Project provides safer cookstoves for Kenyan women

Charity happy to have her new cooking stove installed

Environmentally-friendly, healthier cooking stoves funded by Global Affairs Canada 

By Teresa Mellish

The world-wide pandemic in 2020 had a silver lining for our current project in Kenya.

Because of COVID-19, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) agreed to fund an amendment to our project entitled: More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers.

This amendment included funds for a kitchen stove for each member of the 7 women’s groups.  It also included funds for a tree nursery for each of the women’s groups, as well as support for staple crops. In addition, it also included funds to hire an extra  staff person for a few months to oversee the installation of stoves.

GAC also agreed to extend the project for a year (until 2024) to allow us to catch up for the way COVID-19 has slowed us down on project delivery. 

The only wrinkle was that these funds came from GAC’s January-March quarter, so we had to get all these things in place by the end of March, 2021. 

Our Kenyan colleagues temporarily set aside their other work and focused their efforts on getting this done by the end of March. 

And they were successful! 

Members of the Destiny Group celeberate their new stoves

In this article, I will write about stoves. 

The kitchen at most farms is a stand-alone building next to the building where people live and sleep.  This stove will replace the three stones set up so that a pot can sit on the three stones, over an open fire. 

Before the smoke seeps out around the eaves, it swirls around in the building, and it hurts women’s eyes and their lungs. 

Pre-school aged children are usually in the kitchen with their mothers and they, too, are affected by the smoke.  We also know that small children can fall into the fire and get burned. 

I’ve been in these kitchens and have had to go outside because of the smoke!

We have installed stoves at farm homes before, so we knew a stove manufacturer in Meru who could make small stoves.

These stoves are made of brick, and there is a chimney going out through the roof to carry the smoke out of the kitchen. 

It has two holes in the top to heat two pots. It takes a fraction (possibly less than a quarter) of the wood normally used by a three-stone stove, and we included pipes which go around the stove to heat some water while food is cooking. 

Now the women can cook without the smoke hurting their eyes and lungs, and they use less wood to cook their food.

Here is a quote from the Claire's February monthly report. 

She was hired to help complete this project, thanks to the additional GAC funding.

Mary Kalingu is a member of the Kambaabu Women's Group. She is 65 years old and lives with her husband at Ntharagwene. She cooks in her kitchen, which almost shares an open space with the sitting area. She had been using the three-stone open fire to cook.

Mary explains that her eye condition and her husband’s had deteriorated before receiving the cooking stove due to smoke. Poor smoke emission in their kitchen caused them eyes, nose, and throat irritation.

She could not hide her excitement as she narrated to me how perfect the stove she received was. Her house was now smoke-free, and their allergic reactions had ceased.

When I visited her, her husband was busy, working on installing water pipes that would connect water to the stove's boilers.

She could not wait to use the hot water from her stove for necessary household cleaning and bathing too. To her, this would decrease her chances of catching a cold or arthritis. 

These units were funded by Global Affairs Canada as part of the More Food, Better Food : Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers project.

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