Shack fires are a frequent feature in news headlines, but more often than not they go unreported because they’re so hideously common. Hundreds are injured and made homeless every year in South Africa, in blazes often caused when cooking on a fire is left unattended or a paraffin stove is knocked over. According to Stats SA, almost a fifth of all households still rely on paraffin or wood as their primary cooking source.

South African inventor Billy Haldow hopes he’s come up with a device that will reduce the number of shack fires annually. Khaya Power FAABulous Cookstove and its creator Billy Hadlow are looking to destroy that idea completely.

We met Billy during the final moments of Maker Faire Cape Town on Friday as some of the many stalls were packing up for the day. The unassuming rectangular white box with a variety of pans next to it didn’t grab us until we went and spoke to its creator.

“This 1W fan can generate up to 2kW of heat power, emits no smoke and is safe to use in the home”, Hadlow told us as he explained how it works.

The fan itself sits below a “biomass gasifier”, which is where the real magic of the stove happens. Any combustible material, be it biofuels or other organic matter, is packed inside an upcycled coffee tin and lit. The fan then starts pushing air into the can to increase the heat, which causes the unburned fuel to start releasing a combustible gas. These gases generated are fed back into the system where they are burned a second time round with the flame coming from the fuel stock to produce a smokeless, flameless cooking hob.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes the gasification process.

The result is a safe and smokeless cooker. According to Hadlow 500g of fuel will burn for approximately an hour and during this hour the outside of the cooker remains cool to the touch. Don’t be fooled though, Hadlow tells us that there is enough heat inside the stove to bake bread before triumphantly showing us that he’s tried it already.

Cook, dry, light, charge the FAABulous stove is incredibly versatile.
Cook, dry, light, charge the FAABulous stove is incredibly versatile.

The FAABulous Stove is able to operate using either a Khaya Power Juz Box Smart Battery, power from the mains or the built-in battery. Since many of the informal settlements that the stove would benefit aren’t likely to have mains electricity, there’s also an option to include small solar power system to generate energy for the fan.

It may not be able to power an entire house but the 2.5Ah/30Wh solar powered system that Khaya sells is enough to power the stove, charge a mobile phone and run an LED light strip.

Having a FAABulous stove in every home that needs one, says Hadlow, would effectively eliminate the need many South Africans have for paraffin stoves and open fires as a means of cooking.

The FAABulous Cookstove might not sport the latest and greatest technology but it’s clever, and the potential impact it has for rural South Africa is massive. If you’re in Cape Town take a moment to check it out at the Inventor’s Garage from 28 – 29 August where it will compete with 28 other inventions for a spot at the SA Innovation Summit. attended Maker Faire Cape Town as a guest of CAD House and Sahara Systems, two of South Africa’s leading suppliers of 3D printers and maker gear.