Women are the backbone and muscle of rural African society.  In addition to cooking, tending crops, and caring for children, they haul water and carry firewood over long distances. To celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, I’d like to present Wonder Woman’s best accessory:  the Wonderbag.

My Wonderbag.  We found this beauty in the small grocery store an hour's walk away.

My Wonderbag. We found this beauty in the small grocery store an hour’s walk away.

The technology behind the Wonderbag is simple and almost as old as cooking itself:  insulate a hot pot so the heat will slowly cook the food.  Moving a pot from a cooking fire to an insulated bag has three benefits.

1)  Less firewood.  Or propane or electricity or whatever you’re using to cook your food.  Less energy means a smaller carbon footprint.  It means less time spent going to the forest collecting firewood and hauling it home.  If you are cooking over an indoor fire, it also means fewer particulates and reduced risk of bronchitis or asthma.

Reducing fuel means reducing deforestation and carbon emissions.

Reducing fuel means reducing deforestation and carbon emissions.

2)  Less water.  Slow-cooking food means less water evaporation.  Hauling clean water is hard work, so anything that reduces water consumption helps.

3)  Less time tending the pot.  Anyone who has ever lived with me knows that I tend to get bored watching pots on the stove, resulting in many scorched meals.  With slow-cooking, I use that time for something else with no fear of burning the beans.

I’m from the Great Plains of America and we love slow cookers.  The crock pot is my favorite kitchen appliance by far.  Anything that tastes good over the stove tastes amazing in a crock pot.  With the Wonderbag, I cook my food over the stove for a while (5 minutes for rice, 30 minutes for beans), put in the insulating bag, and let it continue cooking slowly for 45 minutes to a few hours.  Easy peasy.  And no fear of electrical fires.

In the developed world, something like the Wonderbag means using less energy and water, fewer scorched pots in my case, and saving a little bit of time.  In the developing world, something like the Wonderbag means slowing down deforestation, improving respiratory health, and saving several hours per day that can be used for education or income generation.

Happy Women’s Day.

The impact of the wonderbag according to the World Health Organization.

The impact of the Wonderbag on a single family in the developing world according to the World Health Organization.

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