If you haven’t heard already, there is a new fireless slow cooker that is doing more than just providing scrumptious food—it is changing the world, one meal at a time. Sarah Collins has taken a traditional cooking method and transformed it to help improve the health and quality of life of families throughout Africa and across the globe. The “Wonderbag” is a revolutionary slow cooker that is both portable and does not require any electricity. Simply bring your food to a boil, place it in the bag, slow cook it, and serve! Keep reading to learn more about how this wonderful bag is combating the health, social, economic, and environmental problems that Africa is currently facing.
By Grethe Mattheus
Most of us know the beautiful design and numerous everyday benefits of the Wonderbag, but few people really grasp how far the ripple effect from this non-electric, portable, slow cooker stretches. The story of Sarah Collins and her drive for sustainable impact is not only a proudly South African entrepreneurial success story, but one that truly shows the power of connecting hearts and homes around the world.
Sarah’s original inspiration came from the memories of her grandmother’s economical cooking methods and her deep connection with African women. Years later, and on their way to 100 million Wonderbags sold worldwide, her entrepreneurial upbringing and strong focus on building relationship with local communities, has proven the perfect synergy for a brand that is recognised from the midlands of Natal to the hallways of the United Nations.
In a middle-class existence it is easy to forget about the alarming fact that 3 billion women around the world still cook over an open fire each day and face the danger of death caused by smoke inhalation. Statistics show that over 4 million people die from this cause and 50% of these premature deaths are children under five. The simple act of preparing a meal in a developing country has huge challenges for many. Often low-income households use firewood for fuel to cook food and this not only results in deforestation, but many hours often spent by women looking for wood. These are hours that take girls out of school and mothers away from caring for their children. How amazing that, as Sarah states, “the oldest technology in the world” can contribute towards a solution for this problem and bring an innovative answer to rural and urban communities alike. Whether reducing smoke from an open fire or carbon emissions from a suburban household, this ShweShwe bag proves that innovation is not always new.
Building a sustainable social enterprise not only requires a value creating product, but also creative means to reach the target market. Through personal experience and relationships with rural communities, Wonderbag is maximising its impact by constantly finding new ways to get their product into the hands of the people who need it most. For this purpose the Wonderbag Foundation has built a model that focuses on empowering and educating communities through partnership organisations, activations and monitoring & follow-up programmes. This ensures wide distribution, deep impact and real transformation. The Wonderbag Journey forms a community of hope around the globe, starting with Wonderbag donations to The Wonderbag Foundation, linked to online purchases from all over the world. The Foundation ventures out on giving trips and distributes the bags through partner community relationships in Africa. There, families are trained on how to use the bag and are empowered to understand the health and environmental benefits of using the bag. The Foundation also monitors health results through local clinics. One of the best parts of this positive impact cycle is that the time saved by women using Wonderbags are used to train these women to develop skills that will contribute to building a stronger social and economic climate in their community. For every one of these families in the developing world that uses a Wonderbag the positive impact can be quantified and measured. Every bag used saves 1.7 trees, slowing deforestation rates; saves 1000 liters of water per year; saves 1248 hours spent collecting firewood per year and reduces up to 1 ton of carbon emissions.
To put the cherry on top, this organisation with an international footprint, still sources all their raw materials from South African companies and the product is thus truly 100% locally made. Wonderbag is an inspirational example of a holistic approach to addressing a social and environmental need and a testimony of change agents building a better South Africa through passion and innovation.