Cooking up a difference – the stove that’s changing lives

October 7, 2014

Judy Karuana is mother of three from Nyeri County, in Central Kenya.  Within three months, Judy turned from being unemployed to becoming an entrepreneur, all thanks to the Improved Cook Stove (ICS).

She had no prior experience in using, making or selling the stoves, or ‘jiko’ as they are commonly known in Kenya. The 43-year-old was introduced to the ICS when she met a team from Supporting Community Development (SCODE) that was conducting an open day in her county. Judy asked the team whether it was possible for them to visit her women’s group so they could learn more about the improved cook stoves. As secretary of the group, Judy was able to mobilise a good number of her colleagues to attend SCODE’s presentation. This visit marked the beginning of Judy’s new career as an ICS home retailer.

Firewood is still the primary source of cooking fuel for many rural households in Kenya. It is estimated that 68 percent of households in the country use firewood for cooking, and only 4 percent of their firewood stoves are fuel efficient. Hence, inside homes with dark, soot-covered walls, you’ll find the traditional three-stone cooking fire, the centre piece of many rural kitchens. Therefore, both the need and market for better cooking fuel solutions are clearly present.

For SCODE, the proof for this market is in the pudding. The programme has seen over 70,000 people in their respective areas become aware of the ICS and its benefits and install more than 25,000 jikos in their households. Consequently, these households have reported savings of between 40 and 50 percent on firewood use.

“Hivos has continually emphasised the role of renewable energy for both environmental conservation and as a source of livelihood. We believe that there is a significant gap in provision of improved and energy efficient cook stoves to households, institutions and businesses. Hivos is responding to tackle these challenges identified to streamline and develop a commercially viable and market-oriented improved cook stoves subsector. We believe that targeting energy enterprises and making them thrive is a more sustainable way of delivering energy solutions,” says Geoffrey Ongera, the Regional Programme Officer for Green Enterprise.

Judy Karuana is one of those individuals whose lives has changed for the better. She has become a jiko retailer, adequately providing for her family. She has also completed the construction of her house and become an employer, hiring farm hands to work on her farm. She sells an average of 60 stoves a month at 10 euros each, which earns her a tidy sum considering she once lived without a reliable, steady income.

The Improved Cook Stoves for Households and Institutions Project is jointly funded by the European Union (EU) and Hivos and is working in five counties in Kenya. The programme aims to decrease wood consumption in households by 40 percent, reduce deforestation and improve livelihoods and health.