| Boiling Point No. 26 - December 1991 |
By Kennedy Masakhwe of FOOD, Nairobi, KENYA
The Global Perspective
The traditional cookstoves used in developing countries are inefficient, physically hazardous, unhealthy and inconvenient. Moreover, too much time is spent gathering fuel and is thus diverted from productive development efforts.
Significant technological development has been carried out in the design and improvement of cooking stoves in the past twenty years. This has led to the design of cookstoves which use less fuel, are less smoky, and are safer and more convenient to use.
There are now large numbers of improved cookstove programmes all over the developing world, whose aim is to disseminate improved stoves. For example, in Kenya over half a million improved stoves have been disseminated, while India and China claim approximately three million and sixty million stoves respectively.
The Kenyan Experience
The Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ), is a modification of both the Thai Charcoal Stove (Thai Bucket) and the traditional metal charcoal stove of Kenya. The KCJ uses charcoal as a fuel and so is an urban stove. The KCJ experience offers an excellent example of a successful technology transfer venture which brought together a number of personal id es and institutions in its evolution.
The development of the KCJ deviated from the strategy of the early 1970s, of resorting to external researchers to undertake the research and development. Whereas the 1970s strategy generated a wide variety of designs which recorded high efficiencies, the majority of the models failed to attain wide-scale dissemination. The reasons cited ranged from over-complicated designs to problems connected with the introduction of new materials and/or production techniques.
In the development of the KCJ, there was a strong push for maximum use of local researchers and institutions. Thus, Maxwell Kinyanjui, a local researcher credited with some of the more innovative design changes on the KCJ was brought on board as chief stove consultant on the development and marketing of the KCJ. Similarly, with support provided by a number of donor agencies, notably the USAID, through the KREDP (Ministry of Energy, Kenya), KENGO co-ordinated the development of the KCJ at institutional level.
This provided a communication forum whereby the technical research and development, being undertaken by the Appropriate Technology Centre of Kenyatta University and the ITDG, reached the informal sector artisans.
While local researchers may not have the most appropriate qualifications at the start of an improved cookstoves project, they provide a long term and reliable source of technical expertise.
The KCJ experience illustrates the need for the technology transfer process to adapt a product to suit the users requirement. The Thai bucket did not meet the Kenyan user needs because most Kenyan cooking practices involve a lot of stirring and the Thai Bucket with its small circular base was unstable.
With the above consideration in mind, the pioneer model of the KCJ, known as the improved charcoal stove, was developed by KREDP. It had a cylindrical metal outer case, with a conical lining made from fired clay. The intermediate layer consisted of vermiculite.
A needs assessment and follow-up surveys were carried out by KENGO in the early eighties to compare the performance of the pioneer model with that of the traditional charcoal metal stove, with the emphasis on efficiency and durability. Survey findings indicated, amongst other factors, that it was difficult to light and most of the pioneer models suffered from cracks end breakages of the pottery liner after two months of usage.
Cracks and break ages emanated from mishandling of the stove by users. For instance, the charcoal fire was put out by pouring water on it, which subjected the liner to severe thermal stresses. To alleviate this problem, the pioneer model was modified to the bell bottom shape, which resulted in the now famous KCJ.
The bell-bottom shape had several advantages. First, it reduced the breakages of the ceramic liner, since any downward pressure on the liner helped to hold the liner firmly. Secondly, the half liner eliminated the problem of a weak joint between the ceramic grate and the rest of the liner and reduced production costs. Thirdly it facilitated combustion because a large amount of air was available in the lower half of the bell-bottom stove. Lastly, the bell bottom shape improved the stability of the stove, relative to the Thai Bucket.
The KCJ is still undergoing product modification. Of late, a new design of the KCJ, which closely resembles the Thai Bucket though retaining the half-liner feature of the bell-bottom model, has appeared on the Kenyan market. This design (see Fig 5) might be of interest to pursue in preference to the bell-bottom type, since its shape reduces both the amount of sheet metal used and the production time.
In 1983, KREDP reviewed the production and marketing of improved stoves in Kenya. It was found that supply was not meeting demand. This imbalance, though exploited by the retailers in selling the KCJ at very high prices, with profit margins ranging from 100% to 300%, was a blessing in disguise for wide-scale dissemination of the stove. More entrepreneurs were attracted into pro auction and market forces brought down the price of the stove to within most consumers reach. It was estimated that between 125,000 and 140,000 KCJs were sold in 1988.
One crucial government input to the development of the KCJ was its recognition of the importance of the artisans involved in the production of the stoves. This was manifested by the construction, by the government, of working sheds for the artisans of Shauri Moyo (a district of Nandy), the heartland of the cookstove industry in Kenya since the 1930s.
Several organisations are involved in the training of artisans on how to make the KCJ. Large institutions like KENGO offer, free of charge, formal training courses every year. On completion of the course, the trainees are normally given a certificate and some tools. On the other hand, we also have the informal sector, apprentices, inservice courses. In this instance, the trainee is exposed to real market conditions and pays some of the money to meet the cost of materials used. Usually, the training period lasts for about six months.
The tools required to make the steel case are not very expensive, and in some cases they can be improvised. Basically, the following tools are required: ball-pein hammer, try square; tape measure; pair of compasses; tin snips; and an anvil or an old piece of rail.
Production of the KCJ involves the following three tasks, making the ceramic liner fabrication of the metal cladding and assembly. Of the aforementioned three tasks, only the last two are best suited to artisanal production. Making ceramic liners of acceptable quality requires more equipment - a potter's wheel and a kiln. Three categories of producers are involved. They are the mechanised, semi-mechanised and artisanal. Artisans have had problems in producing liners of consistent quality and so it is the mechanised producers who dominate liner manufacture.
Though developed in Kenya, the KCJ has also been successfully disseminated by the Regional Wood Energy Programme for Africa / KENGO to Sudan and Uganda. In Sudan, it is know as the Canun-EI-Surour, while in Uganda, as the Sigiri.
The use of the decentralized informal sector artisans, for production and distribution, coupled with extensive field tests, was the major factor that ensured the success of the KCJ project.
Broader lessons that can be learnt from the KCJ experience and used in dissemination of appropriate technology in general, are (Hymen, 1985): the design work accepted the traditional established technology as a starting point which ensured subsequent wide-scale acceptance; and product modifications were made after examining the experience in other developing countries. In addition, the Kenyan experience demonstrates the advantages of artisan-built rather than user-built stove.