SUMMARY: This project supplies alternatives to the open fire 3-stone cooking method common in Africa. Their community-driven efforts address multiple environmental threats on local scale and provide new modes for income generation.
PROBLEM SPACE: Traditional African stoves consist of three stones set up as a tripod to hold a pot over top of sticks of wood that are burned as fuel. This kind of stove is extremely inefficient and generated an excessive amount of smoke, which leads to respiratory illness for women and children in the household. Moreover, these traditional stoves consume large amounts of fuel in the form of forest wood, which required hard work and long hours to collect each day. Kenya is experiencing deforestation. When Salim Mayeki Shaban of ACON started investigating fuel use in Bungoma, he found that the population was getting its firewood from primary forests. The high fuel demand was quickly deforesting the area and some villagers had been taking wood illegally from the national forest. ACON designed a project that would work with local villagers to promote energy conservation and reduce deforestation through the use of improved cooking stoves, designing biochar producing stoves, training local farmers on application and utilization of biochar, and making fuel briquettes from water hyacinth and other biomass materials (not from the forest). Using plans found online and a stove model from Uganda, he designed a “clay” stove—which is actually clay mixed with anthills to create a cement for the stoves and mixed in chopped straw (for insulation).
SOLUTION: The Power Stove reduces firewood consumption by 50% and produces electricity. ACON is harvesting an invasive species off of Lake Victoria (Water Hyacinth) and drying and compressing this material into fuel briquettes that are used in ACON's "Made in Kenya" efficient cooking stoves. These stoves operate in such a manner as to produce no smoke and they generate a valuable byproduct "Biochar" that can be used as a soil enhancement in household gardens and farms. Stoves, briquettes, and biochar can be sold generate income for the household. Reduced forest wood use results. Since the first results of the field trials in 2009, ACON has been carrying out community training on the application and utilization of biochar in the soil. Participants in a training group learn about biochar and set up field trials over the course of four days and then are given biochar to take home with them. 1,000 farmers were trained in 2010. The use of biochar in the field is now wide spread among the farmers – they have turned from chemical fertilizers to biochar in combination with manure and urine as fertilizers. The African Christians Organization Network (ACON) consists of over 300 community groups, and through these ACON has reached about 750,000 people in Western Kenya over the last 10 years. From 2004 – 2009, ACON built over 10,000 improved cookstoves. This particular project will help reduce the destruction of trees, remove harmful smoke, and supply electricity to the remote regions for lighting as well as charging phones, tablets, smartphones and rechargeable batteries. The stoves can power up to 20 LED bulbs, charge 2 smartphones simultaneously, and allow for charging and illumination simultaneously. They can also power USB decides and low-power devices at 12V like radios, small LED TVs, fans, etc.