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From: Footsteps 5

How to involve children in community health and development activities

A vast majority of women, especially in densely populated areas, are experiencing an ever increasing shortage of firewood. They find they have to spend more and more time gathering enough firewood, or agricultural wastes such as coffee or tea braches, maize cobs and stalks etc.

Meeting the daily needs for fuel to cook the meals for the family is often a struggle for women. As more and more land is cleared for agriculture, the problem increases. Few trees remain. Planting more trees is vital, but conserving firewood or fuel is also essential.

The “Women and Energy Project” and its aims

In Kenya the “Women and Energy Project” WEP began in 1983 with the help of the German agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Kenyan Government. It aims to improve the living and working conditions of the rural populations and especially women by:

  • Reducing fuelwood requirements through the introduction of energy saving cooking stoves, called Maendeleo Stoves. (maendeleo means progress.)
  • Improving fuelwood availability through tree planting activities by the women themselves.

The Maendeleo Stoves

These stoves save 30-50% of the firewood which is needed for the traditional method of cooking on three stones. The Maendeleo stove is the cheapest available on the Kenyan market. The stove insert, made out of fired clay, is bought for KSh33 (just under £1 or $1.50). The rest of the stove is built by the women themselves, using local material (sticky soil and stones, mainly) which they are already familiar with from house construction.

Yet the stoves have many more advantages. They

  • reduce smoke in the kitchen 
  • keep the kitchen clean from ashes 
  • work well with all sorts of agricultural waste
  • save children from getting burnt
  • last for at least three years
  • can have different shapes according to the wishes of those cooking.

The energy efficiency of the stoves is the result of the clay insert, which holds the heat and does not allow it to escape from the sides. The clay inserts are produced in pottery workshops or by women’s groups. This creates new jobs and uses local materials and skills.

Training in Stove-Building

The WEP began working in four districts of Kenya. Now it is working in four new districts with plans to extend into others. Government fieldworkers, members from women’s organisations and development groups are trained in stove construction so they can teach others.

During training courses, women learn how to build the stoves. They are also taught how to save firewood by practices such as using a lid on the pot, using dry firewood and keeping embers overnight which can be warming water for washing in the morning.

By the end of 1989, WEP had encouraged the building of 30,000 Maendeleo Stoves in the first four districts.

Further details: Women and Energy Project, GTZ/SEP, Project Manager, PO Box 41607, Nairobi, Kenya.

Magdelena Blum worked with the WEP Project in Meru District, Kenya from 1986 to 1989. Other kinds of fuel efficient stoves are being developed in different countries. Can any readers share news about the kind of stoves they are using?

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