SUSAN KENDI: Rocket stoves rare success story

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Currently there is great controversy over energy sources needed to help realise Kenya’s manufacturing plan, one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda pillars.

There is controversy over the as yet to be incompleted Lake Turkana Wind Farm Project, said to be the largest in Africa.

The proposed Lamu coal-fired power plant, which is supposed to be big enough to supply the power needed for a new port, railway, and resort city complete with a new airport in Northern Kenya, has met opposition.

Finally, there is the Kenya Nuclear Energy Board, which was created to “fast-track the development of nuclear power in order to enhance the production of affordable and reliable electricity”.

One source of energy that has escaped controversy is the ‘clean cooking stoves’, which are having a far greater impact in the lives of ordinary Kenyans than any of these exotic new technologies. The stoves have been an unqualified success.

Each year, close to four million people die prematurely from illness attributed to household air pollution, inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene. Some 27 per cent of the deaths are due to pneumonia, 18 per cent stroke, 27 per cent from ischaemic heart disease, 20 per cent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and eight per cent from lung cancer.

According to a news release by the World Health Organization dated May 8, around three billion people cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass and coal.

In Kenya, the demand for firewood amounts to about 3.5 million tonnes per year while the yearly supply is 1.5 million tonnes. This under supply leads to deforestation, which is the second leading cause of global warming, land degradation resulting in high carbon emissions, desertification, famine and drought.

A policy brief by the United Nations ‘Achieving Universal Access to Clean and Modern Cooking Fuels and Technologies’, states that inefficient cooking is a root cause of poverty, poor health, gender inequality, environmental degradation, air pollution, and contributes to climate change.

One such success story is a German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ) project on energy efficiency. Energising Development (EnDev) Kenya has trained about 1,000 solar entrepreneurs and 3,000 stove artisans. The training equips the entrepreneurs with a variety of technology that accommodates various categories of clientele and their ability to pay.

In the last nine years, the artisans have sold “over 2.5 million [rocket] stoves countrywide…About 550,000 solar products have [also] been sold out. These are small technology to replace kerosene,” says Walter Kiprono, component leader solar energising development Kenya.

Working in about 24 counties, the EnDev project links the entrepreneurs to distributors, creating an income-generating activity for the entrepreneurs.

I recently met Lawrence Kamoni, a gentleman in his 30s and one of the stove installers that have benefited from the GIZ project. The project has created employment for him and other youths. After training, Kamoni ventured into the energy industry through the installation and selling of improved stoves and water heaters in homes, hotels and institutions in Kiambu, Nakuru and Bungoma, among other counties.

The price of the improved rocket cook stove depends on the material used and the number of cooking pots it can accommodate. The profit that Kamoni earns from the business is sufficient to cater for the needs of his family. He has built a three-bedroom bungalow.

An improved rocket stove produces less smoke, which makes the kitchen a cleaner environment and reduces carbon emission. It is cost efficient as it reduces firewood expenses, saves on time for those collecting firewood and uses about 40 to 50 per cent less firewood compared to the traditional three-stone fire.

Access to clean and modern cooking is fundamental to reducing poverty and promoting human dignity. National and international policies should be implemented and adhered to in order to increase access to clean and modern cooking energy.


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