With the support of Australian High Commission in Kenya in the 2015 Carbon Zero Kenya partnered with a women group (Umeme women group) in Western Kenya in Kisumu West to produce 900 cook stoves and sell them within the community. The women were empowered with skills in stove production and marketing.
The aim of the Umeme Women’s Group Improved Cook Stove Project was to set up a self sustaining cook stove enterprise that was to construct and sell stoves within the local community. The project created some source of income for the women and thus enabling them improve their living standards.
Just to offer some background an acute shortage of fuel for cooking is one of the many problems faced by people in Kisumu West as it is the case in other parts of the country. Gathering fuel is generally women’s work but is fraught with dangers; they gamble with the risk of rape and life threatening attacks during their search for much needed firewood, in order to feed their families. In certain areas, local sources of firewood are completely depleted, leading women to travel further and further afield or to dig up tree roots, eliminating any chance of the trees growing again. Even if women survive this, they are still exposing themselves and their children to potentially deadly smoke fumes.
With the above challenges in mind and the financial support from the Australian High Commission Carbon Zero decided to tackle the challenges in Kisumu West through the use of more fuel-efficient Carbon Zero Artisanal Stove, which is both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs.
Carbon Zero Kenya mapped out several women groups in the area; vetted them and settled on one that was most convincing – Umeme women group. The group of ten women was well trained both in theory and practicals of artisanal stove production. After which the women were supported to source for materials and stove parts and produced a total of 900 cook stoves that they marketed within their community. The revenues collected from the sales helped the women earn an extra income. In addition the women started making weekly savings into a central kitty that they have been able to invest overtime further raising their incomes which has in a big way boosted their living standards.
Diana is one of the women group members; the secretary of the group. Speaking to her she elaborates that prior to this project had always used the three stone cooker ever since she was born and had never seen an alternative cook stove. She says that previously she didn’t know how expensive it was sustaining a three stone stove. Knowing well that Kisumu West has fewer forests with most land under farming the only way to get firewood was and still is through buying. While using the three stone stove she says she used to buy wood worth 800/= Kenya shillings per week and this was too expensive for her.
However she says that her turning point came in 2015 when together with the other women were selected to be trained on how to manufacture artisanal stoves and market them within their community. Diana says that after they were trained as a group they produced a total of 900 stoves that they sold out to locals. She gained skills in stove production, maintenance and also simple business skills that have been very essential in her life thereafter. As a group under her leadership the proceeds from sale of stoves were put into a table banking revolving fund that members have overtime been borrowing and paying back with little interest. She says that many group members have borrowed money and paid school fees for their children, some have borrowed to start different businesses and as they pay back their revolving fund has been growing and today they have even increased their membership.
Diana explains how she borrowed from the group and started vegetable farming. The project has been on for the last two years and the returns are good. She is able to get an extra income to pay fees for her kids while at the same time get something to keep making contributions in the women group. She explains that since she did not have formal employment she couldn’t borrow from the bank hence the capital they got from the sales of the stoves helped inject capital into their group that has seen them grow both individually and as a group in ways she cannot explain.
She further explains that many women call her within the local community at times to repair their stoves when they have for instance cracks and they pay her helping earn her earn her income. She says today she her community as a stoves maintenance expert in the community. Within her own home Diana says that ever since she received the CZK stove she has seen a big difference in her life. For instance the improved cook stove saves wood fuel which enables her channel some of the money she would spend buying firewood to other development projects. As we part Diana says that for her the biggest thing out of the stove production enterprise set by Carbon Zero is that she was able to save and start a farming venture that has really improved her family’s income. She says that the project gave them power to improve their lives and turn around their fate.
According to WHO indoor smoke from coal, wood or dung – used as cooking fuel by more than 3 billion people worldwide – ranks ahead of unsafe water as a cause of death in low- and middle-income countries. Almost 2 million deaths a year are caused by cooking smoke, which is linked to pneumonia in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low birth weight babies and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families. Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire annually kills 1.6 million adults and children annually.
In Kenya Carbon Zero Kenya has worked with local community members distributing rocket stoves to help reduce effects of three stone fires. The rocket stoves have been praised by various users in local communities because they save precious wood while reducing cutting of forests, reduces the risk of children injured by fire, and not least the flex oven create less smoke indoors, which is vital for health. Many say the rocket stoves have simplified cleaned their kitchens by sending away smoke.
