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Stoves for Life – Energy-Efficient Cook Stove Project in Kakamega – Kenya

This project promotes locally made, efficient stoves to help conserve Kenya’s remaining forests. Through “Stoves for Life – Energy-Efficient Cook Stove Project in Kakamega,” women and youth manufacture efficient ceramic wood-burning stoves and sell them in their communities to replace the traditional (and inefficient) three-stone hearth. The work helps to make conservation profitable for women.

Fast facts:

  • 261 people employed, 171 of which are women
  • 9,200 stoves installed
  • 16,000 tons of firewood saved per year

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The problem

The Kakamega rainforest represents the last remnants of Kenya’s lowland rainforest. It is home to an immense variety of unique and threatened animals and plants. Despite having a protected status, the Kakamega Forest is being severely damaged and degraded by the extraction of resources. The surrounding area is one of the most densely populated rural regions of the world, and 90 per cent of the people living there depend on the forest’s resources for wood fuel and livelihood.

The Kakamega Forest has decreased by almost 50 per cent since being established in 1933. Most rural households there cook with wood on a traditional hearth comprised of three stones – an inefficient method that wastes a great deal of energy.

The solution

Women and youth groups manufacture a ceramic-lined, wood-burning “Upesi” stove, with a compartment underneath that focuses the heat directly upward instead of in all directions like a traditional three-stone fire. These efficient stoves decrease firewood use by 40 per cent, resulting in emissions reductions of 2 to 3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per household annually.

The women are trained in product quality control, business administration, and business management, which develop their leadership skills. Local materials are used for stove production, which is subsidized by the sale of carbon credits. Local populations are thus incentivized to conserve the forest instead of cut it down.

Helping the planet

Less wood needed for cooking reduces the extractive pressure being put on the Kakamega Forest, contributing to its conservation. Leaving the trees standing allows habitat to remain for the forest’s unique species, preserving biodiversity. More sustainable use of forest resources also prevents the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, fending off further climate change.

Helping people

The project provides direct employment to communities around the forest, allowing stove manufacturers to earn more than three times what they did before. The women use the additional income to purchase land and cattle, pay for school fees, and build permanent homes.

Those who use the stoves spend less time collecting firewood. This allows them spend more time on other things, like education for example. Less smoke from the stoves has resulted in cleaner kitchens, better indoor air quality, less eye irritation, less coughing and fewer headaches.

Spillover effect

The project is continuously scaling up its activities to new communities around Kakamega Forest, and plans to distribute 52,000 efficient cook stoves to rural households in communities adjacent to the forest over a period of seven years. The project also plans to include schools, small restaurants, and hotels in the future, and to provide efficient cooking technologies for institutional and commercial customers. Since the installation of the Upesi stove is cheap and uses local materials and labor, the activity is easily replicable in other communities.

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