Schools throughout rural Kenya burn wood on open fires for cooking and heating water. But in the foothills of Mount Kenya, deforestation is serious and wood is both scarce and expensive. The Rural Energy Technology Assistance Programme (RETAP) introduced energy-efficient fuelwood stoves, made by its partner company RTE, that cut wood use by up to 75% and remove smoke through a chimney. The stoves are expensive (up to US$500 for a 600-litre model) because they are large and made out of stainless steel for durability. But savings on the cost of wood are substantial too, up to US$200 per term. RETAP made the stoves affordable by setting up a revolving fund for schools to buy them on credit, and pay back from their savings on wood.
Schools save money. School cooks don’t have to breathe in harmful smoke all day, and kitchens are cooler. Cutting the use of unsustainable wood helps reduce deforestation and also cuts greenhouse gas emissions. But that's not all. RETAP also helped schools to establish woodlots and become self-sufficient in fuelwood, by providing them with fast-growing eucalyptus seedlings and training on woodlot management.
The stove programme has grown rapidly since RETAP won an Ashden Award in 2001. A much larger revolving-fund programme was funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and by 2011 RETAP had installed about 2,000 institutional stoves for 1,000 customers mainly schools. About 400 schools have planted woodlots. And the success of the programme has been recognised at the highest levels, with government plans to introduce efficiency standards for school stoves, and funding from the World Food Programme to install a further 1,000 stove.