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close this book Boiling Point No. 17 - December 1988
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View the document Stove profiles - Magan Chula
View the document Subsidies: Why, Who, When, Where, How ?
View the document Supply of Metal for Jikos (Stoves) in Kenya
View the document New Stoves In Zimbabwe
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Supply of Metal for Jikos (Stoves) in Kenya

By Dominic Walubengo of KENGO

Introduction and Background

Metal, charcoal burning stoves have been a feature of Kenyan kitchens ever since their introduction into the country by Indian railway builders in the later part of the 19th century. These stoves spread from the coast town of Mombasa into the hinterland at a rapid pace. There were several reasons for this.

The metal stoves were considered to be superior to the traditional open fires: and they used a new fuel: charcoal. They were quickly accepted by the well off and influential members of several communities and this led to their general popularity. The metal stove was easy to fabricate and there was plenty of scrap metal for this purpose. Further, many more people learned to make the charcoal that would be used in the stoves. The success and widespread acceptance of the charcoal stove can therefore be attributed to two main reasons. It was a new innovation and it generated an income for those involved in making it or producing fuel for it.

The use of charcoal as a fuel had several advantages: it did not generate much smoke and it produced intense heat. The charcoal could also be stored easily and it could be delivered by a supplier as opposed to wood which had to be collected from the woodlands.

In Kenya, while the charcoal stove has remained an urban phenomenon, many people in the rural areas use it. Thus it is estimated that by 1985 there were about 380,000 charcoal stoves in use in the urban areas and 195,000 in the rural areas. Further, it is projected that by 1990, there will be a total of 680,000 charcoal stoves in use in the whole country.



As the usage of these metal stoves has increased, so has the amount of metal needed to manufacture the stoves. Most of these stoves are replaced every 6 to 8 months. And to be sure, there is a thriving domestic charcoal stoves industry in Kenya. It is estimated that at least 200,000 charcoal stoves are bought every year.

The stoves industry consumes large amounts of metal, most of it scrap. And this metal is not always available. The situation has been further complicated by the introduction of improved stoves. The improved charcoal stove (the Kenya Ceramic Jiko) uses 25% more metal than the traditional stove. Thus assuming that every improved stove sold displaces a traditional metal stove, there will be an increase in the demand for metal. It is estimated that improved stoves are being made at the rate of 7,000 units per month (Kengo wood energy programme, 1988).

The Domestic Stove Industry

The stove industry in Kenya is in the artisanal based informal sector. Stove makers are usually found in open air workshops in most towns. Nairobi, has at least 10 of these workshops; the biggest one housing close to 200 artisans and the smaller ones having less than 10 artisans each. The artisans also manufacture various items like watering cans, pails, metal boxes, water storage tanks, cooking pots, water troughs and kerosene lamps. All these items depend on metal being available.

The stove workshops in Nairobi supply traditional stoves to the city and its environs. However, when it comes to improved stoves, these workshops supply not only Nairobi, but also most of the other towns. This is because improved manufacturing has not spread widely outside Nairobi.

Source of Metal

The metal that is used in the informal sector workshops is to a large extent scrap. Kenya is lucky in that there exists a relatively large manufacturing industry. It is this industry that provides the scrap metal that feeds the informal sector. The scrap that ends up in the informal sector workshops includes old car bodies, oil and bitumen drums, scraped galvanised iron sheets, old steel rods from the construction industry and old rails from the Kenya Railways. The quantity and quality of the scrap varies from town to town depending on the type of industry present or who obtain the drums and other scrap from the industries. Then there are the people who cut up and straighten the scrap; then next come the sellers and transporters. In all these towns, straightened-oil drums are the most commonly available raw material. The scrap metal industry has established its own network of specialists. There are those who obtain the drums and other scrap from the industries.



Straightened drums cost between Kshs 80 and 120 in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Thika and between Kshs 100 and 140 in the other towns. Drum tops cost between Kshs 6.00 and 25.00 again depending on location, the cost of the drums also varies with the gauge of the metal. Thus the lighter gauge drums (usually bitumen or tar containers) will be cheaper than the heavier gauge lubricating oil drums. Different gauges find different uses. Thus the heavier material is used in manufacturing cooking pots and traditional metal stoves. The lighter metal goes into the manufacture of improved stoves and watering cans. A 210 litre drum produces up to 8 KCJs and 12 traditional metal stoves (11 inches diameter).

The informal sector faces two major difficulties, the lack of capital and lack of accounting skills. Because the artisans lack financial resources, they do not buy raw materials in bulk and so they do not enjoy any discounts. They are also unable to buy essential tools like metal cutters and benders. To be sure, if they had enough capital, they would not necessarily stay in the same business. The other constraint: not having accounting skills means that they are not able to work out the optimum purchases or even their profit margins.

In recent years, the Government has recognised the importance of the informal sector workshops, commonly known as "Jua Kali" (hot sun, ie open air). In Nairobi the Government has constructed three large sheds to protect the artisans from the rain and the sun. However, the Government's suggestion that commercial banks provide loans to the informal sector has not met with any success. The situation is quite interesting: the artisans do not want loans and the banks will not give them the loans. The informal sector is by definition free from loans, records and even taxes. The last thing they would like is to be tied down to a loan.

The Future

The demand for scrap metal in Kenya will continue to rise. There are several reasons for this.

The campaign to get people to use improved stoves is still in motion and this can only result in more metal being used. Several organisations, notably Maendeleo ya Wanawake (Women's Progress) are introducing portable, metal/ceramic stoves into the rural areas. If enough households take on these stoves, the demand for metal will go up. The future of the supply of metal to the informal sector in Kenya cannot be described as bright. The artisans rely too much on industries which are themselves not stable or continuous. For example, the supply of bitumen containers depends on there being some road construction in the vicinity of the informal sector workshops.

Another major reason for the likelihood of a shortage of scrap metal occuring is the fact that many grades of lubricating oil are now being supplied in plastic containers. If this trend continues to increase then the whole stoves industry may be jeopardised. Already the stoves industry cannot claim to have adequate raw materials. The industry has to compete for metal drums with other uses: for example beer brewing and water storage.

The informal sector cannot hope to purchase and use new sheet metal. This is too expensive. A 24s gauge mild steel sheet measuring 8 feet by 4 feet costs between Kshs 230.00 and Kshs 500.00 depending on how far one is from Nairobi where the steel rolling mills are located. Neither can the artisans hope to get involved in the manufacture of institutional stoves. These are made out of new sheet metal. And some of it, in the case of stainless steel, is imported. Because of the above reasons, the price of scrap metal is likely to increase. Over the past few years the price has increased as shown in the table below (prices quoted are for Nairobi only).

Price of Straightened Drum Sheets