects and use their ideas.

Question#8 How would receiving this SDG Award help you improve your impact and scale your project?

There remains a very low awareness of the impact of dirty cooking on health, the environment and climate change. This award helps raise the profile not just of what DelAgua does but of the huge scale of the problem and how the provision of an improved cookstove and education can have so many positive impacts on multiple SDGs. Raised awareness leads to greater investment which means we can expand our work into more countries and help more families. Not all carbon credits are equal, put simply Live Well’s credits do more good, we are very proud of the integrity of the carbon credits produced and we are now able to offer individuals and companies the opportunity to buy credits direct from us: carbon-credits/. As a social enterprise, we reinvest our revenue to continue our mission of transforming lives and nature through enterprise so we hope the award will help encourage direct purchase of Live Well credits. Finally, the award is highly motivating for our team and an important independent recognition of the incredible work done by our extraordinary staff.