You can now cook using fabric bag that saves on fuel
By - Jun 7th 2023
URSULA WANJALA, a graduate in Business Management from Masinde Muliro University is the lady behind the Tupike bag invention. She tells SILAS NYAMWEYA why many Kenyans are embracing her unique bag that cooks food and keeps it hot for over six hours without using fire.
My name is Ursula Wanjala, a graduate of Business Management from Masinde Muliro University of Science & Technology, a wife and a mother of two. I am an eco-entrepreneur on a mission to eradicate household air pollution.
Tell us about Tupike Bag... when and how did you come up with it?
Growing up, my mum had a fireless cooker that she always used to boil maize when cooking githeri. I observed that it helped a lot in saving firewood. That meant that I spent less time looking for firewood. Every time my dad came late, she could store his food in the fireless cooker. The food would still be hot by the time my dad came home. I decided to make something similar but more efficient and portable. That’s how Tupike bag was created. I set up Tupike ventures in 2020. I have been in business for 3 years.
Describe the bag and how it works.
Tupike bag is an insulated portable bag that uses heat retention to cook, and keep it hot for up to five hours and warm for up to 12 hours. To keep the food hot, the food is kept in the bag immediately it is removed from the fire. It can be kept either in a tin or in a cooking pot.
To cook, the food is pre-boiled for several minutes; the pot is tightly covered with a lid and then placed in the bag. The bag is first lined with aluminium foil at the bottom to prevent it from getting burnt. The bag uses the retained heat in the food to cook it until it is ready. Tupike bag can also be used in yoghurt production as an incubator.
Do Kenyans really trust the ability of this bag to cook?
Well, at the beginning I had a hard time convincing people that the bag can cook. I had to demonstrate how it works. But now a lot of people have embraced it and my client base has grown.
What type of food can be cooked using this bag and how long does it take for specific foods?
Tupike bag can be used to cook foods that have been brought to a boil. Foods that can be cooked in the bag include githeri, rice, lentils, meat, potatoes and boiled maize. The time the food takes to cook depends on the meal you are preparing. Githeri is best cooked overnight, rice takes 45 minutes, meat and lentils take two hours and potatoes three hours.
What materials are used to make this bag and how and where is it actually made?
Tupike bag is made of cotton fabric. To insulate the bag, we use cotton fibre and sponge that is readily available. We have a production space in Kitengela where the bags are manufactured.
Who are your target clients?
My target clients are households that are keen on fuel consumption. Tupike bags save 70 per cent of fuel used in homes. I also target families that are into road trips and picnics. I also have clients doing dairy value addition who use the bag for yoghurt incubation.
This kind of creation certainly needs special skills and knowledge, where did you learn?
After seeing how the traditional fireless cooker works and deciding to create something more efficient and portable, I began creating a prototype. I failed several times but in the end I succeeded. I market my product on social media, to my friends and family.
What makes Tupike bags so unique compared to other types of fuels?
Time-saving; while cooking, one may attend to other duties without fearing the food could burn. Tupike bag is climate-smart; it reduces indoor air pollution.
What challenges are you facing in this business?
The biggest challenge is convincing people that a simple bag can cook! Most people only know that it keeps food hot. I have faced social media backlash but it has not stopped me. I have also faced challenges that most startups go through like lack of enough funds for expansion.
What is your greatest achievement so far from this invention?
In rural Kenya, most households use open fires for cooking, exposing families to air pollution and leading to chronic ailments. Women and girls in rural villages face a lot of health risks by spending a lot of time in smoke-filled kitchens cooking. And if we are to tackle the climate crisis, we must drastically reduce our carbon emissions.
Your parting shot?
When I set up Tupike ventures, my aim was to help families save fuel but then I discovered that there is need to address pollution and women empowerment. Every little action counts and goes a long way.