“A long, long time ago, I can still remember” opens Don Maclean’s American Pie. It’s been a couple of years since We Are White River launched ourselves on the scene with our showstopper marquee at Uplands Festival 2015. Can you remember the local creative talent and brains we unwrapped and showed off over the weekend?
One exciting entrepreneur we presented was Louise Williamson who developed the Mashesha stove and toiled over her invention on a particularly broilingly warm Festival weekend; using her mielie pap balls to light the astonishingly efficient syngas cooking appliance. Our friends from White River Rotary took note and invited Louise to address one of their weekly meetings and the club bought 3 stoves for a rural school they support.
In the spirit of connection and network that We Are White River is working hard to develop, one thing led to another and in short order Liz Mackintosh bought 2 stoves for the African Schoolroom schools, York Timbers purchased 10 stoves for the schools and creches they support while SAPPI Forests took another two stoves for schools they assist. It was through the Rotary presentation that Louise was invited to speak to the Vroue Landbou Unie Forum in White River and the ladies bought two Mashesha stoves for communities they support.
The Lowveld bush telegraph continues to spread the word and Louise has approached TRAC to sponsor stoves for the five schools and 10 households in Matsulu they assist. Mashesha stoves should shortly be available for sale at Build It in White River.
And while the stoves are snapped up, Louise is approached to attend exhibitions and showcases and is winning awards across Africa. The Gordon Institute of Business Studies presented her with their Social Innovation Award as did SA Breweries – she won the Social Innovation Award at their Innovation Summit. She was invited to Ghana to participate in the African Enterprise Summit and has won the Envirologic Energy Efficiency merit Award.
Mashesha has enormous impact not only on the environment, but on women’s health and workload as well. Louise is able to quantify the fuel load and emission savings and through the number of units sold she can measure the number of women directly benefiting. Based on the number of schools using the large stove, she’s able to calculate carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emission savings which directly mitigates climate change. The volume of bioquettes sold will indicate the amount of waste minimized and wisely used instead of burnt in a landfill. Additional impact will be calculated on the number of jobs created across the SADC.
There are some constraints, however. Cost, naturally. It takes some persuading to convince communities to spend slim financial resources on purchasing a stove, a large flat bottomed cooking pot and an axe to cut the wood into smaller slivers.
There is so much more to share but space is limited so we urge you to contact Louise or to visit her Facebook and website. The multiple awards and interest from outside of South Africa are a showcase of an inspiring, green community minded inventor that two years ago shyly, but with passion, displayed her invention at the We Are White River Uplands Festival stand. Louise is now able to approach her next targets with confidence – hoping to raise R2 million to purchase additional machinery, create 12 jobs, build a workshop and pay for admin costs.
Mashesha isn’t only for rural communities, however, people are buying them for patio use (think our chilly Lowveld winter evenings). “Your chosen social entrepreneur for the environment” is her business slogan but Louise Williamson is incredibly modest and is so much more.
Cell: 072 436 8347