Recently in one of our community cook stove projects in Western Kenya in Kisumu we visited Mary Akeyo one of our rocket stove beneficiaries who shared her experience having used the Carbon Zero Kenya rocket stove for the last five years. Mary explained that prior to getting the rocket stove she used to have a traditional three stone stove, which would emit a lot of smoke that affected her and her family. The stove would emit smoke that made her and her three kids cough a lot forcing them to seek medical attention many times, at least thrice a month where they were charged about Kes 300 per checkup per person. This saw her family spent at least KES 1500 per month.
Also she explained that during this period she had issues with her eyes, shedding tears while cooking even her husband couldn’t support her with the cooking chores as he feared the smoke. Her kids could not even read while at home as the smoke would not provide a conducive environment for them to study. But today she is happy to cook anytime as the smoke is a gone case, her kids can study freely, the many visits she used to go to hospital for treatment of coughs are no longer there, she is happy. Even her husband can afford to cook a meal or two for his family as the kitchen is clean. She further explains that her cooking pots are clean too unlike before when they were all infested with smoke.
Mary explains that smoke is really dangerous and without one noticing it has effects that can even cause death. She explains the difficulty in breaking her youngest child used to have and how scared she would be at times thinking her kid would collapse and die, she even feared living her kids at home alone. But to her excitement all these are no longer part of her worries. She even says that part of the money she has managed to save from going to hospital for medical checkups she has used to it to feed her family. She is really excited about the rocket stove. As we finalize our chat with Mary she reminds us that smoke is dangerous!
Carbon Zero Kenya Limited though not so pronounced remains a huge player in environmental conservation initiatives in Africa for instance considering its efforts to combat effects of climate change in Kenya. Over the past few years Carbon Zero has helped install over 65,000 cook stoves in the country which have gone a long way in reducing wood use and thus emission reductions. Among the many beneficiaries of Carbon Zero improved energy efficient cook stoves in Kenya are members of Kasighau location in Taita-Taveta district of Coast province. Kasigau location is a semi-arid land with magnificent Kasighau hills.
Since the installation of Carbon Zero stoves many benefits have been realized by the stove beneficiaries and the general community at large. Before the distribution of Carbon Zero stoves locals here used the three stone fires. As a result their kitchens were marred with smoke. These smoke kept men from these kitchens leaving women to “die” alone. Kids would occasionally come in either to help with a few kitchen chores or to get a share of their meals. The male partner (husbands) completely avoided the place and their share of the meal could be taken and consumed away from the kitchen. This was because the kitchen was always filled with irritating smoke and ash.
The smoky, ash filled kitchen could not be tolerated by the African man (husband) who is, according to the traditional and cultural perspective, superior in the family and his role in the family, being equated with that of a king. In Kasighau location we meet Mzee Muinde’s family and listened to their story before and after getting the carbon zero stoves, what has changed and how, what has been their experience etc.
After installation of Carbon Zero stoves the situation has drastically changed. There has been an increase in the involvement of male family members in kitchen cooking chores. This is because cooking has become easy and convenient for them. A smokeless kitchen is a major factor for the male family members to be involved. This has made the female members proud and happy as their male counterparts help in the cooking chores as demonstrated by Mrs. Muinde’s story.
Below; Mzee Muinde helping his wife prepare chapatis: An increase in male family members participation on cooking chores has been realized in the area since inception of Carbon Zero stoves.
Below; Mzee Muinde, 3rd from left, in the baraza meeting where he is the baraza’s secretary: unlike in the past, male members in the community can now help in the kitchen chores and still hold their positions in the society.
Based on this encounter, not only is The Carbon Zero Company providing beneficiaries with energy efficient and clean cooking stoves but also impacting their social lives positively. By involvement of the male partners in routine kitchen chores, there is reduction in the kitchen work load which was primarily for women alone. Women have more time to rest and also engage themselves in developmental issues that affect the society. The family harmony and unity is enhanced when the male and female partners co-operate in the kitchen chores. What used to be a social unit in theory is now a social unit practically.
While most governments in Africa acknowledge that empowering women and girls is a key contributor to economic development little as been done to achieve this noble goal. In Kenya women are the backbone of the rural economy. Nevertheless they receive only a fraction of the resources geared at ending poverty i.e. land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.
Empowering and investing in rural women has been shown to significantly increase productivity, reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve rural livelihoods not only for women, but for everyone.
With this understanding Carbon Zero Kenya got into Kenya with a different approach on its aim to fight climate change and empower rural communities. It invested in working with rural women as agents of change and this has so far proved fruitful. Since the inception of Carbon Zero Kenya energy efficient cook stove projects in Nyanza most rural women with the neighborhood of Kisumu have been privileged to be beneficiaries of the improved cook stoves.
