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Cookstoves in KenyaIn Kenya, only 20 percent of the nation’s 47 million inhabitants have access to electricity. In rural areas, that number is even more drastic – only seven percent of the rural population has access to electricity. Consequently, the majority of the nation’s inhabitants, especially those in rural areas, are dependent upon biofuels, such as coal and charcoal, to power their lives.

These biofuels are often used in immense quantities for a very specific task – cooking – as 84 percent of the population relies on wood or charcoal cookstoves. These stoves require such immense quantities of fuel that, in fact, a Kenyan household can often expect to spend about $500 per year on charcoal alone; this is an entirely unsustainable expense that can lead to bankruptcy for impoverished families.

This immense reliance on biofuels has also contributed to the massive deforestation the nation has faced. Only two to three percent of the land remains forested today, leaving the environment susceptible to irregular rain patterns and soil degradation, both issues that undermine agricultural abilities and thus undermine the economy. Further, the reliance on biofuel cookstoves in Kenya costs the nation at least 5,000 children a year, as the children catch respiratory infections caused by smoke from the stoves.

All of this is exactly why the clean cookstove revolution has entered Kenya. Organizations like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves have catalyzed the efforts to diversify cooking options in order to combat the effects of traditional, expensive, and ultimately dangerous biofuel cookstoves.

Further, the first-ever clean cookstove manufacturing facility in Sub-Saharan Africa has settled in Kenya. This facility, run by BURN – a clean and affordable cookstove company – employs over 100 Kenyans in the effort to invigorate the economy with localized production and employment.

Though BURN’s cookstoves still use biofuels, they are incredibly efficient, cutting fuel consumption by over 56 percent, which ultimately saves Kenyans up to $250 a year. They also reduce carbon emissions by 65 percent, which not only helps to improve air quality on the whole, but also minimizes the respiratory risks associated with biofuels.

Thankfully, it is clear that although the clean cookstove revolution is relatively young, it is on its way to changing cookstoves in Kenya for the better. BURN is only a single company, and yet it is projected that in the next 10 years it will have generated 3.7 million clean biofuel cookstoves. This essentially means that at least 3.7 million households will be able to improve their finances, environment and health. And they are only a single company; imagine the impact that all similar companies will have in conjunction. Thus, there is a very bright light gleaming ahead for Kenyan cookstoves, and it is a clean light at that.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

New_Innovative_Cooking_ Stove_Uses_50_Percent_Less_FuelsCooking stove design studio and manufacturer BURN envisions a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future for Africa with the help of an innovative cooking stove just larger than a soup pot. The Jikokoa, a modern design of East African jikos, reduces many negative impacts of traditional stoves and is 100 percent manufactured in Kenya.

Although significant progress has been made with high tech stove designs, successfully manufacturing, distributing and maintaining an affordable product is a challenge. In partnership with the Paradigm Project, a social enterprise that aims to leverage business for social good, and other investors, BURN developed a scalable business model with the Jikokoa, one of several cooking solutions from the U.S. based design studio.

Chief Product Officer Boston Nyer says, “Our priorities are: Protect the forests and the environment; help people alleviate the burden of poverty; and improve health.” The Jikokoa targets each of these priorities. Requiring less fuel slows deforestation, quicker and more efficient cooking saves time and money and reduced emissions provide a healthier cooking environment.

Kenya and many other countries in Africa traditionally rely on a three-stone fire fueled with wood or charcoal. Since the 1990s, Africa has seen significant deforestation for fuel and charcoal production. Research by the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group confirmed the Jikokoa provides a 50 percent reduction in fuel use and a 37 percent reduction in CO concentrations.

Along with impacts on the greater African region, households using the Jikokoa cooking stove reported both time and monetary savings. Many women managing the fire and cooking spent less time gathering fuel. Household fuel costs also dropped due to the Jikokoa’s efficient use of biomass fuels allowing money to be reinvested into homes and farms.

Smoke inhalation from other cooking methods is a huge concern, especially for women and children. Without a change in household practices, it is estimated that by 2030 more people in Africa will die from smoke inhalation than by malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The $40 Jikokoa is designed to be affordable and durable. BURN also works to provide financing for users in developing areas. Typically, the Jikokoa pays for itself in two and a half months from money saved on fuel.

Other jikos are available at a lower initial cost but require more fuel, increasing the overall expense. Since beginning operations in Kenya in 2013, BURN has sold 100,000 Jikokoa cooking stoves in East Africa. The company aims to locally manufacture and sell 1 million stoves in the next decade.

BURN estimates over the next ten years, Jikokoa cooking stoves will eventually save 123 million trees, reduce carbon emissions and save families more than $1 billion in food costs.

However, the Jikokoa is only the first step. BURN plans to continue designing innovative cooking solutions and producing a line of clean-burning stoves that use a variety of sustainable fuels. Three of these new clean-burning products are scheduled to launch in 2016.

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: AFK Insider, Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, Burn Design Lab, Inhabitat, The Paradigm Project
Photo: Flickr