State plans to promote climate-friendly cooking in schools

The Econfire stoves sales manager Kunal Knattaw (Centre), explaining how the stoves save up to 60 per cent of the wood fuel and also cut emissions by 80 per cent making them economical and environmentally friendly. [Munene Kamau, Standard]

With the school feeding programme in limbo, after the government cut funding, there is a fresh push to sustain it through climate-friendly cooking solutions.

Stakeholders are rooting for use of steam technology instead of firewood.

“As part of the innovative financing, the Ministry of Education is developing a comprehensive plan to transition Kenyan schools from using biomass-based cooking methods to climate-smart-friendly steam technology,” said Harun Yussuf, Chief Executive Officer of National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (Naconek).

Yussuf spoke Monday on the sidelines on the 2024 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group.

The new cooking model is in line with climate conservation strategies and will extend to opening a financing avenue for the school feeding programme through an accumulation of carbon credits.

Carbon credits are generated by projects that have avoided or removed greenhouse gas emissions. Each credit represents one less tonne of carbon dioxide, or another greenhouse gas equivalent, (CO2e) in the atmosphere.

The switch to climate-friendly cooking methods for the school feeding programme is projected to raise up to Sh55 billion each year from the carbon credits.

“These installations are poised to generate significant carbon credits, potentially yielding up to Sh55 billion annually to feed 10 million children and these installations will be regarded as a carbon asset,” Yussuf said.

The model could also provide a solution to the underfunding that has plagued the programme over the years.

A 2023 audit by the Office of the Auditor General shows that in the past five years, Sh17.32 billion was needed for the school feeding programme but only Sh7.70 billion was availed.

This means the programme suffered a 56 per cent budget shortfall.

Currently, the school feeding programme is exclusively funded by the government after the exit of the World Food Programme.

Yussuf said the programme seeks to reach 4 million learners by end of 2024, and about 10 million by 2030.

Finer details of the project show that the government plans to construct 183 centralized steam-based kitchens for urban and peri-urban schools with a capacity of 30,000 learners to cater to around 5.5 million learners.

There shall be another 9,020 decentralized steam kitchens with a capacity of between 500 to 3,000 learners in rural areas, particularly in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asals) to cater for 4.5 million learners.

Already, Yussuf revealed that, a model of the steam kitchen has been put up while plans are at an advanced stage to mobilise the funding needed.

“We continue to collaborate with key partners. We have been working closely with the GPE through the World Bank, World Food Programme and The Rockefeller Foundation to mobilise external resources to enable the scale-up of the programme,” he said.

According to the 2023 AG report assessing the school feeding programme, some of the 22 schools assessed lacked proper ventilation, access to clean water, and energy saving jikos.