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The ‘jikos’ that turned me into a hot commodity

By Olivia Murithi | April 3rd 2019
By Olivia Murithi | April 3rd 2019

In a campaign to prevent harmful emissions leading to deaths, a designer has come up with an innovative product that reduces the negative impact of solid fuels.

Stephen Kaimenyi, the lead designer and a mason at Popular Choice International, says his energy-saving jiko has helped prevent the unsustainable use of wood fuel.

The company, registered 10 years ago and based in Nkubu, Meru County, sends its masons and designers all over the country to construct and install energy-saving cookers.

Stephen says he makes about Sh225,000 every month from this jiko business. While he took a masonry and designing course at Kisii Polytechnic, he says the artisans he works with are self-taught. 

“For six years, we’ve been constructing and installing energy-conserving jikos that consume little fuel but expend a lot of heat for long periods,” he says.

“This jiko consumes in a week the amount of firewood or charcoal that traditional jikos use in a day.”

Better than gas

Popular Choice has 14 different cooker designs, and sells an average of 35 units a day.

“The cookers concentrate 95 per cent of their heat on the pot, which means they cook food faster than regular gas cookers,” Stephen says.

To instal his jikos in homes without a chimney, he charges Sh15,000, and Sh5,000 in homes that have one. These charges, Stephen explains, are a result of the fact that he sources the materials from Ukambani, and has few experienced artisans.

“There are fewer than 40 artisans in Kenya who can install these jikos, and the high demand is overwhelming us,” he says.

His product comes with a 10-year warranty from the date of installation.

His customers include institutions across the country, as well as influential politicians.

“Our product maintains heat for up to two hours after the fire has been put out because we use bricks from Ukambani to make these jikos.”

Douglas Kiruja, an electrical engineer, told Hustle he’s installed the jiko in his home and was spending less money on fuel as a result.

“In my house, we light the jiko for 10 minutes, turn it off and then cook with the residual heat from the bricks. I was initially surprised that it could cook faster than a gas cooker even without a flame,” he says.

Charles Kiunga, who runs a nyama choma joint, says the jikos are one of his best investments.

“I installed the jikos in my restaurant in 2014 to roast meat. People flock my joint for the unique-tasting meat, which is very succulent. The cookers have also helped me increase my profits as I spend less money on fuel.”  

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