April 23, 2009 5:10 pm

Inventor Jon Bohmer’s Kyoto BoxInventor Jon Bohmer, a Norwegian-born entrepreneur based in Kenya, faced a problem that’s ever-so-common among innovative thinkers. In his quest to help developing countries, he looked for solutions that were way too complex for way too long.

Of course, the complicated problems that Bohmer is trying to resolve are anything but simple. One is the issue of rural residents, fueled by poverty and desperation, cutting down trees for firewood at unsustainable rates. This practice leads to deforestation and, in turn, global warming.

Bohmer’s solution? The Kyoto Box, a solar-powered oven, which allows villagers to boil water, cook and bake by harnessing the power of the sun. By making it easier to boil water, the invention could save millions of people who die each year from drinking unclean water. In addition to its humanitarian benefits, the invention is environmentally friendly. It’s even named after the international treaty that aims to reduce global warming.

And here’s the twist – this lifesaving invention costs only $5 to make. Bohmer uses two cardboard boxes (one inside the other) and an acrylic cover that gathers and traps the sun’s powerful rays. Black paint on the inner box and foil on the outer box work to intensify the heat. With the Kyoto Box, villagers no longer have to trek lengthy distances to search for firewood or risk drinking contaminated water.

Bohmer’s invention won the FT Climate Change Challenge, a contest to find and promote the most innovative and practical solution to climate change. The Kyoto Box beat out more than 300 other competitors to take the grand prize.

The box can be produced in existing cardboard factories, and the inventor has designed a more durable plastic model that also can be produced cheaply. Bohmer’s dream is to distribute the solar ovens throughout rural Africa.

Practical solutions like this prove that the best ideas aren’t always the most sophisticated. This invention story brings to mind one of our favorite acronyms here at InventHelp: KISS, or Keep It Simple, Stupid!

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