Energy-saving stoves fire up innovative business

Ms Carol Miano demonstrates how to light up a Rocket Jiko made from bricks and soil at the recent Central Kenya Agricultural Society (ASK ) show. Photo/JOSEPH  KANYI
Ms Carol Miano demonstrates how to light up a Rocket Jiko made from bricks and soil at the recent Central Kenya Agricultural Society (ASK ) show. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI  NATION MEDIA GROUP

When Carol Miano was growing up, she had only one dream — to become an accountant in a big firm. But her dreams were shattered when she reached Form Three and her parents were unable to raise her school fees, forcing her to drop out of school.

After staying home for several years helping her parents on the farm, fortune came knocking her way when she was invited by a friend to attend a course on making energy-saving jikos (stoves)

The training was organised by the German International Co-operation (GIZ) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture.

It is usually offered free of charge but for it to take place, at least 40 people — with a bigger percentage being women — are required to enrol.

The training took eight days and according to Ms Miano, she was taught how to build and market the energy- saving jikos, skills that now earn the 33-year-old and her family their daily bread.

Among the products that she has been installing in people’s homes and institutions are the rocket brick, rocket mud and Jiko Kisasa firewood stoves.

Each is priced according to specifications. The first costs about Sh4,000 while the second and third cost Sh600 each.

“In the beginning, I didn’t make much since I had only a few contacts. But now am able to make Sh17,000 to Sh20,000 a month depending on the demand,” she says of her growing business.

In recent months, Ms Miano has been travelling to different parts of the country sensitising people on the importance of the jikos. It is during such sessions that she kills two birds— selling her innovations to her audience.

Since she started making the cooking items in 2009, Ms Miano has installed more than 8,000 both in institutions and homes.

But she says the most memorable job that she did was installing three rocket jikos at Kiamabara Secondary School in Mathira. It was her first project.

Ms Miano says initially she feared her jikos might not work but to her surprise, her supervisors could not hide their joy when they saw her handiwork. She had followed all the guidelines.

My first project

Said the mother of two: “I often visit the school to check how they are working since it was my first project.”

The jikos, which are smoke-free and energy conserving, are made from soil, ash and ballast and can save up to 40 per cent of fuel, according to Beretha Ngunjiri, Kieni-East District Home Economics Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.

They are also affordable and do not cause environmental or land degradation and desertification.

“Apart from being equipped with skills and know-how, we partnered with GIZ to reach potential users,” says Ms Ngunjiri in an interview with the Business Daily.

She says they started the project with the aim of improving the livelihood of farmers. The collaboration has seen more than 10,000 people trained in central province since it was launched in 2006.

Among the 10,000 people that we have trained, Ms Miano is among the best and we normally send her to big institutions and hotels that require these jikos, says Ms Ngunjiri.

As for Ms Miano, the main difficulty she faces is accessing some of the areas, thus making it difficult for her to transport construction materials.

She is, however, currently also involved in training her colleagues on how to make the green jikos.