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Friday, 8 August 2014

New Enhanced Stoves launched in Kenya

New wood and charcoal cookstoves with high levels of fuel efficiency and significantly reduced emissions have been launched into the market in Kenya. The stoves have the potential to transform cooking practices in Kenya. What makes these stoves unique is that they are made by local Kenyan businesses and they retail at a price which is well below the cost of imported high efficiency stoves.

GVEP has been working for the past year with a group of experienced local stove makers to develop an improved design with much higher performance at a price consumers can afford. Manufacturing of the stoves is within the capabilities of the local businesses. The technical redesign work was carried out by Kenya Stove Works and prototypes tested with users and in the lab. The designs went through several iterations until the best balance between user acceptability and efficiency had been struck. Funding support came from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Riumba-ini Energy Saving Stoves is one of ten companies making the new stove. They are based in Kiria, Muranga County, in Central Province north of Nairobi. The business has been operating since 1998 and has large well organised workshops making and assembling the stove components. They recently serviced a large order from UNHCR. Charity Gatchanja who supports her husband Kenneth in the running of the operation is very pleased with the stove. ‘It is like cooking with gas’ she said. ‘It is very quick to cook.’

The stoves incorporate a metal cylinder which sits above the fire chamber and which increases the efficiency of combustion. James Gatima, the GVEP technical advisor on the project explains: ‘In traditional stoves the gasses given off in burning are cooled by the mass of clay which lines the stove and so are not burned fully. So you get smoke. In the improved stove the metal cylinder keeps the gasses away from the thermal lining, keeping the temperature high and ensuring almost complete combustion.’

The stoves are made using heavier gauge metal than the typical locally made stove. This makes them durable. The fire chamber cylinder will need replacing every few years but the rest of the stove could last ten years if looked after.

Grace Nyambura in the nearby community of Ngaru is one of the first customers to experience the stove. She is very enthusiastic about the fuel savings and lack of smoke. ‘With just one piece of wood I cooked dinner last night, breakfast and lunch and there is still some wood left,’ she said. Before buying the stove she cooked on an open three stone fire. Four pieces of wood cost 50 Ksh and used to last just one day. Now the same amount of wood lasts three days. Grace’s kitchen is a hut in the compound, separated from the house because of the smoke which used to come from the fire. ‘With the new stove I can even cook in the house,’ she said. ‘There is no smoke.’

Mary Njeri, one of her neighbours who also bought the stove, agrees that it is high quality. She says that her daughter was unable to help with cooking before because of the smoke which made her eyes run. With the new stove she is able to cook without any problem. ‘It is very fast, and the heat remains in the stove,’ she said. ‘We are very, very happy.’

All of the companies making the stove are large by Kenyan stove making standards. GVEP deliberately sought out businesses with the capability of manufacturing the new stoves in significant volumes and with the distribution channels in place to get the product to market. Some of the businesses GVEP worked with under an earlier programme, helping them grow from small beginnings to the current scale of production.

But even these larger local businesses still use manual processes. The metal cladding and the pot rests are cut and shaped by hand which is slow and arduous. The heavier gauge metals used in the enhanced stoves presents a challenge. GVEP has been working with the businesses to find suitable locally available machinery which could be used for cutting and shaping metal. Metal cutters driven by compressed air and metal folding equipment has been identified. The businesses will be assisted to purchase equipment with funds from the Global Alliance. What were once small artisan workshops are being transformed into small, highly organised factories.

Companies which import stoves made abroad generally face a challenge with ‘last mile distribution’. By working with an existing local value chain GVEP hopes to be able to circumvent these problems. The stove manufacturers already have established relationships with various wholesale customers, retail outlets and sell directly themselves at local markets. The new stoves are already in demand. At 2500 Kshs the stove is not cheap but the price is around half what someone might pay for an imported Envirofit stove.

Production is now underway not just in Central Kenya but in Kisumu in the west of the country. The next phase of the project is tooling up the businesses to improve efficiency of production, and a big marketing push to help the new stove find a market.

Final results of emissions tests are still awaited but will be published in due course.

Posted by Meghan Smith

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