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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. 

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

© David South Consulting 2022

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Innovative Stoves to Help the Poor

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

Half of the world’s population cook with a fuel-burning stove, and this figure rises to 80 per cent of households in rural areas in developing countries. Typical fuels burned include wood, coal, crop leftovers and animal dung. The indoor pollution from smoke and carbon monoxide is a top health hazard in the developing world, ranking just behind dirty water, poor sanitation and malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.6 million people die each year as a result of toxic indoor air.

A landmark five-year study comparing Guatemalans cooking on open fires, to those using improved stoves, has brought more evidence forward of the damage done by indoor air pollution: “It’s been shown that children living in houses using open fires with solid fuels will have more pneumonia than children living in houses that are using cleaner fuels,” said Dr. Kirk R. Smith, an environmental health scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The research, combined with studies in Asia, suggests additional health problems from indoor air pollution, including higher frequency of cataracts, partial blindness, tuberculosis, low birth weights and high blood pressure. The researchers found that cleaner stoves had larger effects than reducing salt in the diet or lowering blood pressure in women, with the results published last July in Environmental Health Perspectives.

But Southern innovators are finding practical ways to curb pollution from indoor cooking and the burning of trash in slums.

In Yunnan Province, China, entrepreneur Hao Zheng Yi’s Yunnan Zhenghong Environmental Protection Co. has been selling clean-burning stoves to rural farmers. One fifth of rural China has no electricity (UN), and 80 per cent rural dwellers burn wood or straw in ovens for heating and cooking. This creates heavy indoor air pollution, damaging health.

The so-called Efficient Gasification Burning system combines traditional fuel and natural gas: a hybrid that helps low-income households to affordably use the stove and not pollute their indoor air.

The stoves are sold for a profit in Yunnan Province, and so far 50,000 have been sold. Because the ovens are sold for a profit, Zhenghong had to consult extensively with the farmers in the design phase to make sure the ovens meet their needs.

The result has been that Zhenghong ovens run for five to eight years using the same amount of wood and hay a conventional oven burns in one year.

Another source of air pollution is burning trash in slums. The lack of formal trash removal services in slums has two bad consequences: one is the pollution and poison from rotting rubbish leaching into the soil and water table; the other is ad-hoc burning of the trash to get rid of it, which pollutes the air with a toxic, acrid stench. In Nairobi’s Kibera slum – the second biggest in Africa – over 60 per cent of the city’s residents live in the slum, and are bypassed by garage collection services. Garbage is piled up along the muddy roads and paths, or hangs in the trees.

The Kenyan NGO Umande Trust, which specialises in water and sanitation projects, has developed a home-grown method to burn trash and avoid having to turn to very expensive and complicated incinerators from Europe. The sheer quantity of trash that needs to be burned in the slum means smaller solutions will not be able to handle the problem.

Its “community cooker” re-uses garbage from the community as fuel for a boiler and oven attached to it. The heat generated by burning the rubbish provides hot water and cooking facilities – and also jobs for unemployed youths who collect the rubbish and stock the incinerator. It was developed by a Kenyan architect, and it is hoped the “community cooker” will be taken up across Africa.

The community cooker’s inventor, Kenyan architect Jim Archer, took eight years to design and build it: “My thinking was how do we get rid of the rubbish and …how can we induce people to pick it up. Then I thought, well if we can convert it to heat on which people can cook…” he told Australia’s ABC News.

Similar industrial scale trash incinerators can cost between US $50 million to US $280 million (World Bank) – “…when applying waste incineration, the economic risk of project failure is high…”. The community cooker on the other hand, will sell for US $10,000.

The idea was to create an incinerator that was simple to use and repair: something that the commercially available, computer-controlled incinerators were not able to do. As the cooker gets up to speed, it will be able to burn 60 per cent of the slum’s trash.

Local youth go house-to-house collecting trash. They get money from the slum residents for this. Rubbish is then exchanged for cooking time or hot water for washing.

“The trash has started to help us a bit after the cooker came. There are fewer diseases like diarrhea and the environment has improved. … I think burning the rubbish will bring good health to this community,” said Patricia Ndunge, as she fried onions on the cooker.

And it looks like the community cooker has a future: Kenya’s largest supermarket, Nakumatt, has pledged to pay for 20 more slum cookers.