And it’s in this region that we meet Mama Akinyi who lives in Nyahera village which is located approximately 20kms west of Kisumu town. Mama Akinyi says that…“The traditional cook stove “kite adek” has been in my family for a long time .I used to buy firewood every week which cost me about 300/= Kshs, which was very expensive considering the fact that I did not have a constant source of income. Per month this totaled to 1200/= kshs,sometimes I was forced to purchase the firewood on credit basis from the wood vendor, this made me run away when I heard him looking for me. During rainy seasons the wood price escalated, wood was not readily available and sometimes if available was not dry.
One day at the market I met this lady from Umeme women group who introduced me to a jiko ya kisasa, artisanal cook stove”.
Having read my past blogs you will remember that Carbon Zero Kenya in 2014 trained a group of 15 women form the community (Umeme women group) on how to produce and assemble an efficient CZK artisanal cook stove.
Mama Akinyi continues to say; ……“The group used to do a demonstration on how to light and use the stove and this really motivated me to purchase it through an installment basis which was convenient for me .One of the key aspects of the stove was the ability to cut the firewood consumption by approximately 50% leading to the reduction on the amount that I was spending per month to purchase the firewood. The use of the artisanal stove has allowed me to purchase firewood in bulk thus enabling me to prepare the wood in terms of making sure they are well dried and readily available. Also my relationship with wood vendor has improved drastically because am able to buy in bulk and pay on time. Having cut wood consumption by 50% it made it easy to save and start an income generating activity.
With the funds I managed to save, I started a small kitchen garden where I planted kales and other vegetables .This provides food for my family and is also a source of livelihood. The money from this venture has made me join a “Chamaa” which has enabled me to buy a mobile phone making communication easier. Through this chamaa we do table banking with the money I get form my vegetables farm I intend to save money for a year and borrow a loan to take my son to the University. All this could not be possible were it not for the improved cook stove which was designed by carbon zero and produced by Umeme women group’’.
The story from mama Akinyi verily confirms the fact that Women are essential to ending poverty around the world. Strengthening women’s roles as leaders, entrepreneurs, consumers and economic stakeholders will transform the African continent and the world in totality.
Prepared by; Christine Atira and Moses Maina
Approximately three billion people across the globe cook every day using open, three-stone fires or rudimentary traditional stoves. Cooking with these traditional cook stoves is inefficient and grossly polluting, harming health and the environment, and contributing to global warming. In many places worldwide, women must walk for hours to collect firewood, risking their safety and sacrificing energy and time that could be used to earn a living. While often overlooked as a major contributor to the global burden of disease, cooking over open fires indoors is the largest environmental health risk in developing countries i.e. Kenya.
In Kenya the case is not different, many households can relate with the simple and accessible mode of cooking. For decades, women have been using this cooking style not knowing the danger that they expose themselves to.
To curb these menace Carbon Zero has developed various improved cook stove models that suit the needs of different local communities with higher efficiencies that have been able to cut down on the amount of fuel used and reducing the time spent cooking allowing women some free time to engage in other income generating activities. Carbon Zero stoves have enabled women to cook with less than a half of the wood they used to use on wasteful three stone fires and in much less time. This saves lives because less wood means less smoke and thus less disease.
In the Western part of Kenya in Kisumu Carbon Zero has distributed over 10,000 improved cook stoves. Among the stove models distributed in the area was a brick rocket stove that locals have over time complimented for its good service. The rocket stove was the first cook stove to be built in Kisumu East region as part of the pilot project to be used in the rural settlement, where wood used for cooking had led to the immense deforestation of trees. The liner effect on the stove creates a highly efficient, largely smoke-free burn.
Mrs. Abigael Awour who is 65 years old lives in Rapogi village in Kisumu county were she has been married for the past 35 years and stays with her daughter and 2 grand children. She is a beneficiary of the rocket stove and we seek to get her opinion on the stove after using it for the last four or so years. With a smile she narrates that “Before receiving the brs cook stove, I had the traditional three stone open fire cook stove, which consumed a lot of fuel and I had to cut down most of the trees I planted so that I could sustain my family. I stay with my grand children who are very young which means I had to cook several meals a day and it was devastating because it was time consuming, very expensive, I also developed health complications, severe back pains and was on a lot of painkillers because I had to bend while cooking since the stove is practically on the ground and cannot be raised.”
