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Sight of poverty inspires ‘multi-tasking’ stoves

An energy-saving jiko: A Kenyan firm has come up with a stove that helps save about 71 per cent of firewood and that has low green gas emission. Photo/FILE
An energy-saving jiko: A Kenyan firm has come up with a stove that helps save about 71 per cent of firewood and that has low green gas emission. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Touched by the plight of low-income families that could hardly afford fuel for their heating needs, Kenneth Ndua has developed an energy-efficient stove targeting bottom of the pyramid consumers.

Mr Ndua landed on the idea while working with Kenyan women groups since 2002.

His interactions with women from across the country allowed him to see the direct relationship between the high rates of waterborne diseases and lack of access to affordable energy.

“We provided women with food but sometimes they had no means to cook it let alone boil their water. I saw a big challenge that needed to be addressed,” he says.

Five years ago, Mr Ndua began designing and fabricating his environmentally conscious stove (Ecos) through his company, Stamp.

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His final product was a stove that can multitask — boiling up to seven litres of water while cooking food at the same time.

The Ecos is compatible with a range of fuel types, from charcoal and firewood to biogas.

Initial tests have indicated that it is highly energy efficient, using up to 71 per cent less fuel than three-stone open fires or metallic cooking stoves.

Having completed most of the research and development work, Mr Ndua now has his eye on launching full scale industrial production of the cooking stoves in Kenya. Eventually, he hopes to produce as many as 20,000 units per year.

But before his vision of placing a fuel-efficient cook stove in every Kenyan kitchen can be achieved, Mr Ndua will have to surmount various obstacles. Top among them is raising the capital he needs to put up the factory.

“I want to get this project off the ground, but I also know that finding reliable technical and financial partners is critical for our success,” said Mr Ndua.

Currently, he is working with the Climate Innovation Centre (CIC), which is providing support in identifying potential sources of financing and him prepare necessary documentation needed to access funding.

CIC is also providing technical support to Stamp in identifying and evaluating various manufacturing components and processes.
The stove’s primary target market is women living in rural Kenya.

Mr Ndua says he hopes to rely on saccos, non-governmental Organisations and small businesses to distribute the stove, although he knows establishing a distribution network that will incorporate different category vendors will be a tricky affair.

“Having a partner you can trust is very important. It has helped that I have CIC by my side during negotiations with vendors, suppliers or even financiers,” said Mr Ndua.

Analysis carried out on the latest prototype of the Ecos shows it retains most of the heat, transferring it directly to useful work instead of expelling it.

The Ecos has a thermal efficiency of 25 per cent burning wood in comparison to the three-stone cooking fires that have a thermal efficiency of between 13 and 18 per cent. 

While burning charcoal, Ecos has a thermal efficiency of 28 per cent, higher than the metal and clay jikos used by most Kenyan households.

Households that use the stove will be saving about 71 per cent of firewood and up to 37 per cent of charcoal, making it more affordable for low-income households.

The stove’s efficiency also translates to lower emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

Tests have shown that the Ecos produces up to 77 per cent less carbon dioxide than the three-stone, open fire cooking stove, and up to 24 per cent less carbon dioxide than a metal and clay jiko.

Besides, the Ecos can be modified to use biogas, further boosting its eco-friendliness.

Using the energy-saving stove will have enable families boil drinking water and prepare food efficiently without harming environment.

It is also expected to significantly cut exposure to respiratory illnesses.

The World Health Organisation estimates that two million people die prematurely every year due to illnesses attributable to indoor air pollution.
Besides, nearly 50 per cent of pneumonia deaths among children under the age of five have been associated with indoor air pollution.

Mr Ndua says already, he has received interest from vendors and suppliers as far away as Zimbabwe hoping to help him grow the business.

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