Women all over Africa, especially in the rural and peri-urban areas still rely heavily on charcoal energy. This has necessitated the need to have cook stoves that produce less smoke and consume less wood fuel. A recent survey (Sector mapping and market assessment of the improved cookstoves sector in Kenya) that was conducted by the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) found that 80 % of the urban population in East Africa region uses a ceramic jiko.
The study also revealed that the uptake of technology in the energy sector is also increasing. The country has realized an increase in the adoption of improved cook stoves.
Wisdom innovations is one such enterprise. The company was started in 2012 by Daniel Waithaka and Nathan Puffer to provide clean cook stoves I order to counter the energy challenges women are facing at household level. The project started with a pilot of 10 households. The company has done five prototypes of the cook stoves and began selling in 2012.
When they started, they would only produce on order. Through public demos during market days, they realized that they were only reaching the men who were the buyers of the stoves. Initially the men would not pass on the user information on the stove to women. This necessitated the need for a follow up with the client.
The company adopted the model of working with women groups by riding on their existing schedules where they would conduct product demonstrations and follow up. The chamas have proven to be an ideal marketing and selling point of the cook stoves. They have so far sold 3250 cook stoves through direct selling in households and women groups. The stove retails for KSh3,500 and their target market is Nakuru, Narok and Nyandarua Counties.
The company runs a flexible repayment method which allows for easier mobile payment. The current model is a gasifier stove that uses dry wood and pellets.
The company is currently in the process of producing non-carbonised briquettes. They have been educating the customers on the benefits of using briquettes especially in rural housing. “This minimizes the movement from the main house to the kitchen especially when it is raining. Women can safely cook in the common area with minimal harm,” notes Daniel.
The stove converts harmful greenhouse gases into cooking gas thus reducing indoor air pollution.
The stoves continue to undergo improvement phases. Wisdom Innovations is working on installing a thermo electric generator in the stoves to produce micro energy for households for lighting and charging phones.
The only challenge the company faces is the fabrication which is manually done in Kinangop Constituency. They have three machines which require connection to electricity. The infrastructure is poor especially during the wet season making the plant inaccessible. If the production capacity is up scaled, the company has the capacity to produce 9000 stoves in a year.
KCIC has assisted the company in applying for an IP with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) for a previous model. They continue to receive advisory services under the KCIC Green-Tech Accelerator Program.
Picture: courtesy wisdomstoves.org
By Mercy Mumo