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Successful Fuel-Efficient Cookers Show the Way

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A Kenyan entrepreneur has cooked up a fuel-efficient stove and oven that uses less of a precious national resource: wood from trees.

Most African households using fuel-burning stoves either cannot afford clean-burning fuels like natural gas or electric stoves, or do not have access to them. They are stuck having to burn wood or other materials like animal dung – collectively called biomass – on open fires.

As well as using up wood and contributing to deforestation, there is another downside to these stoves. The use of polluting fuel-burning stoves by half the world’s population – including 80 percent of rural households – is a documented contributor to a host of health problems. Poor households not only have to contend with the ill health effects of dirty water and poor sanitation, the fumes from burning dung, wood, coal or crop leftovers lead to the global deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).

Two solutions in Kenya are helping people to cook more efficiently (meaning less time wasted on gathering material to burn, and less fuel used) and reducing cooking time by using heat more effectively.

Invented by Dr Maxwell Kinyanjui, the Kinyanjui Jiko is a fuel-efficient charcoal oven that comes in small, medium and large industrial sizes. Made entirely in Kenya, the ovens are custom designed for a variety of environments, from domestic household use and on-the-go safari models to high-capacity models for micro-enterprises and large institutions. Cooks can use the ovens to bake, toast, steam or boil. And they are 40 percent cheaper than cooking with electricity and between 15 and 20 percent cheaper than gas.

Kinyanjui’s Musaki Enterprises Ltd. (www.reskqu.blogspot.com/2009/01/arboretum-project.html) has developed a reputation for pioneering work in developing fuel-efficient stoves and ovens. Its most popular success to date has been the Kenya Ceramic Jiko (jiko is Swahili for cooker), or KCJ, a cheap, simple and effective stove. The company was set up in 1992, but has been involved in international aid-funded research and development efforts since the 1980s.

“My dad was on a very good team of highly motivated individuals in the early 80s who developed the stove through pragmatism, logic and good old-fashioned ingenuity,” said his son, Teddy Kinyanjui. “He then set up the independent Musaki Enterprises.”

The KCJ uses a ceramic liner placed inside a metal container. The metal is usually recycled, often taken from 55 gallon steel drums. The ceramic liner stops the heat energy from simply escaping into the environment and helps to focus the heat on cooking. Simply adding the ceramic liner reduces the stove’s fuel consumption by between 25 and 40 percent. The charcoal or wood sits in the ceramic basin and the burnt ash falls through holes in the bottom of the liner.

The stove design was a result of international and Kenyan cooperation, and has become popular in many African countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Senegal and Sudan. It is used in 50 percent of urban homes in Kenya and 16 percent of rural homes.

Musaki Enterprises say the KCJ stoves on average save between 1 and 1.5 tons of CO2 per stove per year compared to other models. In supermarkets, the KCJs retail for around US $5 and the Kinyanjui Jiko ovens start at around US $100.

The deployment of the KCJ stoves has helped in slowing the deforestation of the country, but has not been able to bring it to a halt because of population growth and poor re-forestation efforts, says Teddy Kinyanjui.

“The lack of forward planning in tree planting is making firewood and charcoal harder and harder to obtain,” he said. “Fossil fuels are unavailable or unaffordable. Tree planting must begin now on a huge scale for people to continue cooking.”

Teddy won’t reveal how profitable the KCJ stoves have been, but says, “I wouldn’t have gone to school if they didn’t sell well.”

“Well, more and more people keep buying the damn things as fast as we can make them, so I think our customers like them,” he said. “They really all seem to like that the stoves cook really well for really cheap and are very high quality.”

Published: June 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Making Bamboo Houses Easier to Build

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

More than 1 billion people around the world lack decent shelter. Of these, the majority live in urban areas, usually in slums and informal settlements (UN-HABITAT). Latin America has a serious shortage of adequate housing: in Colombia, 43 percent of the population needs decent housing; in Brazil, 45 percent; Peru, 53 percent.

The challenge is to provide good quality homes without significantly harming the environment – and with constrained budgets. Bamboo – cheap, strong, quickly renewable and beautiful to look at (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo) – is an ideal solution to replace traditional wood lumber. In Bolivia, pioneering work is underway to improve the quality of homes and buildings made with bamboo.

Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world, sometimes growing over 1 metre a day. Bolivia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolivia) has about 17 identified bamboo species, of which five have a significant economic value. Around the world, there are 1,000 species of bamboo. They grow in a wide variety of climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions.

