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The efficient cookstoves saving trees and chicken

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Reuters | August 30th 2016
Rosemary Maina sits by one of the cookstoves made by the Tree is Life Trust at her home in Nyahururu. [PHOTO: JAMES MUNYEKI/STANDARD]

Farmers in Laikipia County have found a way to reduce their use of wood fuel, while raising more chickens for cash.

The solution has come in an efficient ceramic cooking stove that doubles as a chick-brooding box.

The locally built stove, used for cooking and home heating in the cool region, contains a separate warming area where chicks can be kept healthy and safe, farmers say.

The innovation has helped reduce demand for wood in a country hard-hit by deforestation while keeping more chickens alive and raising incomes.

“I refer to [the stove] as my support in cutting my expenses and a boost to rearing my chicks,” said Duncan Ndegwa, who started using the stove four years ago in Gichangi village, Nyahururu sub-county.

He now earns enough from selling chickens to pay school fees for his three children.

He said the stove, introduced by the Tree is Life Trust, a local NGO, has helped him cut his use of wood for cooking and heating by two-thirds, saving him about Sh600 a week in fuel costs.

The ceramic stove brooder, which is 1.2 metres long and 0.6 metres wide, can remain warm for 12 hours after being stocked with wood, and holds a maximum of 70 chicks.

MORE CASH

The stove has helped cut deforestation in a country where an estimated 93 per cent of Kenyans still use fuels such as charcoal, firewood or paraffin for cooking, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Kenya is currently trying to boost its forest cover from 6.9 per cent of land area to 10 per cent, to protect its water supply and biodiversity, and to limit climate change.

“Using the stove improves peoples’ livelihoods while reducing degradation of the environment,” said Thomas Gichuru, the executive director of Tree is Life Trust, which is based in Nyahururu.

The stove won a Green Innovation Award from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in 2014. The prize recognises an innovation that contributes to curbing climate change or helping people adapt to it.

The stove was developed by the trust and originally piloted in Ng’arua village in Laikipia West sub-county.

The efficient ceramic stove – about 1,800 of which are in use in Laikipia and Nyandarua counties – has helped Mr Ndegwa boost his chick survival rate from less than 30 per cent to nearly 100 per cent since he installed it, he said.

“Recently I sold all the 40 chicks I had in the brooder to pay fees for my son, who had just joined high school. None of the [chicks] died,” he said.

“I could get three to eight out of 30 hatched chicks to survive when I raised them free range because many died from cold-related complications and others were eaten by predators. And the surviving chicks took six months to attain a marketable weight. But I have managed to sell in two months those I have raised with the stove.”

Laikipia County lies on the equator but has a cool climate. Temperatures can drop to 80 Celsius, which can kill chicks or slow their growth.

LAYING EGGS

With the stove, a farmer can separate chicks from the hen immediately after hatching and keep them in the brooder. This helps the hen start laying eggs again after three or five days, Mr Gichuru said.

Normally farmers let the hen raise the chicks until they are old enough to fend for themselves, which can keep the hen from laying again for several months.

The stoves cost less than Sh2,000 to instal as they are made from locally available materials, Gichuru said.

For farmer Joseph Mwangi, who carries his chickens to market in Laikipia West on a motorcycle, the stove has turned around his once-faltering business since he installed it two years ago.

“I have tried to raise poultry for more than 20 years, but often the chicks died from cold,” said the farmer from Moroto village.

“I almost gave up but I am happy I have been able to successfully raise an average of 50 chicks with this stove.”

Each small tree he cuts for firewood now lasts a week rather than three days, he added.

Absalom Ragira, an environmental specialist with Tree is Life, said the use of the ceramic stove supports the Government’s efforts to expand forests, reduce poverty and promote well-being.

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