When an earthquake wiped away his factory, destroying everything he had, Duquesne Fednard thought he’d have to return to New York. Born in Haiti, Fednard had studied in the U.S., before going back to the island in 2009 to set up a cooking stove business. But now the game seemed up.
"I had made a decision to go back. I was convinced there was nothing I could do," he says. "But when I was telling the staff, one them said, 'This is the only normal thing we have. Everything else is chaos. We lost our homes, our families..' It was a really powerful statement. I realized we had to continue."
Three years later, Fednard is close to re-building. He’s got $200,000 of the $300,000 he needs. He just needs a little more—as you can see from the appeal below, and his Indiegogo campaign page here.
The stove itself uses 50% less charcoal than a conventional model, saving families a good portion of their income, Fednard says. "A typical family spends 23%-30% just on charcoal. So, just by cutting that, they are saving $150 to $200 a year." In a country where four-fifths of people earn less than $2 a day, that’s a serious sum.
Fednard also points out that using less fuel leads to less fumes (a health risk), and reduces the impact on Haiti’s forests. Because of rampant logging, the country’s natural resources are more depleted than its neighbor’s.
The proposed new factory has a different design from the old one. It will be steel-reinforced against earthquakes and hurricanes, allowing Fednard to ramp up production to 120,000 units a year. At the moment, he relies on two tents damaged by last year’s Hurricane Sandy, restricting capacity.
Still, even under less than optimum conditions, the workers have managed to produce 36,460 stoves so far. And, two guys who used to live in Cité-Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest slums, have managed to move to better places. Fednard says: "Their success story really puts in perspective why we are doing what we are doing."