Resources

  • Envirofit: A Shell Foundation supported project to produce 300,000 clean, wood-burning stoves for the developing world (starting with India, Brazil, Kenya and Uganda). Envirofit will offer a variety of sleek ceramic stoves from single to multipot, with and without chimneys, and with colors like apple red, baby blue and gold. The cost is to start at $10 to $20 and run to $150 to $200.
    Website: http://www.envirofit.org/

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© David South Consulting 2022

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Cleaner Stoves To Reduce Global Warming

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

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 deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).

The polluting stoves have also been identified as major contributors to climate change. The soot from the fires produces black carbon, now considered a significant contributor to global warming. While carbon dioxide is the number one contributor to rising global temperatures, black carbon is second, causing 18 percent of warming.

Getting black carbon levels down is being seen as a relatively inexpensive way to reduce global warming while gaining another good: cleaner air for poor households. The soot only hangs around in the atmosphere for a few weeks while carbon dioxide lingers for years, so the impact can be seen quickly.

A flurry of initiatives across the South are now designing, developing and testing clean-burning stoves to tackle this problem. The number of initiatives is impressive (see list of clean-burning stove initiatives by country: http://www.bioenergylists.org/en/country), but the test will be who can develop stoves that poor households will actually use and find the right model to distribute them to half the world’s population.

In India, the Surya cookstove project is test marketing six prototypes of clean burning stoves with poor households. Developed by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, the six stoves are still undergoing field testing. Initial criticisms from users have focused on the stoves’ durability and overly clinical appearance.

Cost will be critical to success no matter what the stove’s final design: “I’m sure they’d look nice, but I’d have to see them, to try them,” Chetram Jatrav in Kohlua, central India, told the New York Times. As her three children coughed, she continued that she would like a stove that “made less smoke and used less fuel” but she cannot afford one.

Envirofit India – founded in 2007 as a branch of the US-based Envirofit International – is at a more advanced stage, already selling clean-burning stoves across India and the Philippines. It claims to have already sold over 10,000 stoves to poor households.

They have developed high-quality stoves in four models: the B-110 Value Single Pot (a simple stove for one pot), S-2100 Deluxe Single Pot (a sturdier design), S-4150 Deluxe Double Pot (two burning surfaces), S-4150 Deluxe Double Pot with Chimney. They have been designed to be visually appealing for households – in tasteful colours like blue and green – and using high quality engineering for durability.

They have been tested by engineers at the Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory and are certified for design and environmental standards.

The stoves are on sale in 1,000 villages in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh. The stoves have already successfully undergone pilot testing in Chitradurga and Dharmapuri. The manufacturer uses a network of dealers, distributors, village entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations to make the stoves commercially available for purchase. They hope to have 1,500 dealer outlets by the end of 2009.

“Envirofit clean cookstoves have received an overwhelming reception in India,” said Ron Bills, chairman and chief executive officer at Envirofit. “Our cookstoves are not only meticulously engineered to reduce toxic emissions and fuel use; they are also aesthetically designed and durable. Envirofit takes great pride in offering high-quality, affordable products to typically underserved global markets.”

But once again price comes up as a major issue: Envirofit’s stoves are designed to last five years, and thus they cost more than other stoves for sale in India. An Envirofit stove costs between 500 rupees (US $10) to 2,000 rupees (US $40): existing stoves sell for between 250 rupees (US $5) and 1,000 rupees (US $20), and last a year at most.

As one blogger complained: “The envirofit stoves … are way beyond the capacity of the low income households who form 65% of the Indian population. Only the 10% of the middle to higher income segment can go for them… perhaps the price can be brought down by reducing the showy part of the stove to help the poorest.”

Envirofit is part of the Shell Foundation’s Breathing Space program, established to tackle indoor air pollution from cooking fires in homes and hopes to sell and place 10 million clean-burning stoves in five countries over the next five years.

Resources

A video shows the installation of clean-burning stoves in Peru, South America. It also has links to many other videos of clean-burning stoves and how to build and install them.
Website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neZZvvnL8Lg

Designing a clean-burning dung fuel stove.
Website: www.bioenergylists.org

Follow @SouthSouth1

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsnovember2010issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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