| Boiling Point No. 08 - December 1985 |
By Nicolette Burford
The introduction of improved stoves into the Kenyan village of Gaitara in January 1985 is most remarkable for the amount of interest it has raised amongst the women. So far only about 25 families out of the hundreds in the area have a new stove - but these stoves have had an important demonstration effect and women have become very interested in improving traditional open fire cooking methods.
Both of the stoves have been developed by the Bellerive Foundation and built at the Rirui stove workshop. The smaller of the new stoves is known as the Kanini Kega. This is considered best suited to the way women cook in the village. The women laugh when the stove is mentioned as in the Kikuyu language kanini kega means 'small and beautiful'. The stove is built around the concept of the three-stone open hearth and although it has only one pot hole, it can fit the many sizes of pots used in the village.
The other type of stove introduced in the village is known as the 'PogLi'. The efficiency of both the Kanini Kega and the Pogbi depends to a great extent on how they are used. Women have to learn to use dry wood in smaller quantities than they are accustomed to. Dry wood hums more efficiently and produces less smoke than wet wood.
Many of the village women buy only a week's supply of wood at a time because it is all they can afford. Buying wood piece-meal in this way makes the use of dry wood particularly difficult during the wet season.
The Pogbi has an iron surface and unlike the Kanini Kega, it has a chimney. Only pots of a specific size will fit its two pot holes. As it is relatively expensive it is most popular among village teachers and the wives of local businessmen.
But in these more affluent households the women often use charcoal which is easier to buy than large quantities of wood and more hygienic because it does not make so much smoke. Using charcoal has become a status symbol in the village.
The problem with the Pogbi is that some women have bought it as a luxury whilst not intending to dispense with charcoal. The unutilised Pogbi then sits in the kitchen and serves only as an additional status symbol. It is hoped that women will, in such cases, re-evaluate their priorities.
The Kanini Kega requires very little maintenance. Occasionally cracks in the stove's clay will need filling. The Pogbi on the other hand, because it has a chimney, requires a lot more maintenance. The chimney needs to be cleaned at least once every six months. If it is not cleaned regularly the stoves' efficiency will be reduced. There would also be the danger of chimney fires.
Birds like to nest in Pogbi chimneys. The most attractive feature of Pogbi chimney nests is under-nest heating. There's such a long waiting list for Poghi chimney nesting. The lucky birds with Pogbi nests are released from having to incubate their eggs and have more time to sport and rest.
Up until now the new stoves have been supplied and transported to the Gatara village from the Bellerive stove making retraining centre at Rirui. The next step is to get the stoves made locally. The training centre is about 35 miles from the village. The high cost of petrol makes the transportation of the stoves economically unviable. The rising interest in the stoves now warrants two or three youngsters from the village being sent to the Rirui workshop for training, to become self-employed stove makers.