Feb 21, 2018

Transforming rural regions with clean energy

Chaff Energy is a social enterprise that is transforming agricultural waste that has little to non-commercial value, into high value fuel by using micro gasifier cook stoves. Established in 2015, the initiative was motivated with the need to empower the poor. Located in Thika town, the company’s core business is the design, manufacture, and distribution of clean cook stoves in Kenya.

Francis Mugecha, Chaff Energy CEO, recognized the need to improve energy efficiency through developing, manufacturing and distributing improved cook stoves and converting agri-waste into high value fuel in place of biomass.

Francis describes his frustrations as his main motivation.  He recalls visiting low income households in the rural areas still using the traditional three-stone stoves and an idea came to him.  He devised a way in which he could make meaningful impact to their lives and at the same time save the degrading forest cover due to deforestation.

“Exposure to smoke from traditional cook stoves and open fires is one of the World Health Organization’s top five threats to public health in developing countries, with women and young children being most at risk. If we can manage to replace the three-stone stoves with high efficiency stoves, we will improve our people’s health, reduce carbon emissions, slow down deforestation and lower fuel costs,” explains Mugecha.

Gasifier stoves are currently the cleanest burning option to burn solid biomass in a cook stove. The “gas burner” provides the convenience and efficiency similar to cooking on fossil gas with very little soot and other emissions.

Mugecha reckons that chaff waste is abundant and free in Kenya but it is underutilized. He adds that over 100,000 tonnes of rice coconut husks and macadamia nut shells can be transformed into renewable energy every year making this a better alternative to thousands of farmers.

It is for this reason that he thought of developing culturally-appropriate technologies and solutions so as to make the right products for the consumers. 

The company now focuses on improving health and the environment by encouraging changes in cooking methods and types of stoves used, to reduce air pollution and specifically indoor air pollution.  They are achieving this by introducing improved stoves and gasifiers to several rural areas in Kenya which basically use crop residue (husks) and pellets for fuel.

“Our goal is to partner with several other organizations to increase the access to cleaner, more efficient cook stoves to help reduce environmental impact and improve the health of people by locally manufacturing millions of high quality and clean cook stoves. We have received support from Energy4Impact and UKAID DFID to kick start the project,” he explains.

Chaff Energy is one of the alumni clients at Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC), where they received business development and advisory services.

“Chaff Energy is strategically rolling out to position itself as a regional giant in clean cook stove production and supply. The fair pricing will save families more than 50% on fuel costs compared to the commonly used cook stoves in Kenya,” concludes Mugecha.

By Michelle Mung’ata

 

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