Once called the “poor man’s timber” – a temporary building material to replace once there is more money – bamboo is now getting the respect it deserves. Bamboo for housing has a long history in Latin America, stretching back 4,500 years to ancient civilizations. In Asia, it has long been a traditional construction material. But most of the existing bamboo dwellings in Latin America are 50 to 100 years old.

The most popular species of bamboo used in South America is Guadua, which is known for being large, straight and attractive.

“In Bolivia, there is no other building material more competitive in costs,” said Jose Luis Reque Campero, coordinator of the Bolbambu Programme of the Architectural Research Institute, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Bolivia (http://www.umss.edu.bo/).

“Bamboo is the material that requires less energy, followed by wood and concrete, with steel in last place, needing energy necessary for its production 50 times greater than that required by bamboo.”

Campero also says bamboo is much less expensive than traditional building materials.

“But the biggest advantage is certainly the possibility of planting bamboo, and then reaping houses,” he said.

Campero has focused his efforts on a key component of bamboo housing: the joints that bind the bamboo poles together. Driven by the desire to find ways to improve the ease of building bamboo homes and their strength, Campero came up with the Bamboo Bolivia Space Structures, Structural System: EVO (BBSS-EVO) (named after Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evo_Morales).

Traditional joints took a long time to make and required power tools and complex instruction manuals. Simplifying the building techniques necessary for bamboo construction was important because, while bamboo was cheap, the labour costs were high.

The joint looks like a giant two-headed Q-Tip. Each end is made of four pieces of bamboo, connected by a long screw with bolts on each end taken from old cars. The joint is inserted inside the bamboo poles and snaps shut, joining poles tightly together and, as each piece is assembled, looking like a child’s building toy as the structure of the bamboo home takes shape.

The new joint was easier to assemble and was quickly adopted by local builders. It also allows for a vast range of structures and shapes to be built, limited only by imagination and physics.

Devising joints made from bamboo has the advantage of avoiding the weight and cost of bringing in concrete, especially to remote areas.

“The manufacturing process is fully in the workshop and indoors,” said Campero, “which in addition to allowing a degree of quality control in production, improves working conditions for staff and protects the material.”

The whole building process adheres to “the principles of the famous phrase: ‘do-it-yourself’.”

The Evo joint allows for flexibility and easy assembly and disassembly, enabling the builder to move around parts of the structure and not be wedded to the original structural plan. This has the advantage of customizing the building to its physical location.

Working in the tropical forests of Cochabamba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochabamba), Campero has been testing his designs with the local people, who were looking to improve the tourist infrastructure in the resort town of Cristal Mayu.

Costa Rica in Central America – ironically a country without indigenous bamboo plants – has used its National Bamboo Project of Costa Rica (http://www.unesco.org/most/centram1.htm) to prove it is possible to both cultivate bamboo and use it to provide housing for the poor, confirming the wisdom of millions of people: bamboo is economical, convenient, safe and looks great.

Campero has received a great deal of interest in his innovations and is looking for funding partners in 2009 to take his work further.

He has this advice for other builders and designers: “Stick to developing local technologies, use what you have and innovate, use native materials and the local environment for the development of elements, components and construction systems. Don’t rely on advanced technology tools for manufacture, and stay in harmony with the human need for creativity.”

Published: December 2008

Resources

  • UNEP, the UN’s Environment Programme, has produced a report on bamboo biodiversity and how it can be preserved. Website: http://www.unep-wcmc.org
  • The Asian Development Bank is using its Markets for Poor programme to link bamboo products to marketplaces, helping poor communities. Website:http://www.markets4poor.org/
  • The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Website: www.unhabitat.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Bamboo Becomes Transport Option for the South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The sturdy bamboo plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo) is enjoying a revival around the world as a building material. A strong, fast-growing and highly renewable woody plant, it is becoming increasingly popular as people seek out less environmentally wasteful alternatives to steel and other materials.

But who would have thought bamboo taxis would turn up on the scene?

A fleet of bamboo taxis is now plying the streets in Tabontabon, a municipality in The Philippines that is home to 10,000 people, most of them rice farmers.

Bamboo can sometimes grow more than 1 metre a day. While in Asia, it has long been a traditional construction material, people are now turning to it to make transportation vehicles. In The Philippines, there are 62 species of bamboo, up to 15 of which are suitable for industrial applications.

