Ken Dunn: saving and changing lives with Wonderbags, Trees and Africa’s Gift

Photo of Ken and Wonderbag in the radio studio

Ken and Wonderbag in the radio studio

Smoke inhalation from cooking causes millions of deaths. Stirring cooking pots for hours and hours, and collecting firewood to cook with steals lives – preventing many people from going to school or achieving their potential.

But a simple invention, created in South Africa, is already changing this. The Wonderbag is an insulated drawstring container weighing about the same as a bag of sugar. Bring a pot of stew to the boil, pop it inside the Wonderbag and it finishes cooking all on its own. This drastically reduces the amount of wood (or kerosene!) needed to cook. Women have launched businesses, creating income in their communities, in the hours they have freed from stirring open pots. Girls can get an education instead of collecting wood.

Wonderbags are made from foam out of aeroplane seats which would otherwise have been burned. They’ve even been used to cook food while climbing Kilimanjaro, as my guest Ken Dunn explains in this episode.

Ken, a former geography teacher, visited Lesotho twenty years ago. He took a bunch of children from near Barnsley which ultimately catalysed a community development project and the launch of a charity, Africa’s Gift. And he has much to say about the difference between passing through and working with communities to – together – create positive, lasting impact.

This isn’t about patronage, “saviour” tropes, or telling people what’s good for them, as Ken explains in this episode. It’s about listening and working together to create positive solutions to problems that do – or will – affect everyone. Other projects are addressing soil erosion and generating community wealth.

Businesses, social enterprises and people working together are making huge contributions to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, says Ken – arguably much more than Governments. This is a fascinating interview which covers Ken’s own journey from teacher to founder, community partner, social entrepreneur and wonderbag advocate.

Here’s the podcast. Click the large arrow to play, or hover over the media player and click on the icon on the bottom right corner to download it.

You can also access it in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, numerous other podcast apps or Spotify.

What Next:

  • Enjoyed the show? Please leave a review or rating on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Subscribe for new podcasts too.
  • The Africa’s Gift website.
  • Sheffield Live’s website is here.
  • The Business Live radio show is broadcast live almost every Friday on Sheffield Live radio and available as a podcast in Apple Podcasts here.

Get new podcasts and practical advice in an accessible, entertaining format: join my free newsletter email list (if you’re not already signed up). Just pop your details in below and look out for a confirmation email.

Your email address is secure and NEVER shared and you can unsubscribe at any time.