Duo modify local stove to create a safer,cheaper cooking option

The death of a close friend after inhaling carbon monoxide from a stove has been the spark that has seen two engineering students modify a charcoal stove into a safe, environmental friendly stove that  now conserves 60 percent of energy used and halves air pollution compared to conventional charcoal stoves. This could be welcome news to the over 70 percent of Kenyans, mostly in rural areas, who largely depend on wood or charcoal energy for cooking, a practice that has not only put their lives in danger, but contributed to the worsening cases of climate change.

Dubbed Turbo Kenya Ceramic Jiko the stove modified by  Nancy Kemboi and Priscilla Tuitoek from Eldoret Polytechnic owes its 'Turbo' name to the fan that is located at an extended tunnel that replaces the air inlet point on the conventional charcoal stove. The fan is powered by the energy from a battery of double AA size which is charged from a small solar panel connected to it.

When powered, the fan sucks in air that contain oxygen which speeds up the rate of combustion hence more heat produced and enabling quick cooking process. The oxygen that is also sucked in by the fan also changes the lethal carbon monoxide gas released from the burning fuel to a more friendly carbon dioxide gas. According to Kemboi farm wastes like maize combs and saw dust can be used instead of charcoal with similar results achieved.

Irked by the death of a close neighbor who inhaled carbon monoxide while at work in a tea factory, Kemboi partnered with Tuitoek with funding from their institute and set out on a mission to find a solution to this catastrophe owing to the fact that majority of households in the country cannot afford the expensive cooking gas and entirely rely on charcoal stoves for their daily cooking.

Although critics argued that increased combustion will call for more fuel usage, the young innovators had a different opinion. “The rate of combustion is determined by the user depending on which kind of food is being cooked. In addition, the stove has an extension which a sauce pan fits in known as a skirt which ensures efficient use of the energy as the burning of the saucepan is done from bottom and sideways. This ensures energy conservation of over 60 percent compared to the conventional open charcoal stoves which lose more heat to the environment,” said Kemboi.  In addition, the speed of the fan can be regulated depending on the food type. Kemboi explained that due to the modifications, the stove uses nearly half the fuel of what the conventional stoves use to cook the same amount of food. The fan usage also ensures that its’ rate of combustion is increased and it cooks faster compared to the conventional charcoal stoves.

“The improvements on the Turbo charcoal stove ensure the efficiency in charcoal usage by about 50 percent hence promoting savings for families as less money will be spent on fuel.  It’s use will also result in cleaner combustion as there will be reduced air pollution and environmental degradation by upto 50 percent,” explained Kemboi

According to a report by Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) published last year on the importance of improved cooking stoves in East Africa, nearly 2 million people die yearly from illnesses attributable to indoor air pollution caused by the use of solid fuel globally.

Although the project is still at the demonstration stage, there has been an impressive demand for the product from the market. The two have been show casing their innovation at this year’s National Commission for Science and Technology exhibition at the Kenyatta International Conference Center. “For the last four days we have been show casing here at KICC, we receive over 30 willing buyers and this is very encouraging from an economic point of view,” noted Kemboi.

The duo intends to sell a complete set, solar panel, battery, fan, stove and the skirts, at about Sh3000. However, the price can be reduced to Sh2000 if the buyer intends to use the normal double AA battery on the market. The large scale commercialization of the project is in the offing as theladies look at partnering with an organization that fronts for environmental conservation to ensure their idea reaches a critical mass.

According to Berkley Air Monitoring group, over 70 percent of Kenya’s population entirely rely on either wood or charcoal energy for cooking and yet majority of these people use conventional stoves which not only pollute the environment through the emission of greenhouse gases but also speed up its’ depletion because of the inefficient energy use in the conventional stoves. The report also noted that there is much potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to health damaging pollutants by promoting a switch to improved stoves and cleaner burning fuels.