Blue Match

14th November 2018 0 By Nandini

‘We’d like less smoke. We’d like our eyes to burn less when we cook’.

These are Vandana Radhakrishnan’s words, repeating what rural women in Hoskote in South India have told her.

And there on the screen before me, the huge irony of other words in Dutch come home to me: ‘absolutely a man’s work – burning a wood fire’ . Because that is what we believe here in the Netherlands. Wood fires and men are made for each other.

Cooking on an open fire by burning wood is equivalent to smoking 60 cigarettes a day, and it’s women’s work in India. And they don’t exactly do it because they’d like some warmth on a cold winter’s day, or because they want to roast their sausages and marsh mellows on it.

It’s about meals every day. 60 cigarettes a day every day because your family and you have to eat. A hundred million a year die from diseases related to cooking daily meals.

Relaxing after a meal in the Garo Hills

When Rolf Boerkoel found himself ‘smoking’ while sharing a little house with his hosts in rural India while on a leadership programme, he came upon the perfect match for his vision: ‘the social value of a company or organization is, for me, an essential and challenging given’. He also had the perfect match in a partner. Rob Nieuwenhuizen says about himself: ‘the circular phenomenon – to create with what there is, inspires me’. Together, they pooled their skills and came up with ‘Blue Match’. Now there are women in south India, producing, distributing and of course also using smokeless stoves, run not on fossil fuels, but on pellets of bio-degradable waste that come from the farms around them.


Rolf Boerkoel with a Blue Match stove

Pointing to a stove next to to him, Niewenhuizen says: ‘truly a product for women, by women and of women’. Listening to him give a presentation in a gathering in Haarlem of ‘Small Medium Businesses’ with a connection to India, I am almost envious about how effortless he makes his and Boerkoel’s dream come true appear.


You have a vision. You share it. There’s someone listening. That someone is a person or the universe itself. Together, you get a little rock rolling from the top of the mountain. It gathers volume and momentum as it moves. This, then is the principle of making dreams come true.

The stove at this moment is the little rock around which other earthly things have stuck. Like – microcredit, in order to make it affordable for these women, employment for the women making it, training and personality development for the ones learning to distribute it, a saving of Co2 emissions that could go up to 3.5 tons a year if the momentum catches, innovation in the form of throwing in some coconut shells when the money runs out and the bio pellets can’t be bought.

And not in the least, the win-win on two sides of the world. Because ‘Blue Match’ professes to be a business for profit.

Do I need to add that the word ‘profit’ has more than one connotation for its managers?


Website of Blue Match