Gaia Association wins green award for clean ethanol stove

Tonight, the world’s leading green energy prize awarded £20,000 for a pioneering sustainable energy project to the Gaia Association, an organization working with the UNHCR in the Kebribeyah refugee camp near Ethiopia’s border with Somalia. The Ashden Awards prize was presented to Milkyas Debebe, Managing Director of the Gaia Association, by Kenyan Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai.

The Gaia Association in Ethiopia is transforming the lives of refugees by distributing stoves that use ethanol fuel, a by-product of the sugar industry. The area around the Kebribiyah camp, home to 17,000 Somalian refugees, has suffered severe deforestation and women were always in danger of attack when they went out to collect fuel wood. The new stoves are healthier and more efficient, and families can avoid using wood altogether. Now Ethiopian manufacturers are producing the stoves locally. “I gave my stove to my daughter when she got married, so she wouldn’t have to face the dangers of going out to gather firewood,” said one member of the Refugee Women’s Committee.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder and chair of the Ashden Awards said, “Our judges were enormously impressed with the enthusiasm for the stoves among refugee women. Not only did the stoves prevent wood collection, with its associated dangers and environmental impacts, they were also much safer, quicker and more pleasant to use, in particular avoiding the risk of respiratory and eye diseases from smoke inhalation.”

Accepting the Ashden Award on behalf of Gaia Association, Debebe remarked, “The Ethiopian people, especially women and children and our growing refugee population, suffer increasingly from poor energy choices and energy poverty. Gaia is pioneering ethanol stoves and fuel, using Ethiopia’s natural resources. With support from the UNHCR and the Ethiopian government, we are helping both Ethiopians and refugees. This Award will help us to reach more people in need.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Patron of The Ashden Awards, personally congratulated this year’s award winners at a separate meeting. “The Prince of Wales was deeply encouraged to learn of the solutions demonstrated by the Ashden Awards that can reduce our dependency on a carbon economy. His Royal Highness was particularly impressed by the local sustainable energy initiatives recognised and promoted by the Awards, which not only meet the needs of communities, but tackle climate change and further sustainable development,” said a Clarence House spokesperson.

For further information on the 2008 Ashden Awards international finalists (including case studies) and to schedule interviews, contact Ilana Cravitz, International Press Officer: T +44 (0) 20 8985 3724; M +44 (0) 782 551 0881; E

Notes to editors:
1. The Ashden Awards are a UK-based charity working to increase the use of local sustainable energy worldwide. They find, reward and publicise the work of leading sustainable energy programmes working across the developing world and in the UK. Further information, including details on past winners, funders and supporters, can be found at
2. Five other international schemes were awarded £20,000 each on 19 June by the UK-based Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, to promote replication and expansion of renewable energy projects. Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (India) was awarded the title of Energy Champion, and Bangladeshi solar programme Grameen Shakti won this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award.
3. The UNHCR, Gaia Association and other NGOs including the International Rescue Committee and the Lutheran World Federation jointly fund the stove and ethanol programmes in the refugee camps. Funding has also been provided by the US EPA and Shell Foundation. A key partner is the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs.
4. The CleanCook stove, developed in Sweden for the leisure market and manufactured by Swedish company Dometic, uses an innovative non-pressurised canister in which ethanol is adsorbed onto mineral fibre and so does not spill. Stoves are now also being manufactured locally.
5. A study showed that a stove could replace all the largely-unsustainable firewood used by families in Kebribeyah refugee camp (average 3.7 tonnes/year per family), equivalent to about 6.2 tonnes/year of CO2 emissions.
6. At the end of May 2008, Gaia Association had also supplied 50 stoves to households in Addis Ababa. It also had 3,300 stoves on order: 800 for Teferi Ber camp (where initial training in using the stoves has started); 2,000 stoves for a government housing development; and 500 for a Catholic social housing programme.
7. The call for entries for the 2009 Ashden Awards opens on 19 June 2008. Expressions of interest for the international Awards should be received by 21 October 2008. Details and application forms are available at
8. New research commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) looked in detail at some previous Ashden Award-winning programmes. It shows that these programmes can achieve significant scale and deliver significant benefits for people and the environment; the ten surveyed programmes are serving 9 million people across Africa and Asia, and saving 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 this year (equivalent to the total domestic emissions of more than 700,000 UK citizens). Read the report at