In many developing countries, using solid fuels in open fires for cooking and heating creates everyday health concerns right in the home.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 4 million deaths each year from illnesses attributable to household air pollution. Chronic lung and heart disease mainly affects the women and children who stay inside, tending the house. In fact, WHO reports that air pollution from household fuel combustion is the most critical global environmental health risk today. Over 3 billion people still use wood, wood charcoal, or similar solid fuels for cooking and heating. That’s almost half of the world’s population.
But how often do you think about cookstoves?
If you’re Festus Agisu, that would be every day. Festus is a designer and founder of Green Air Fire Solutions, a hands-on, technology-focused renewable energy solutions company. The company is developing and fabricating digital biomass institutional cookstoves. Green Air Fire Solutions was founded 5 years ago as a signage company that designs signs and billboards for companies and advertisements.
With the urge to make an impact in the world using his skills as a designer, Festus took on a journey to design simple biomass cookstoves for households. Later on, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he decided to upscale his cookstoves in schools and other large institutions.
Festus, who hails from Vihiga, studied industrial bioenergy solutions at the National Taiwan Normal Institute, Taipei. He wants to help solve the rampant problem of deforestation that he mainly attributes to charcoal burning by large institutions like schools and tea factories. How? By harnessing his own skill, knowledge, and passion for making an impact.
Festus is working with local engineers to design large biomass cookstoves and boilers. Instead of the regular briquettes, these cookstoves are fueled by wood pellets, a renewable energy source. In addition, the cookstove is controlled by a computer system, an automated system that allows the cookstove to automatically light and cook based on the set amount of time.
“Growing up on a farm and tending land and animals made me think about things like stewardship and sustainability from an early age,” he remembers, “I wanted to make a broader impact, not just in my own community but everywhere else, through research and engagement with people on the ground.”
Festus plays a central role in Green Air Fire Solution’s biomass fuel initiative to take tremendous pressure off forests while improving human health. In addition to the cookstoves, he also has the capacity to supply the schools with biomass pellets and offer training to cooks on how to use the system.
Although still in its prototype stage, he says the cookstove has been tested and certified internationally.
Festus knows that a social enterprise promoting sustainable biomass fuel could positively impact a community. So he is using his expertise in the area to help them succeed. But there is still a lot to be done. That’s why he is also actively seeking funds and partners to advance his technology.
Festus is one of the entrepreneurs that Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, KCIC, supports under the GreenBiz programme. The program supports startups developing new technologies across renewable energy, agribusiness, water, commercial forestry and waste management to bring forth their ideas. GreenBiz was made possible by a five-year grant from the Embassy of Denmark in Kenya with technical support from KCIC. The program will see 300 businesses supported from 2021 to 2025.
Currently, the entrepreneurs are undergoing a one-year intensive incubation programme. Beyond the formal training, they will be provided with services to help them commercialize and scale up their innovations. KCIC will assess the needs of the on boarded entrepreneurs and give them the required resources. In addition, it will provide the businesses with business advisory, mentorship, access to financing, access to facilities, access to information and an enabling environment to grow.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to be part of GreenBiz. Working with other inspiring entrepreneurs will significantly help me realize my dream much faster!”
Then, more somberly, Festus adds, “We’re continuing to raise awareness and work toward solutions to this issue. It’s still a challenge. But I want more people to know and care about it — and maybe even help to do something about it.”
By bringing his full passion and expertise to the issue, and adding in his kind nature and sense of humour, Festus Agisu and the entrepreneurs he works with are pioneers in clean biomass fuels in Kenyan schools.
To learn more or find out how you can help make clean cooking solutions more available, contact Festus and the Green Air Fire Solutions group at firstname.lastname@example.org