I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in Kenya, as part of Project STOKE the team that won the Change Tank event sponsored by Long View in Calgary a few months ago. Since the Change Tank event challenged people to change the world, much work has been done to try and positively impact the billion people that live in extreme poverty across the world.
The winning idea was around a clean cook stove designed by Dr. Paul Anderson from Illinois. According to the United Nations, 4.3 million people die each year due to smoke related illnesses. This staggering statistic affects primarily women and children in the developing world, who are often the ones cooking. The stove helps to address the environmental issue of deforestation by requiring less wood to cook/heat, and produces charcoal that can be used again for cooking/heating. The charcoal (bio-char) can also be collected for carbon tax credits, and it can be sold to farmers who can add it to their fertilizer to increase crop yields. The stove also emits far less smoke than the traditional stoves, therefore addresses the associated health issues of traditional stoves.
We visited 6 communities in rural Kenya, to demonstrate and present the stoves, and it was very well received. I realized with the community positive feedback, that this idea could have a lot of impact.
Another benefit is the ability to create jobs in Kenya. We are training tinsmiths on how to make the stoves, and have hired sales people to reach out to the communities, and have a couple of more people on the ground helping to build the business. Jobs are the thread to – clean water, medical care, housing, education, and dignity.
We launched the project in the village of Nyabiosi, approximately 6 hours west of Nairobi. It was not until I met a lady (Demeris) in the village of Nyabiosi cooking on an open fire, that I truly realized the powerful impact this stove could make for the poor. I could barely stay in the house for 5 minutes while Demeris cooked because of huge amount of smoke billowing out from her 3 stone traditional stove. Demeris cooked for her family, as well for her restaurant business, which typically meant 6 hours a day to help support her family. In getting to know Demeris I was amazed by her positive attitude and willingness to show us around.This story is a microcosm of what the poor endure in the developing world – a life of immeasurable struggles. This is what makes this project so meaningful to the team. Once we started to produce stoves, it was fitting for Demeris to be the first recipient of a high efficiency clean cook stove on behalf of Long Viewand Project STOKE.
This project is not without immense challenges; however it is people like Demeris that motivate us to continue to make a difference. On behalf of Project STOKE, a massive thank you to all involved with the Change Tank event, and to Don Bialik for challenging people to change the world. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.