Nova Institute Background

The Nova Institute is an NPO founded in 1994 as an association incorporated not for gain in terms of Section 21 of the companies' act. It grew from a multidisciplinary research group that included an architect, engineer, medical doctor and theologian. The name "Nova" is an Afrikaans acronym for Research and Development for the Prevention of Poverty (In the Afrikaans language: Navorsing en Ontwikkeling vir die Voorkoming van Armoede).

The Nova founders were united by their quest to find ways in which experts from diverse research backgrounds and residents of low-income households could put their heads together and come up with meaningful solutions to concrete problems that these households have to deal with from day to day.

Gradually a number of important insights emerged. The Nova founders realised that in order to design practical solutions to tackle poverty it is important to have:

  • A reliable problem definition of the root cause(s) of poverty in each particular case.
  • A suitable strategic focus.
  • An effective research and development approach.
  • Relevant criteria to measure excellence.
Basa Magogo: Nova Project at Qwaqwa

Description: Community Engagement Keywords: Basa, Magogo, technique, fire, coal, Basa Mama, light up, grandmother

In this photo, the effect of using the Basa Magogo technique is illustrated. Two braziers, of the type that people typically use, are lit according to the traditional technique (on the right hand side) and the Basa Magogo technique in front (left).

Using the Basa Magogo technique is the only difference: the coal, wood, paper, time of lighting the fire, the tins that are used, all of these remain the same.

As a technique, Basa Magogo is quite simple: instead of starting the fire with paper and wood at the bottom and then adding coal on top, the opposite procedure is followed. That is, the paper and wood is placed on top of the coal, and the fire burns from the top downwards. It must, however, be done correctly.

The Basa Magogo technique was named after a community member of eMbalenhle near Secunda, South Africa, Mrs Nebelungu Mashinini. She perfected the method when Nova introduced and tested it on a small scale in 1999. Top-down ignition was one of a number of technologies which Nova identified as having the potential to reduce air pollution caused by the domestic use of coal. Nova evaluated these in collaboration with the eMbalenhle community and under actual conditions in 1998 and 1999. These tests formed part of an intensive participatory research and development process conducted by Nova during the 1990s. The project was financed by Sasol.

Basa Magogo means "Light up, grandmother!" In Zamdela near Sasolburg, South Africa, the method was called "Basa Mama" which means "Light up, Mama". In 2004 Nova and Sasol informed the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) that they had no objection if the DME registered the name Basa njengo Magogo in the Department's name. Nova pointed out to the Department that different communities use different names.

The Basa Magogo Technique

The only way that communities can be convinced to adopt the Basa Magogo method on large scale is by direct demonstration, person to person. Preferably, these demonstrations should be conducted in small groups of 5-10 persons in order to create a relaxed atmosphere where people are free to interact.

In 2007 and 2008, Nova added 60 000 more households to its tally of attendants in townships, from Maluti a Phofung to Middelburg. The local churches and their members provided the social networks to reach all these households. The projects were done with support from the Fair Climate Programme of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, bringing overseas churches and local congregations and church members into partnership.

Advantages of Basa Magogo

The benefits to households that use Basa Magogo are substantial: savings in purchasing coal have been well documented and are on average R608 per household per annum.

Savings in health costs are more difficult to quantify, but it is estimated to be at least 10 times more. All residents, including those who do not use coal, experience cleaner air and much better health, but the users of this method benefit the most.

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is about 1.3 ton of CO2 eq per household per annum or an additional 60 000 ton of CO2 eq per annum since 2007. These reductions are now included in the Fair Climate Programme, which is jointly managed by ICCO-Kerk in Actie (Energiezuinig koken in Zuid Afrika (Vuur maken volgens oma's recept) and Fair and Sustainable.

The development of Basa Magogo is a joint effort between researchers and community members that proves that continuous close interaction between people from outside the community and people from inside can lead to the creative step which triggers a substantial positive result.

Through Basa Magogo project, the NRF funded UFS research group under the supervision of Prof Mabel Erasmus and conduced their study titled “Knowledge as Enablement”.

Summer Monitoring and Maintenance: Basa Magogo in QwaQwa

On the 30th April 2013 fieldworkers were trained in preparation of the commencement of the Basa Magogo Monitoring and Maintenance. The fieldworkers were trained on the use of the monitoring questionnaire. The questionnaire is used to gain information on the way people use energy in their houses, especially coal. The questionnaire is done in an area where NOVA has already implemented Basa Magogo demonstrations the year before. It therefore gains information on how the Basa Magogo method has changed the way in which people use energy in their houses (change when looking at the baseline done the year before), as well as how people have continued to use the Basa Magogo method.

The training mainly covered the following topics:

  • An overview of the background of Nova and the Basa Magogo project as stated above.
  • The function of the monitoring questionnaire.
  • The use of a cell phone delivered electronic questionnaires, including a step by step analysis of all questions in the questionnaire.
  • Practicing of knowledge gained by using virtual interviews given in the manual.
  • A detailed discussion of common mistakes made, as well as examples of misconduct by fieldworkers.

Description: Community Engagement Keywords: QwaQwa, Basa Magogo, fieldworkers, monitoring questionnaire, Mangaung Village, Bolata Village

Description: Community Engagement Keywords: QwaQwa, Basa Magogo, fieldworkers, monitoring questionnaire, Mangaung Village, Bolata Village

Fieldworker visits at work

On the 15 May 2015 we embarked on a 6-hour visit to the area where the fieldworkers were working: Thabiso Molaba and Miriam Mathobisa at Mangaung Village (Maluti Air Quality Project: MAQP-East) and Nthabiseng Hato and Dimakatso Malebo in Bolata Village (Maluti Air Quality Project: MAQP-West).

The purpose of the visits was the following:

  • To observe each of the four fieldworkers as they conduct interviews from household to household, and see if they are still conducting interviews as per module.
  • Address some of the issues they were facing which mainly were data bundles related.

The visit was very fruitful. Fieldworkers were still doing their jobs as trained and the community participants were very much participative.

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