Cookswell Jikos

21-11-2013
As well as developing low-cost and fuel-efficient charcoal cookstoves, Cookswell recognizes the severity of the rapidly decreasing forest cover in Kenya. Therefore, a significant part of their business efforts are put towards tree planting, tree education, and sustainable charcoal making in pursuit of a 'seed-to-ash cycle' philosophy. Over the past 12 years Cookswell has maintained a strong partnership with the Woodlands 2000 Trust which is dedicated to promoting best practices to create, implement, and support tree planting initiatives in Kenya.
Knowledge buildingCommunity participation and inclusivenessPolitical ownership, collaboration and approvalFinancial sustainabilityBuilding local capacityTransferableMonitoring and evaluation

Charcoal stoves, or “Jikos” (as they are known in Kiswahili), are an essential part of Kenyan cooking, from beans to chicken masala and from roasted maize to all kinds of roasted meat. In 1982, Dr. Maxwell Miringu Kinyanjui,  made the initial prototype of the “Kenya Ceramic Jiko” and over time invented other energy efficient jiko designs including ovens and barbeques. For example, the Cookswell Charcoal Oven eliminates dependence on electricity or gas for all household cooking needs. This can translate into reducing energy bills by up to 70% through switching to charcoal. Given the high demand and use of Jikos, switching to an efficiently designed Jiko saves time, money and forests.

In 2007, Dr. Kinyanjui’s son, Teddy Kinyanjui, perfected the design for the Charcoal Drum Kiln. This kiln provides users with a simple, sustainable way to make charcoal without cutting down trees. Promoting the use of this kiln completes the Cookswell philosophy as illustrated by the “Seed-to-Ash Cycle”. The Seed to Ash Cycle shows how trees and biomass can be managed responsibly to ensure the protection of Kenya's forests. Indeed, the correct management and utilization of trees is the key to promoting an environmentally friendly energy solution for East Africa. It is easy to participate in the seed-to-ash cycle by planting trees, using wood without cutting the whole tree down, and using energy-saving stoves.

1. Knowledge building
Cookswell Jikos is unique in that its daily business operations provide many opportunities for collaborating with community members, organizations and other businesses involved in the green energy sector. For example, the Cookswell team regularly provides demonstrations and training for products at a variety of venues including horticultural society meetings, farmer’s markets, international trade shows, and student gatherings. The Cookswell Jikos team actively participates in academic forums and to share its latest findings, access and discuss new information provided by others. For example, the Cookswell team recently began successfully experimenting with (a) reducing the amount of emissions from charcoal production in the Cookswell drum kilns, and (b) condensing and recovering as much of the smoke into a usable product for home/farm use (known as Stockholm or wood tar). According to the FAO, wood tar serves as a useful vetinary antiseptic and wood preservative. Regular updates on the process of capturing this wood tar have been shared with colleagues in the renewable energy sector for feedback and collaboration.
2. Community participation and inclusiveness
The Cookswell approach is to incorporate customer and user feedback into product design improvements as much as possible. The team actively solicits customers’ experiences with using the stoves, ovens, kilns, and planting trees. When customers find unique applications for Cookswell products, the team works to stay engaged and provide support where needed for these applications. For example, customers have started to use the Cookswell drum kilns to make large batches of alternative biomass charcoal (maize cob and coconut) for domestic use. Cookswell remains involved in providing feedback and assistance during these processes. Successful mobilization of local interest has been generated through staging demonstrations of Cookswell products at events such as farmer’s markets and trade shows.
3. Political ownership, collaboration and approval
The Cookswell Team actively participates in forums to provide policy input in the biomass stove sector. For example, Cookswell is an active contributor to the Energy Regulatory Committee and the Kenya Bureau of Standards in an effort to develop nationwide regulations for improved stoves in Kenya. In addition, Cookswell works closely with the Woodlands 2000 Trust to provide regular information and feedback to the Kenya Forest Service about ongoing progress with demonstration woodlots and tree planting activities.
4. Financial sustainability
Cookswell Jikos is a for-profit entity generating profits from product sales and consulting services. A portion of the profits is allocated towards covering the costs of providing two hundred free tree seeds to each customer with every oven and charcoal drum kiln purchase. Going forward, Cookswell will continue to build its customer base and strategically manage funds to ensure strong continuation of tree planting activities, expansion of wood energy technologies, and sustaining the growth of the company. Cookswell is proud to be 100% Kenyan owned and operated with a hard working team making quality, self-sustaining products. With a loyal and expanding customer base, Cookswell looks forward to expanding its agroforestry and stove activities.
5. Achieving co-benefits and balancing trade-off
Not applicable
6. Building local capacity
Cookswell Jikos is based on a model that places great value on incorporating outside ideas, innovations and the wealth of local capacity in Kenya. The following examples demonstrate how outside participation is valued and incorporated: (i) Cookswell provides linkages between new and experienced product users to facilitate knowledge and experience sharing; (ii) The team’s approach is to respond to training requests and needs both through the provision of comprehensive user instructions for all products, and hands on demonstrations of all the uses of the products.
7. Transferable
Currently, Cookswell Jikos focuses on serving the East African market. While partnerships are underway to export products beyond East Africa, manufacturing is centred in Kenya. The business model is one that can be replicated anywhere where materials and labour exist to manufacture the products, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa.
8. Monitoring and evaluation
In addition to standard business practices for measuring revenue, profit and loss, etc., Cookswell Jikos maintains strong communication with its customer base to ensure that products are being used successfully and are providing the intended benefits. Team meetings and discussions with stakeholders (e.g. partners implementing tree planting projects) ensure that evaluation of overall business objectives and goals is undertaken on a monthly basis to assess progress made towards meeting milestones. The Cookswell team also works closely with the Woodlands 2000 Trust to monitor progress and impact regarding the relationship between charcoal production and forest management.

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Submitted byTeddy Kinyanjui

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Topics

Energy
Afforestation, Reforestation and restoration

Keywords

Cookstoves
Climate change adaptation and mitigation
Tree planting

Country

Kenya