Boston Nyer and Hildah Wanjiku of BURN Manufacturing receiving its award from Baroness Verma of the Department for International Development.

Cooking shouldn’t kill. Yet 3 billion people cook on open fires and dirty cookstoves every day and 4.3 million people die from indoor pollution every year.

BURN’s clean cookstoves are here to aid these people. Their Jikokoa cookstove cuts down on smoke and soot by more than 60% compared to the widely used Kenya ceramic jiko, they ease the burden of the women and girls who gather wood, also helping protect forests and cutting 170,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

BURN must be commended not just for producing a great charcoal stove that saves women time and money, but also for employing women in significant numbers and enabling them to increase their economic independence and improve their position in society.

Ashden judging panel

Context

BURN Manufacturing is helping improve the lives of women and girls in East Africa with its efficient charcoal-burning Jikokoa™ stove and employment opportunities. The stove itself represents a step-change in the design and efficiency of charcoal-burning cookstoves, dramatically improving the health and wellbeing of its users. As well as being an aspirational household product, it cuts down on smoke and soot by more than 60% compared to the widely used Kenya ceramic jiko, and significantly reduces the time spent cooking and collecting wood. But it’s not just women using the stoves who benefit. With all manufacture now done in a new state-of-the-art factory in Kenya, BURN emphasises that all jobs are open to both men and women at all levels – just over half of its workforce are women.

Impact

The jikokoa was launched commercially in 2013 and by the end of April 2015 over 62,000 had been sold. Most sales are in Kenya, but several thousand have been sold elsewhere in the East African region to gauge the market, with expansion planned to Tanzania and Uganda during 2015. The low rate of products returned (see box ‘Warranty and lifetime’) suggest that most are still in use, bringing benefits to over 340,000 people. 

BURN Manufacturing's stoves are attractive and aspirational products for the home.

Employment: opening opportunities for women

BURN currently employs 87 people in Kenya and aims to be an exemplary employer. All employees are salaried, and thus get paid annual leave, sick leave and maternity pay.  Women account for 53% of the workforce and are in all types of job and at all levels, representing 46% of those employed in production, and 65% of those in administration, sales and management.

This gender equality has been achieved through fair and consistent employment practice, rather than quotas or positive discrimination. BURN makes very clear that appointment is based on merit and that all positions are open to women. Through this it has recruited both women and men to all types of job. Once in post, bonuses and promotion are given solely on the basis of performance. BURN’s experience is that women work well and they have therefore risen through the company. Retention of female workers is high: none have left and only one has been dismissed.

Benefits to women from using the jikokoa

Most of the benefits of the jikokoa have an impact on women in particular, as they are usually responsible for cooking and purchasing fuel in Kenyan homes. Compared to the KCJ (which most households previously used) the jikokoa lights more easily, and can cook faster because the charcoal burns at a high temperature. In addition, the cooking rate can be controlled using the ash tray. It also looks good and is easy to carry around – so elderly women don’t mind using the jikokoa in the living room, where they can cook in more comfort.

What I like most is the money that I save on charcoal. But it’s not just the money: the jikokoa lights really quickly and cooks quickly too.

Mary, Ruiri Town

Independent testing by the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group found that the jikokoa used 45% less charcoal than the KCJ, and BURN’s in-house user surveys find even higher savings. These translate into significant financial saving for a household, typically US$0.5 per day or nearly US$200 per year. Thus, the US$40 sale price of the jikokoa can be recovered within just 11 weeks through savings on charcoal.

Equally important is the reduction in health-damaging pollution. Measurements by Berkeley Air showed that the jikokoa produces over 60% less carbon monoxide and particulate matter than the KCJ. (See box ‘IWA metrics’).

Mary making tea on a Jikokoa at her home near Nairobi.

Environmental benefits

Cutting charcoal use helps reduce deforestation in Kenya (see box ‘Charcoal and deforestation’). The 62,000 jikokoa stoves currently in use are saving around 160,000 tonnes of wood each year.

Jikokoas also cut greenhouse gas emissions. These include CO2 from unsustainable wood use, and other greenhouse gases released during charcoal production. Berkeley Air found that the jikokoa saved equivalent of 2.8 tonnes/year CO2 compared the KCJ, thus a significant 170,000 tonnes/year CO2e are saved in total.

