Smoke from open cooking fires and polluting stoves kills millions of people every year. Refugees are among those in greatest danger. But in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee camp, residents are manufacturing a homegrown solution.
Locally made cooking stoves from USAFI Green Energy protect people’s health, create jobs, and even help deal with invasive prosopis trees that dry out local land and harm cattle. Now communities can turn the nuisance plant into a useful fuel.
Household air pollution, mostly from cooking smoke, is linked to around 2.5 million premature deaths a year. Women and girls are most likely to face to the burden of cooking, and so are at greatest risk. Refugees are particularly likely to face energy poverty, and lack access to clean and modern stoves.
USAFI Green Energy was only founded in 2021, but already produces more than 100 of its affordable, efficient ‘Silver Bora’ brand cookstoves a day at its Kakuma factory. These are sold through a network of retailers across the camp.
As well as making cooking faster and safer, the stoves cut the amount of time users spend gathering firewood – another task that normally falls on women and girls. The company makes stoves for homes but also larger devices for schools and hospitals.
The stoves can be fueled by wood, but can also use clean burning briquettes, also made at the camp, formed from compressed plants. The briquette ingredients include prosopis, an invasive tree species that dominates local vegetation, shrinks grasslands and is a danger to people and livestock – it sucks water from the ground, while cattle are scratched by its thorns and can be poisoned by its seed pods.
USAFI Green Energy replants the areas where it chops down the prosopis with more beneficial mwarubaini trees. It grows seedling which are given to the community for free – more than 2,000 have been handed out so far.
Job with USAFI gives Irene a fresh start
USAFI Green Energy directly employs 35 people to manufacture its cookstoves, and contracts 90 to manufacture the briquettes drawn from the host community. 95% of its staff are aged under 35, and 40% are women.
Employees include Irene Nandudu, who had worked as a hairdresser in her native Uganda. She says: “I came here to look for opportunities to sustain my family and my siblings and it was not easy. It took me several months to settle but still I didn’t have a job.
“I fully depended on the relief aid from the United Nations and other organisations. Now that I have a job [making cookstoves], I am saving up to start my salon business here in Kenya and support my children who I left in Uganda.”
Stoves are a safer way to feed thousands
The company’s customers include Agnes Kiri, who runs a small café. The stove’s fuel efficiency and quick cooking time help boost her business. She says: “There is less smoke when I use these cookstoves compared to using firewood, so I can cook just in the same room where my customers eat their meals.”
Supa Agule is the supervising cook at Kakuma Reception Centre. Her team use large USAFI Green Energy cookstoves to feed over 3,000 refugees three times a day.
She says: “We used to experience a lot of smoke and heat from this kitchen and most staff fell sick often due to these conditions. This is before we installed these large low carbon cookstoves.”
1 November 2023
Ashden Award for Integrated Energy Africa
25 October 2023
Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions
Ashden Award for Outstanding Achievement
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