Kenyan Cooker Protects the Environment, Helps the Poor

Squalor and disease are constant companions in many African countries. This is particularly apparent in Kenya’s slums and refugee camps, with its mountains of uncollected trash.

Now a prototype “Community Cooker” is close to being rolled out around throughout Kenyan camps and slums, where filth breeds diseases like cholera.

Kenyan designers have created a cooker that uses trash for fuel to feed the country’s poor, provide hot water and destroys toxic waste by-products, along with helping to curb deforestation.

Nairobi architect Jim Archer designed this amazing environmental wonder, which was well received at Barcelona’s World Architecture Festival last year.

After 9 years of development, the first cooker is working in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, perhaps the largest in Africa, where an estimated 800,000 people live.

The Community Cooker boasts 8 hotplates above a roaring furnace, and an oven for roasting meat or baking bread.

Technicians spent three years perfecting the stove to produce enough heat to eliminate toxins in trash, especially from plastics, and continue working to produce still higher heat.

Typically slums like Kibera – home to 60 percent of Nairobi’s population – receive no garbage collection or other common services, creating severe health risks.

Archer’s design helps to clear some of the waste while providing clean hot water for bathing and communal cooking facilities.

The Kenyan Red Cross is preparing to install similar cookers in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps near the Somali border, where cholera has broken out, and at least one European aid organization is looking at wide deployment.

Juma Ochieng of the Red Cross said the Community Cooker benefits health, sanitation and conservation, and would create employment for young people working to build and maintain the stoves.As amazing as these stoves seem to be, the price is prohibitive – the prototype cost $10,000 to build.  It’s estimated that this would fall to around $5-6,000 each when produced in greater numbers. Comparatively, industrial incinerators in Europe run $50 million.”As the Red Cross we are looking at taking them countrywide very soon,” said Ochieng. He thinks eight to ten will be built by year’s  end and, depending on donor funding, at least a 100 over the next five years.

“It is an ideal item for densely populated areas like slums and refugee camps,” said Henry Ndede of the Kenya regional office for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which provided funds to set up the Kibera cooker.


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