How a small stove making a big difference in Kenya

The site already employs 63 local residents. By September, those employment numbers are expected to swell to 300.

Deep in the heart of Kenya’s coffee growing region, a small yet impressive business is growing and changing the lives of local Kenyans. It is here in Ruiru District, Kiambu County that the noise of welding and banging signifies hope and opportunity at the BURN Manufacturing site that is producing revolutionary clean cookstoves. The site already employs 63 local residents. By September, those employment numbers are expected to swell to 300.

While over 44 million people call Kenya home, it is a country haunted by high unemployment rates and resulting poverty. Unemployment stands at a sticky 40%, and 70% of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35. The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting professional jobs. Therefore, every job that is created plays a significant role in improving the quality of life for the individual, their family and the community at large. In areas like Ruiru, the positive impact that the manufacturing industry can have on the town should not be underestimated.

The positive impact though is not limited to those directly employed by BURN Manufacturing. It is also felt in the employment opportunities created in the SME community that supply their goods and services to the business, such as raw materials dealers, printing companies, logistics companies, hardware stores, product distributors, retailers and marketing companies.

One such SME is Ciala Design House, a small independent design company operating in Nairobi. It provides graphic design services to BURN Manufacturing. While BURN Manufacturing engaged Ciala for their branding capabilities, as the relationship has evolved, it now also provides business mentoring and operational best practice guidelines to Ciala.

Macrine Kajuma, founder and owner of Ciala Design House said, "BURN has helped us grow our business by helping us diversify our services and improving our quality control.“

Elsewhere in Nairobistreet food vendors provide quick meals for hurried commuters. It is the vendors that use the JikokoaTM to produce their take-away food that also enjoy a reduction in fuel usage enabling cost savings for their business.

The BURN manufacturing site is fitted with advanced tooling equipment to produce the JikokoaTM clean cookstove. The technicians are trained in all steps of the manufacturing process. Almost all the materials are sourced in Kenya, with 100 per cent of the components manufactured onsite, creating a positive knock-on effect across the supply chain, which is predominantly made up of local SMEs.

Less than a year ago, Violet Mokaya, Damaris Minende, Erick Barasa, Japheth Mwau and Joseph Thuita were each working or studying across Kenya. Erick worked as a security guard, Damaris as a farmer, Violet and Japheth were students and Joseph worked as a welder. Now, all six are working at the BURN Manufacturing facility, enjoying on-the-job training and developing new skills.

Violet Mokaya, who started in production and is now an inventory assistant, said, “I started in the production area eight months ago and now I am an inventory assistant arranging and receiving incoming goods to schedule. I help keep manufacturing running smoothly. This job is fun and it has given me an opportunity to learn new skills.”

Japheth Mwau was previously an intern at a LPG manufacturing plant. This is his first permanent role since completing his engineering studies. Japheth, a quality inspector at BURN said, “Having some formal training in engineering, I have a great passion to gain new skills.”

Joseph Thuita is a powder coating operative. He ensures that all powder coatings are applied correctly so that the JikokoaTM can endure high temperatures. Their colleagues Damaris Minende and Erick Barasa work on the production line assembling the products.

The JikokoaTM clean cookstove is the brainchild of BURN Manufacturing Chief Executive Peter Scott. It uses an average of 45% less charcoal than conventional cookstoves and produces 60% less smoke. While traditional cookstoves are often the cause of respiratory disease in Kenya, this new cookstove is expected to have a significant impact on reducing cooking smoke, which is related respiratory disease.

GE’s Thomas Konditi says that he has three hopes for the project. He says; “Firstly, that it becomes self-sustaining and profitable as a successful SME. I hope that it expands beyond Kenya so that many more people benefit from its products and the employment opportunities it provides both onsite as well as along its supply chain. In the long-term, I hope it provides tangible and traceable benefits to address environmental and health concerns in Africa, while at the same time it has a measurable impact on employment in the region.”

Production at the BURN site is heating up. Twenty five thousand cookstoves have been sold to-date, with an estimated 3.7 million to be produced and sold in the next 10 years.  As consumer demand increases, so does production, which helps to drive employment opportunities at the BURN manufacturing site and across the supply chain.

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