Supporting women’s local businesses and climate-friendly cookstoves in Kenya

  • Article type Story
  • Publication date 15 Feb 2024

About 15 per cent of the energy demand worldwide is met by classic biomass such as firewood, charcoal, and plant residues. Some 2.8 billion people cook their daily meals with such biomass. Kenya is no exception: more than 80 per cent of Kenya’s population uses biomass for cooking and heating. The combustion of these materials during cooking releases greenhouse gases (GHG). 

Using improved cookstoves (ICS) instead of open hearths could save emissions equivalent to 0.6–2.4 gigatonnes of CO₂ each year.  To combat climate change, the Kenyan government has made it a priority of their national climate targets  to lower GHG emissions in the energy sector by 6.09 million tons CO₂ by 2030. 

This change towards a low-emission development path is led by local ICS businesses producing and promoting climate-friendly cookstoves that reduce the need for biomass cooking, as well as reduce CO₂ emissions. 

“Earlier, we were using so much firewood we were cutting a tree every one to two weeks. Now we are using one tree for a month to two and a half months.”
Charity Njeri Gachanja, stoves producer in Kenya

There are currently 53 female-led and/or owned ICS businesses in Kenya participating in the Promotion of Climate-Friendly Cooking: Kenya and Senegal project, which is co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Kenya’s Ministry of Energy, and Senegal’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The project aims to sustainably scale up the ICS market in both Kenya and Senegal.

Among these 53 female ICS producers is Charity Njeri Gachanja, who started her ICS business, Charity Clay Works, in Murang’a County, Kenya over 25 years ago.

Charity Njeri Gachanja, a stoves producer in Kenya Murang’a County preparing the clay for the ceramic liner production. © GIZ

Charity started off as an artisanal producer of ceramic liners, the clay components of an ICS, producing only about 20 ceramic liners a month. To make them, she places a clay mixture in a mould to shape it into a liner. Once the liner has dried, she fires it up to transform the clay into ceramic. The liners will be used to construct improved cookstoves.

To further upscale her business, she needed the machinery for mixing the clay, as well as a bigger kiln to produce ICS at greater volumes. Through the support of this project, she has been able to scale up her ICS business to produce 1,000 to 3,000 ceramic liners per month. She has also expanded her business to include in-home installations. She currently employs nine people, of whom four are women, providing them with a stable source of income. Her dream would be to grow her business further and, hopefully, to invest into rental income.

Another successful female ICS business is the Keyo Women Group production centre, which is run by a group of 15 women in Kisumu, a county in western Kenya at the shoreline of Lake Victoria. 

Rose Okwach moulding and finishing stoves in their production centre in Keyo, Kisumu County. © GIZ

Rose Okwach has been a member of the group since 1987. Due to her long-term experience, she is responsible for moulding and finishing the liners for Jiko Kisasa, an inbuilt household stove for one or two pots with ceramic liner and without chimney liners. Initially, Rose and the group produced 300 to 500 liners per month, but through the support of the project, the group has managed to improve their quality and production capacity to roughly 1,600 liners. 

Being part of the group has enabled her to provide for her family, own a house, and support her children in school. She now uses the Jiko Kisasa at home as well. Previously her family relied on the traditional three-stone fire for cooking, but now with the Jiko Kisasa, her family is saving over 500 Kenyan shilling (approximately USD 3.10) per month. 

“Improved cookstoves have really helped me in saving wood fuel and improved my livelihood.”
Charity Njeri Gachanja, stoves producer in Kenya

Millicent Osodo member of Keyo Women Group doing final touches on the Jiko Kisasa Liner in their production centre in Keyo, Kisumu County. © GIZ

A market-based approach and long-term growth

To enable the group to further upscale their production, the project has supplied them with professionalization kits, two water tanks, three wheelbarrows, and other small equipment as part of a professionalization package. This market-based approach aims to enable ICS producers to upscale their stove production and support sustainable market growth. With this support, two members of the group have established sub-branches of the production centre in other locations in Kisumu County. In the future, the Keyo Women’s Group plans to expand their production capacity to 4,000 stoves per month, which will entail more members starting their own production centres.

GCF’s grant support has been crucial to kickstart the growth potential of the ICS market and promote efficient cooking technologies to reduce national biomass consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

To reach this objective and to ensure long-term growth of the local ICS market, the project is implementing a double-pronged approach: (1) increase demand for improved stove technologies, and (2) improve supply-side capabilities. On the supply side, the project is enabling ICS producers by providing training and machinery to boost production. At the same time, to encourage more people in rural areas to take up the use of ICS, the project informs potential users about the hazards associated with conventional open hearths and showcases the benefits of optimised stoves. 

Overall, some two million, predominantly rural households will benefit directly from the project. Almost one-third of these households are headed by women. Furthermore, the project’s outcomes reduce the probability of respiratory disease and the time spent to collect fuelwood and cook meals. This has a positive indirect effect on the pursuit of income-generating activities and, for children, on school attendance and child development. 

The project has contributed, as of December 2023, to the sale of over 1,120,000 ICS, resulting in 1,575,000 tons of CO₂ reduction, thus contributing to both Kenya and Senegal’s efforts to reach their respective climate targets . 

By Jin Hee Dieu