Keneth Ndua is a 42-year-old Kenyan entrepreneur on a mission to save lives.
Ndua invented a cooking stove that burns wood and coal efficiently and boils water while its cooks — critical in parts of the country where clean water is scarce.
Ndua and his sister Jane Muthoni, a 44-year-old former small-scale farmer, build the stoves in Mitahato, the village in central Kenya where they were born, and distribute them to rural communities throughout the country through a social enterprise they founded called Stamp Stoves.
They are part of a international movement to reduce the massive harm caused by open-fire cooking. Several companies in Kenya are working to develop clean cookstoves, including the U.S. and Kenya-based BURN manufacturing whose founder, Peter Scott, won international acclaim for clean cookstove design. (“Clean” cookstoves are those that meet emissions and efficiency standards set by the International Organization for Standardization.)
An estimated 3 billion people — half the world’s population — cook on open fires or using basic stoves with fuels such as wood, coal and dung. In Kenya, around 75 percent of the population relies on wood and charcoal for cooking.
Yet open-fire cooking is incredibly dangerous. Diseases caused by smoke inhalation from open-fire cooking kill more people worldwide than HIV and malaria combined, according to theWorld Health Organization.
There’s also a danger to the planet. The huge demand for wood and charcoal has made logging a lucrative business in Kenya, with dire consequences. The United Nationsestimates that the harms caused by deforestation in Kenya — including reduced water flows, soil-damaging erosion and increases in malaria infections — cost the national economy $68 million in 2010.
Ndua and Muthoni’s stoves reduce deadly fumes and help preserve Kenya’s natural resources. Their business, Stamp Stoves, is part of the international network Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves — a public-private initiative launched in 2010 by then- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and led by the United Nations Foundation. They aim for 100 million households to start using clean cookstoves by the year 2020.
Like other clean cookstoves initiatives, Stamp Stoves faces the challenge of getting people to change the habits of a lifetime. They are working to get feedback from local communities to make sure people actually want to use the stoves, highlighting practical ways they can reduce the cost of cooking and increase time efficiency. They also point out that women and girls, who are often tasked with collecting firewood, will have more time to pursue an education or job if they use clean cookstoves, all while preserving natural resources and keeping their families safe.