BURN is therefore actively growing a network of partners who can provide credit. These now represent over one third of sales. As well as traditional micro-finance organisations, finance partners include Equity Bank, one of the largest banks in East Africa, which is rolling out an innovative six-month loan programme for energy products including the jikokoa. Another recent partnership that is proving successful is with M-Kopa. The jikokoa is also sold through conventional channels including all four large supermarket chains in Kenya, a wide range of smaller shops, social programmes and some large employers.

Since winning an Ashden Award in 2015…

  • Total carbon emissions saved increased 115% from 205,114 tonnes to 440,494.
  • The number of direct beneficiaries increased 115% from 402,905 to 865,225.

Detail

BURN’s 2015 Ashden Award highlights the benefits that it has brought to women and girls through clean energy. Based on merit, women have achieved equal employment in production and sale of jikokoas. Women and girls also benefit most from the time and money saved by using the jikokoa.

I gave a jikokoa to my mother, and now I’m her favourite son.

Stephen Macharia General Manager Market Research and Product Development, Equity Bank

The business model

The design of the jikokoa (and other efficient stoves) was initiated by the BURN Design Lab, and is continually refined through market research with individuals and focus groups in Kenya. This achieves not just technical performance, but also user acceptance - crucial to ensure that the stove is bought and used. The jikokoa is manufactured at the BURN factory in Ruiru, just outside Nairobi. 

Jikokoas are sold through more than 150 partners including banks and micro-finance organisations, social distributors, and retail outlets ranging from supermarkets to small stores. Sales representatives from BURN are responsible for building these partnerships, and BURN’s sales activators help drive demand from the ground.

The jikokoa stove: How is it designed?

The jikokoa is designed for household use and can cook a single pot of food, up to 12 litres in size – the sort of quantity needed for a family of eight to ten people. It is similar in external size to the KCJ (see photo), because this is what users wanted. User opinions also led to the smart external finish, with stainless steel for exposed metal parts and black powder-coated steel for the curved surface.

I can sleep soundly doing this job, I know I’m selling a good product.

Raphael Waweru, BURN senior sales representative

Inside, the jikokoa is different. The combustion chamber (where the charcoal burns) is much smaller than in the KCJ, and is made of a metal alloy which can cope with high temperature, rather than ceramic. There is an ash-tray underneath the grate where the charcoal sits. Not only does this provide a clean way to collect ash, it can also be moved in and out to light the charcoal from underneath. It also allows accurate control of the air flow and thus the rate of burning. Around the combustion chamber and underneath the ash tray is a thick layer of ceramic wool insulation to cut heat loss. All parts are made to strict specifications, and components fit tightly, to minimise air leakage. 

BURN is in the process of developing a third generation Jikokoa which is more durable and is expected to be released in March 2017.

How is it manufactured?

BURN’s stoves are made in a modern, continuous flow manufacturing facility that is capable of making one stove per minute.  In this factory, first all stove components are fabricated from raw materials. Four sub-assembly lines then combine components into different sections (stove top, base, combustion chamber and outer cladding). The final assembly line combines these four sections together, and fits the insulation around the combustion chamber. To achieve high standards, incentive payments to assembly line teams are based not just on quantity of production, but also on quality, safety and tidiness.

Women at work at the Jikokoa production factory in Ruiru, Kenya.

How much does it cost and how do users pay?

US$1 = 95 KSh (April 2015) High specification materials and manufacture obviously carry a price tag: the current model of the jikokoa retails at KSh 3,800 (US$40) compared to around KSh 1,000 (US$11) for a similar-sized KCJ. Despite the substantial savings that the jikokoa brings (payback around 11 weeks, see later), the initial cost puts it out of reach for many low income households without credit.

BURN is therefore actively growing a network of partners who can provide credit. These now represent over one third of sales. As well as traditional micro-finance organisations, finance partners include Equity Bank, one of the largest banks in East Africa, which is rolling out an innovative six-month loan programme for energy products including the jikokoa. Another recent partnership that is proving successful is with M-Kopa. The jikokoa is also sold through conventional channels including all four large supermarket chains in Kenya, a wide range of smaller shops, social programmes and some large employers.

Jikokoa stove in use in a home near Nairobi.

They are also growing their distribution and have lined up with new distribution partners. Word of mouth has also helped to promote growth - 90% of customers recommend their products, and 58% people recommend to 5 or more. With the Kenyan government set to remove VAT on fuel efficient cookstoves, the cost of producing and distributing stoves will be $5 less. This will lead to a 10 to 15% increase in the number of products sold.