The environment in Kalacha has changed over the years. Vegetation cover has been reducing gradually and currently, the land almost stands bare. Community living here on the other hand has grown in number and needs. There are more families and livestock in Kalacha, who wholly depend on this depleted environment for food, water, firewood, materials to make their houses and other basic needs. The result is that pastoralists and livestock have to move long distances for pasture; while women have to walk far in search of firewood.
Such is the case of Qaqe Ali, who has used a three-stone fire to cook since she got married 32 years ago. Qaqe walks about 36km from Kalacha to El Wato and back to fetch a bundle of firewood; which, about two months ago, she would use for 2-3 days. The walk took about 10 hours from about 6am to 4pm in hot weather. Qaqe says ‘I am very exhausted after one trip and with the frequent trips, would be sick in bed with backache for two to three days. “It is not easy carrying a load of firewood for such a long distance.” With frequent trips to fetch firewood, she had little time to engage in other activities such as looking after her goats and watering tree seedlings. In addition, she is allergic to smoke, which made her eyes sick and caused her to sneeze endlessly. Most of the time, her children did not want to volunteer to help in cooking as the as they fell sick from the smoke as well.
Early this year, Qaqe attended a training organized by Food for the Hungry Kenya and through other promotional activities run by the field staff, she learnt about a wonder stove that saved on firewood and energy. Members of her women’s group were also encouraged to by the stoves on installments. She selected Jikopoa which cost KES 1,200 (~$14 USD). She has been using the stove for two months now and thinks it is a very worthy investment.
“Now one bundle of wood will be used for 2-3 weeks in my family, and my back does not hurt as much. I no longer suffer allergies as the stove emits almost no smoke. The amazing thing is that I can cook anywhere in the house as the stove is portable. This really helps when it rains as it did about a month ago since the roof of my house leaks.”
Fire from improved stove is better regulated and does not burn food. She does not have to attend the fire as the ceramic center ensures the stove does not lose heat and keeps food cooking; and her goats keep off sauté pans when on stove as it is raised.
Additionally, Qaqe has more time on her hands, which she uses to care for her goats, attend women group activities and socialize with friends and relatives. Most importantly though she uses this additional time to find casual work to earn money to meet family needs. The stove not only saves firewood for this family, has also improved health and economy of this family.
Through the Paradigm project, Food for the Hungry Kenya has freed Qaqe from great hardship and is helping her live a more dignified life. Qaqe hopes that with time, all households in Kalacha will adopt this new technology, since it will reduce number of trees cut for firewood and save disappearing trees. Moreover, they will get to enjoy benefits same benefits as Qaqe.
--Mary Munene, Food for the Hungry Kenya Field Staff