She further adds that “After receiving the Rocket Stove I have seen a lot of changes especially in matters that deal with health because I no longer cough a lot due to the smoke reduction since I dry my wood completely and my back pain is no longer severe. The stove was done by professionals who considered all ages; I can now sit down and cook comfortably without straining, save money since I don’t need too much drugs for the back pain, now I have time to do farming and from the savings from firewood I buy maize seeds. Also the stoves retain heat so I only cook twice a day and leave the food warm on the stove for anyone to consume. Now it’s not necessary to cut down a tree to cook, all you need is a few small branches. Energy saving stoves are of great importance to our community, says Rhoda, one of the youth volunteers on the project. The stove saves a lot of energy and money because less firewood has to be collected or purchased. It also cooks faster so women have more time to engage in other income-generating activities and it is more hygienic than the traditional model. The stoves have greatly improved our living standards and for me the rocket stove form Carbon Zero is the best thing that ever happened to women in Rapogi.”
Compiled by Christine Atira and Moses Maina
Rural women largely contribute to agricultural and rural enterprises therefore driving local and global economy which in turn contributes to Sustainable development goals. However, persistent structural constraints such as lack of education and constant exposure to risks of violence hamper their full potential in growing economies around them. In rural areas, women are culturally assigned reproductive roles, housework, fuel collection and caring for children. A greater burden goes to firewood collection and fetching water therefore limiting women from employment opportunities.
In the concept of mitigating climate change and structural constraints faced by women and girls in rural Kenya Co2balance has distributed 10,000 energy efficient cook stoves in Meru South. These cook stoves contribute to lesser use of wood as compared to traditional open fire cook stoves. This has greatly contributed to lessening the burden of wood collection by rural women in Meru South thus creating time for other household activities and establishment of Small Income generating activities in beneficiary.
Agnes Kanini from Muiru Village Meru South is one of our case studies who has directly benefited from this cook stoves program. She applauds the program for helping change her lifestyle in the kitchen, financially and time management.
Despite her lack of education which hinders her from securing a formal job, Agnes is able to save time from wood collection for mining activities near her home area.
Though this casual job is short-term, more precarious and less protected it has contributed to an extra income complimenting her husband’s of income. Improvements in her home are noteworthy since she adopted the carbon zero stove. Agnes explains that firewood has become a rare commodity. She further says that the population in the area has increased in the last five years and the same has resulted to the pressure in the small forests available.
In Her own words she says,“sasa hata tulikuwa tunashindwa miaka tano inayokuja kuni zitapatikana wapi, na msitu ni kama kilomita kumi; hii jiko imenisaidia kwa sababu tulikuwa tunatumia kama dakika thelathini kukata kuni za kupika siku moja. Ile ingine tulikuwa tunatumia zaidi ya masaa mawili” (“We were wondering where we are going to be collecting the firewood as the forest is ten kilometers from here; the carbon zero stove has helped me because we usually spend like 30 minutes to collect firewood compared to the three stone which we used to spend more than 2 hours”).
Micheal Njihia and Virginia Njata
Deforestation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to global climate change. One problem caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle. If greenhouse gases are in large enough quantity, they can force climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. Trees can help a lot as it’s estimated that about 300 billion tons of carbon is stored in trees, according to Greenpeace.
The deforestation of trees not only lessens the amount of carbon stored, it also releases carbon dioxide into the air. This is because when trees die, they release the stored carbon. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year. Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, ranging between 6 percent and 17 percent. (Van Der Werf, G. R. et al., 2009).
Worldwide deforestation accounts for 25-30 percent of annual CO2 global emissions, the result of the burning of brushland for subsistence agriculture and wood fires used for cooking. A surging population in Africa seeking to provide energy for cooking needs has led to massive environmental damage, including deforestation.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Africa, where a 2007 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forest report stated, “in Africa, almost 90 percent of all (forest) wood removals are used for energy.”
Deforestation is ongoing even in Kenya and is shaping climate and geography. One case scenario is Kaptagat forest in Eldoret. This forest has been threatened by anthropogenic activities one of them being cutting down trees for wood fuel. Demand for fuel has destroyed Kaptagat forest and threatened lives of people living nearby.
(Watch the media coverage on status of Kaptagat forest via the links below).
Deforestation for firewood causes:
-global warming/climate change
-loss of biodiversity
-loss of habitat
-soil erosion etc
Many organizations thought of ways to combat this worrying trend on this very vital forest. Carbon Zero Kenya could similarly not just sit and watch thus started an improved cook stove project in the area. 16,000 cook stoves were distributed in the area and the results so far have been promising.
The improved cook stove came in handy to reduce on amount of wood spent on cooking by replacing three stone /traditional stoves which over time have been consuming high volumes of firewood and even demanding for more hence increasing levels of deforestation. Traditional stoves have low combustion efficiency, leading to higher cooking times and inefficient use of fuel wood. Introduction of the improved cook stoves by Carbon Zero will lead to the revamping of Kaptagat forest while at the same time cutting down on wood use hence reducing greenhouse gas emissions.