| Boiling Point No. 22 - August 1990 |
by Mrs Noel A Chavangi, SEP-Kenya Project Officer who succeeded Dr Agnes Klingshirn of GATE/GTZ
"Mzuri kama stima" (good like electricity) these Swahili words still ring like a bell in my ears. These were the words of a young rural housewife (mother of two children) in one of West Kenya's densely populated districts with big agricultural potential. In her simplicity this young mother is comparing the performance of the Maendeleo one pot ceramic stove liner to that of an electric cooker.
"Before I leave for the fields I prepare the ingredients for lunch, light the fire, ensure that enough water is added to the pot and place the pot on the fire, covering with a tight fitting lid. This may be a dish of maize and beans, sweet potatoes, bananas or green maize when in season. I make sure that the pot comes to the boil, add two pieces of firewood (size determined by the type of meal) and leave the food cooking. When the two pieces of firewood burn out, the hot embers keep the food cooking for a long time. This to me is like when the "town ladies" turn down the heat on their gas or electric cookers! On my return from the field, I find the lunch for the family is well cooked and ready for serving".
The Maendeleo stove is the latest recommended ceramic liner woodstove for rural households in Kenya. The stove has a firewood utilization efficiency of 30% to 50% when compared to the open, three stone fire. Other attributes include less smoke emission and safety for children.
Indeed, in this particular district word of the Maendeleo stoves is spreading fast. Inquisitive faces of women are found everywhere. "How did you get it? Who constructed it for you? How can I get one? What does it cost?" etc. are the numerous questions raised.
This is a district where firewood shortage is acute. Most of the land has been cultivated leaving no natural vegetation for the free collection of firewood. Planted trees are preserved for greater family needs including construction and selling to meet school fees or health bills. Women have to buy firewood since very little can be collected for free.
Highly efficient woodstoves are therefore in very great demand. The agricultural extensionists and in particular the home economics staff who are taking an active role in the dissemination of the stoves are kept busy by the heavy demands on their services.
The ladies are organising demonstrations for members of women's groups. To avoid their precious commodities (ceramic stove liners) being damaged during transit, the ladies tie them in lassos (Khangas) and hold them firmly on their laps as the matatus rattle along the bumpy rural roads. Their goods are too precious to go on the roof-racks.
On reaching their destinations they have to trek another two or three kilometres to the sites of the demonstrations with the stove liners on their heads or on their backs, secure in the lassos. On arrival, already tired and exhausted with the hot mid-morning sun, they are met by a group of enthusiastic mothers, who welcome them with song and dance.
The ladies combine verbal explanations and practical demonstrations in a very well planned demonstration session, inviting the ladies in turns to get the feel of things through practical participation. Cleverly rehearsed moves, achieved through experience, ensure that every lady present takes part in the demonstration. By the end of the demonstration, which takes anything from one to two hours, at least half the participants will have mastered the construction procedure and skills.
At any one demonstration, it is common to have 15 - 20 participants. Occasionally the participants have to be divided into smaller groups, especially if the kitchen in which the demonstration is held is small. During supervisions, the extensionist observes as the women go through the construction procedure as demonstrated, correcting any mistakes as they arise. Normally two to three supervisions are necessary before a group is competent enough to continue on its own. During follow-ups, the extensionist returns to check on the quality and performance of the stoves constructed by the women's group members. The three processes, demonstration, supervision and follow-up complete the stove construction training component of the dissemination strategy.
On one of the field visits I was accompanied by a visitor to the project activities. Marvelling at the expertise and ease with which the extensionists handled an otherwise tedious task, she remarked - "This is a superb job, this lady really knows her work Why don't you provide them with protective clothing and shoes?''
True, the extension workers portray an image of determination and dedication to duty but although the job is quite demanding they have their moments of fulfilment and fun. Their reward is the happy faces of mothers, fully satisfied with a job well done and with the performance of the stoves, and the added advantage of a well laid out and neat kitchen.
The extension workers do have moments of ''extension blues". Take Jane for example. She has a difficult client. She has already rebuilt the stove for Halima twice. Still Halima is not satisfied: She wants Jane to demolish the stove a third time and re-construct it again. Jane is at her wits end! In her desperation she says:
"I will come and demolish the stove and sell it to someone else - since even Halima has not yet paid for it".
Another extensionist chips in:
"That will be very bad for you, this lady is capable of spreading malicious ideas about the project. Take away that liner and she will go round telling others to keep away from the stove project because the officers come back and remove the stove even when they have installed it. It would be very difficult for you to salvage such a situation".
The third extensionist says:
"Demolish the stove and tell her to re-construct it herself, didn't she attend the demonstrations "?
"Call her and tell her just that and listen to what she says" - 'my knees are both swollen, I cannot bend, my child, you just have to assist'."
The third extensionist says:
"Then ask her to pay for the labour''.
"How can she raise money to pay for the labour, when she hasn't even paid for the stove liner".
One extensionist who was still busy talking to the lady in the kitchen comes out and says:
"I will come back on Tuesday next week, and together with Jane, we will demolish the stove and construct it again for this lady to her specific requirementst'.
Now who can beat that ? Any enlightened suggestions?
Still the work continues, the task is not easy. It demands a lot of hard work and patience and the extensionists are determined to see it through to success.
Each edition of Boiling Point now carries a detailed profile of an improved stove being promoted in one or more countries. These profiles are reproduced from ITDG's "Improved Wood, Waste & Charcoal Burning Stoves". If any readers have improved the design or construction of any of these stoves we should like to hear from them and publish details. A free copy of the manual will be sent for any details of improvements published