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Improved cookstoves bring health, environmental and economic benefits to coastal counties of Kenya


Dependence on polluting and harmful fossil fuels for cooking is particularly acute in the coastal counties of Kenya, where firewood and charcoal comprises more than 80% of cooking fuels in the region. The recently begun Promotion of Climate-Friendly Cooking in the Coastal Region of Kenya project is set to accelerate the growth of the improved cookstove (ICS) sub-sector in these remote rural counties, by strengthening local cookstove businesses and thereby improving the availability and affordability of modern cooking appliances that markedly reduce the amount of fuel needed. The project aims to effect an irreversible market transformation that will significantly increase ICS production and sales with the ultimate aim of helping to mitigate climate change and the environmental degradation caused by heavy reliance on biomass for cooking. 

Co-funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Energy (MoE), this project builds upon the success achieved by the multi-donor energy access partnership Energising Development (EnDev) to extend access to efficient low-cost cooking technologies to currently unserved/underserved areas of Kenya. Energy 4 Impact will implement the project alongside other partners namely the Minsitry of Energy (MoE), GIZ, Practical Action, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT), Strathmore University, Greenbelt Movement and Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) – Foundation.  The project, which will be implemented until 2024 is designed to grow the ICS market in both current and expansion focal counties identified under EnDev. 

Energy 4 Impact sub-project activities will be implemented in the “coastal cluster” that comprises of the four counties namely Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, and Taita Taveta. These counties have a combined population of nearly four million people. The general poverty levels in these counties is exacerbated by their current cooking practices: open fires that require the time-consuming labour of collecting firewood and inefficient traditional cookstoves necessitate the expense of buying large amounts of charcoal. Such methods also cause smoke-related respiratory illnesses which in turn compound household poverty. Moreover, the environmental cost of this voracious dependence on firewood and charcoal is also stark: as well as producing high volumes of greenhouse gases, it decimates forest areas and thereby accelerates the desertification process that destroys previously fertile land.  

Safer and more efficient ICS also offer a pragmatic solution to the problem of emissions: over the course of this three-year project, it is estimated that ICS will save over 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. However, the ICS sector in these counties is extremely underdeveloped. Energy 4 Impact not only has a strong presence in the area through working on other projects targeting low-income customers, it is also familiar with the unique challenges and opportunities of the cooking landscape in the region: on the one hand, there are no operational ICS production centres and poor households have a limited ability to pay for appliances, but on the other hand, this leaves the path wide open for mobilizing the comprehensive market transformation intended by this project. 

The project will develop and strengthen the ICS market in this remote rural region in a number of pivotal ways. It will support 60 ICS producers with technical assistance to improve their production processes and the quality of their ICS through mechanization in order to create a most competitive product. It will also assist 200 ICS retailers to expand their businesses into this new market by facilitating linkages to ICS producers, wholesalers, market traders, last mile entrepreneurs, women groups, NGOs and other institutional buyers. ICS producers also need to invest in more efficient materials that will improve the efficiency of the stoves so the project will facilitate their access to market-based finance by creating linkages with finance institutions whom the project will in turn sensitize to investment opportunities in the ICS sector. It will also support the businesses become investment-ready through training in financial literacy and management with a specific focus on boosting women entrepreneurs. Penetrating new markets is always a risk for business, which the project will also help to overcome by offsetting some upfront marketing costs, ensuring post-sales service is put in place and raising awareness amongst consumers. 

The large-scale consumer education campaign will focus on the benefits of ICS for household expenses, health and the environment, particularly in comparison with traditional cooking practices. It will also emphasize that these products are affordable, safe and easy to use.

The ultimate beneficiaries of this project are vulnerable households in the coastal counties who will be able to acquire safer and more cost-effective cooking methods. The growth of the ICS sector will in turn create a wave of positive growth across local economies, particularly in terms of providing job opportunities across the value-chain, in roles such as sales and delivery.