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Half the World's population of nearly six billion people prepare their food and heat their homes with coal and the traditional biomass fuels of dung, crop residues, wood and charcoal. The procurement and consumption of these fuels define the character of everyday life in many developing countries.

In rural areas, women and children may spend several hours a day collecting wood for cooking or making charcoal, tasks that contribute to deforestation and soil erosion. Worse, the choking smoke from indoor wood fires causes respiratory disease - mainly pneumonia - which is the leading health hazard in developing nations and annually kills four to five million children worldwide.

Living in the city provides no refuge. The urban poor frequently spend a significant fraction of their income on the purchase of charcoal and wood. Combustion of biofuels contributes to the hazy pall that hangs over the cities of the developing world. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases from cooking fires may also foster global warming.

OPEN FIRE used for cooking in the millions of rural homes transfers heat to a pot poorly. As little as 10 percent of the heat goes to the cooking utensil; the rest is released to the environment.

The first improved stoves began to appear in the early 1980s and were designed by aid groups such as UNICEF and CARE-Kenya. The response from stove users was mixed at best. The designers, mainly natives of the U.S. and Europe, two havens of consumerism, had forgotten the first thing about marketing. Field testing was all too brief, sometimes with pathetic results. In one of the first models, the stove's opening did not match the size of most pots.

The KENYA CERAMIC JIKO increases stove efficiency by addition of a ceramic insulating liner (the brown element), which enables 25 to 40 percent of the heat to be delivered to the pot. From 20 to 40 percent of the heat is absorbed by the stove walls or else escapes to the environment. In addition, 10 to 30 percent gets lost as flue gases, such as carbon dioxide.

The design for one early improved Jiko model emerged after an aid group named the Kenya Renewable Energy Development Program sponsored a research trip to Thailand to inspect an improved stove - the Thai bucket. The resulting Jiko design had inward-sloping metal walls, like the Thai stove, as well as an insulating liner made of ceramic and a mica called vermiculite. The liner was cemented from the top to the bottom of the inner surface walls. It caused excessive amounts of heat to be retained inside the tapered vessel. Metal fatigue resulted from exposure to the trapped hot gases, which caused structural segments to crack.

Better stove designs gradually came about during the mid-1980s. At that time, a number of academics began to publish serious analyses of optimal stove combustion temperatures and of the insulating properties of the ceramic liner materials. One of the most notable contributions to enhanced design came through the responses of several women's organizations that had formed around such issues as community health and protection of the environment. These groups were part of a feminist movement spreading throughout the developing world. In Kenya, it was women who suggested recasting the metal bucket design, with its unstable narrow base, into an hourglass shape.

That alteration prevented the new stove from tipping over, a constant danger when food was vigorously stirred in the Thai-influenced, bucketlike implement. It also meant that the insulating liner need extend only from the upper lip to its narrowest circumference at the stove's middle - and the tapered shape let the liner rest stably cemented to the upper metal walls without falling into the stove's bottom cavity. Because the liner covered only half the stove's interior, it did not cause the overheating and consequent cracking that had plagued the early versions.

These design changes, along with extensive training programs established by aid groups and women's organizations, caused dramatic gains in acceptance for the more efficient stoves. Schools, churches and businesses were among the first owners and helped to spark the interest of individual buyers. Today hundreds of Jua Kali manufacturers provide stoves to some 20,000 purchasers every month.


The ceramic Jiko has had a considerable impact on household finances. Typical savings of 1,300 pounds of fuel a year frees up about $65 per household - up to a fifth of the annual income for urban dwellers. Women have benefited in that they control a disproportionately small share of family income yet are the primary purchasers of fuel. The Kenya ceramic Jiko has improved their lot in important ways. Many have invested the savings from reduced fuel purchases in small businesses or school fees for their children.



"How to cook food faster and cleaner
without using a lot of wood"
14'58" /

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