Kenya: Lydia Kimani, stove installer
Like many of her compatriots from rural Kenya, Lydia Kimani uses firewood for her cooking stove. But since firewood is an expensive and dwindling resource, she favours the new low-smoke, fuel-efficient stoves that burn only half as much wood as the old design. And she is trying to win other households over to the cause. Commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is making the energy efficient stoves available to seven million Kenyans.
What made you start working for the stoves? How did this influence your life?
Until 2009, I was an ordinary farmer, just struggling to feed my family. Since I belonged to a women’s group, GIZ approached me and introduced me to the business of promoting the stoves. The organisation trained me in constructing and installing the stoves and in teaching others how to do this, too. My new work earned me the respect of the community, put food on the table, helped me pay for the children's schooling, and made my husband happy.
A happy husband because of the new stove? How can that be?
The kitchen used to be full of smoke whenever I cooked. Open kitchen fires are really harmful. Now my kitchen is a much cozier place to be, and this brings the family closer together.
In what ways are the stoves a business opportunity?
There are market structures and job opportunities for the production, sale and installation of the stoves. I have taught several youth groups how to make the stoves so they can earn some income. I’m the best example myself: from the money I earned from my work with the stoves, I started my own small business baking for local shops and a nearby school.
Are you a role model for other women?
Yes, women are inspired by what I do. Some think they cannot market the stoves, and they shy away from trying. I show them that Kenyan women can be both good housewives and good entrepreneurs. I would like to see more women join me and get involved in this business. It's been my experience that women are often the better multipliers and do more with their earnings than men.
What do you want to change in Kenya?
Our high consumption of firewood is threatening our forests. I hope nature will begin to recover when more households install the better stoves that burn less wood. It’s worth investing in them: within a few months or at most a year you make back the money and time saved that you would have spent on firewood.
A 'JikoKisasa ' model stove installed and in operation. Photos: George Ndagu
Lydia Kimani explains to another woman how best to use her stove – how to light, stoke and maintain it.
The improved stoves have clear advantages: with them, there is money to be saved and to be earned. They help maintain the family's health and protect the environment.
Kimani also tries to convince young men of the value of the stoves and to win them over to the business of selling and installing them.
Stove builder Patrick Kinyajui puts the final touches on a stove.
Advisory services about the stoves include counselling on healthy food. Households receive assistance in planting kitchen gardens.
An enthusiastic cook, Kimani not only cooks and bakes for her family but also takes outside orders. Her energy-efficient stove saves her time and money.
The environment is dear to Lydia Kimani's heart. By selling the improved stoves she helps slow the deforestation of Kenyan forests for firewood.