Mueni Saumu who lives in the informal settlement of Kawangware, 15km west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, is transforming her life. A simple decision to use the innovative Jikokoa cookstove has provided her with something she could never have imagined: disposable income.
“I earn my living by buying and selling second hand clothes. The last four months’ savings in charcoal that I made with my Jikokoa enabled me to pay for a tutor for my children and to invest in my business.”
It is estimated that a staggering 609 million people across sub-Saharan Africa cook over an open fire. Apart from the devastating toll this is taking on the natural resources that are harvested to burn these fires, the smoke from wood and charcoal fires are expected to kill 574 000 Africans this year of which 520 000 will be children under the age of five.
Since developing the initial design, BURN Manufacturing has attracted the support and attention of GE Africa, US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, US State Dept. Global Partnership Initiatives and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. In January 2014, these partners announced a joint financing of US$4 million to set up a manufacturing facility in Kenya with satellite assembly plants in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
“I first heard of them in 2011 when BURN Manufacturing approached us looking for a way to partner to bring together GE’s Healthymagination, Ecomagination and Focus on Africa into what they were doing,” explains GE Africa’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Konditi. “We saw this as an opportunity to do something meaningful that would also expand our corporate social responsibility footprint in Africa.”
“The objectives of BURN Manufacturing are aligned to GE’s overall objectives, especially in Healthymagination where we work to address health issues as well as their causative agents. Since the burning of biomass is a serious contributor to the increase in respiratory illnesses, we were immediately drawn to this project as it helps improve this state of affairs.”
The factory which will begin full production in August this year expects to produce 3.7 million of its wood and charcoal cookstoves in the next 10 years and create more than 300 sustainable manufacturing and distribution jobs for Kenyans.
These direct economic benefits secondary when compared to the social and health benefits that many millions of people can expect to derive from making the shift to safer, cleaner and cheaper alternatives such as the Jikokoa cookstove.