So-called habal-habal motorcycles, the most popular form of transportation in the town, are also the source of many accidents and are uncomfortable on sunny days or when it rains. A covered taxi service is both a safer and a more comfortable alternative.

The town’s mayor, Rustico Balderian, took the initiative to build a fleet of bamboo taxis. He set four criteria the new taxis had to meet: they should be low-cost, fuel efficient, safe and environmentally friendly. The bamboo has a higher tensile strength (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tensile_strength) than steel, which also requires vast quantities of energy to produce.

The taxis are 90 percent made of bamboo and are built by unemployed youth. They are divided into Eco 1 (a model that seats 20 people and runs for eight hours on one gallon of coco-biodiesel from coconuts) (http://cocobiodiesel.blogspot.com/), and Eco 2, which seats eight people, has a stereo and sound system, and also runs for eight hours on a gallon of coco-biodiesel.

Both are made by the Tabontabon Organic Transport Industry [TOTI] (http://totieco.multiply.com/).

Making vehicles out of bamboo is a serious endeavour that also has been under development in Japan. In 2008, Kyoto University’s Venture Business Laboratory (VBL) unveiled a unique single-seat electric vehicle equipped with a body made from bamboo. The vehicle was developed under the Kyoto Electric Car Development Project, which is one of the laboratory’s major initiatives. Nicknamed Bamgoo, this eco-car’s body is made of braided rods of bamboo, one of the local specialty products of the area.

Other bamboo modes of transport in the South include bamboo bicycles in Ghana. A partnership between an American bike designer and a Ghanaian government initiative is taking advantage of this local resource to manufacture bicycles for the local market – and as a source of export income.

Not only are the Ghanaian builders harvesting bamboo to make bikes for the domestic market, they are also offering a sophisticated online shopping service for the overseas market. People from around the world can now buy Ghanaian bikes using a website (http://www.bamboosero.com). Customers can choose frame builders by their specialty – cargo bike, mountain bike or road bike – and then order it online. The completed bikes are quality checked and then distributed by Calfee Design in California, USA. This approach keeps the middlemen out of the transaction, and means more money gets back to the bike builder.

Meanwhile in Cambodia, the legendary bamboo railway is a people’s solution to the poor service offered by the established railway system. In the northwest of the country near the second city of Battambang, an entire railway system has been built using bamboo.

The bamboo trains, called ‘noris’ or ‘lorries’ by the locals, are driven by a electric generator engine. Passengers sit on a bamboo platform placed on two sets of wheels. The bamboo train reaches speeds of over 40 km/h.

“We’re very careful,” 18-year-old Sok Kimhor, a 10-year veteran of the bamboo trains, told the BBC. “We look out for children and animals running across the lines, and we have to slow down when other trains come along.”

There is just one track, so when two trains meet, one has to be taken off the track to pass.

The regular rail service runs only once a week to the capital, Phnom Penh. This makes the bamboo train the only alternative for many people to get around. While the main railway station is deserted, the bamboo service is a hive of activity.

“They’re very safe – a motorbike taxi is too fast, and if I use one of those I sometimes get dizzy and fall off,” said Sao Nao as she sat on the rails with a small group of people. “On a bamboo train I can sit down and go to sleep. You can’t do that on a motorbike.”

Design for Development (http://designfordevelopment.org/) is also turning to bamboo for a transport solution. The Canadian NGO is working in Kenya on making five emergency medical transportation devices (EMTD), or ambulances, to move local people to health clinics or hospitals. Bamboo is locally available and they hope to set up a workshop and make the ambulances using local labour.

Published: August 2009

Resources

1) A slideshow of the bamboo taxis. Website:http://totieco.multiply.com/photos/album/2/ECO2

2) UNEP, the UN’s Environment Programme, has produced a report on bamboo biodiversity and how it can be preserved. Website: http://www.unep-wcmc.org

3) The Asian Development Bank is using its Markets for Poor programme to link bamboo products to marketplaces, helping poor communities. Website:http://www.markets4poor.org/

4) A blog describing the use of coco-biodiesel in the Philippines. Website: http://cocobiodiesel.blogspot.com/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Southern Innovator Issue 3

Launched in May 2011, the new global magazine Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is about the people across the global South shaping our new world, eradicating poverty and working towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

They are the innovators.

Follow the magazine on Twitter @SouthSouth1. 

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

If you would like hard copies of the magazine for distribution, then please contact the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)(https://www.unsouthsouth.org/2014/12/25/southern-innovator-magazine/).

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021