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Feature: Energy saving stove gives rural women better lifestyle in Kenya

15 August 2016, 13:54

Nakuru  (Xinhua) -- For about a year now, Esther Muraya has enjoyed a better health lifestyle uncommon among women in the rural parts of Kenya thanks to the adoption of an efficient mode of cooking and heating water.

Muraya is a family woman living in the remote Gatongu village in the Rift Valley county of Nakuru. Her daily chores include preparing food, maintaining home hygiene and tending to crops and livestock.

The major problem comes with finding firewood. She has to walk long distances to buy the fuel sourced from nearby forests and carry it home on her back.

Now the combined energy saving double stove and boiler is saving her from a weekly three-day errand of fetching firewood. "These days it's just one day in a fortnight," she said earlier this week.

"My back, head and neck usually hurts because I have to support the firewood with a piece of cloth or rope wrapped on the head. But I can say I am relieved," she said, adding that it can take her more than three hours to travel to and from the firewood's fetching point.

With the energy saving stove, she uses one bundle for a maximum of two weeks saving her from the hustles and pains of looking for the firewood. Currently, a bundle goes for 1 U.S. dollar.

The boiler provides hot water for cleaning the dishes, her school going children's bath in the chilly morning and cooking, she said.

"I use hot water and that cuts the time I spend on the fire and I can rest a bit. That also reduces amount of firewood I use," she said with a distant smile.

"I always heat water for washing dishes in the morning or in the evening. Warm water removes the dirt fast and quick leaving the utensils clean unlike cold water. I am so happy I have the ready water throughout the day."

The unit constitutes of two stoves built onto the floor of her cemented kitchen. They are made from ceramic material which holds the heat and covered in a body of galvanized flat iron sheets.

The boiler is erected on the front side of the stoves with a pipe connected to transfer the heat from burning firewood. There are two taps connected to the boiler: one inside the house and another outside.

It also has a chimney that vents smoke to the outside. The smoke is usually irritating to the eyes and causes difficulty in breathing while cooking, Muraya said.

To her, this is a domestic technology that ought to be adopted in all rural households. She said it could benefit women the most as it would relieve them from undue exhaustion and physical pains.

"My neighbours and other people in this village have come to see it and have expressed interest in having it in their homes. It just feels good having it," she said.

In Kenyan communities, women are main custodians of fuel collectors.

However, environmental changes such as deforestation further aggravates difficulties in searching for firewood among women thus calling for the need to actively involve them in decisions regarding energy, says UN Women.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) denotes the necessity of availing effective and efficient energy solutions and options to households since it is key to achieving the sustainable development goals.

Solutions such as low-cost burning stoves with chimneys to vent smokes to the outside to reduce the indoor pollution.

Use of cheap burning stoves could reduce the indoor pollution by 50 percent in African countries, according to the WHO.

Using effective technologies to carry out their domestic and farming activities enables women to productively engage in building the rural economy, says Dr. Damaris Parsitau, Director of the Institute of Women, Gender and Development Studies at the Egerton University.

"You realize that they (women) take so many hours looking for firewood or fetching water. Worse still end up in the farms even after the long walk. This puts so much pressure on women and they suffer a lot," said Parsitau.

Women need to be assisted to adopt modern technology that could make their work easier, she said.

She added technology was critical to increasing women's productivity and in the long-term result to decreased poverty levels in the households.

- Xinhua


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