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Nov 07, 2018

 Clean cooking solutions in the 4-in-1 cook stove 

Feabrine Asiachi was born in Kenya. As an infant,  he was taken under the care of a Dutch couple who became his guardians. With them, he moved to the Netherlands and also spent part of his childhood in Switzerland and Tokyo. Throughout his moves, Asiachi developed a curiosity for inventing and creating sustainable products. 

As a teenager in 2003, Asiachi created his first innovation- a solar lamp that could charge phones. This invention eventually awarded him a scholarship to study mechanical and chemical engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. However, after one of his guardians passed away, he went back to Kenya to visit his family. 

While he was there, he realized that his grandmother had been suffering greatly due to indoor air pollution as a result of using wood fuel. She had lost her vision due to the smoke, and at one point her house had even burned down because of her cookstove. Wanting to help his grandmother, Asiachi designed for her a stove that reduced smoke levels by 60%. When she told him, “My son, I just love this,” he knew that he had to prototype his invention. 

A 4-in-1 clean cookstove mitigating health and environmental problems 

What Asiachi came up with was a 4-in-1 stove; that is, a stove which is versatile to accommodate briquettes, LPG, biogas, and sawdust as sources of energy. This allows for people who cannot afford certain types of fuel to have a variety of options. Although it is not advisable, the stove can also accept 10% firewood, which can help if people run out of renewable fuels and also if they need assistance transitioning to clean cooking methods. 

The first prototype was funded by NACOSTI (National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation) two years ago, and since then he has been receiving indirect financing from the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). He now has 17 employees, which includes women. Asiachi also incorporated a colleague to become his business partner, and the two registered their company under the name F&M Industries.

The company has been beneficial to the environment and the community in a variety of ways. The fact that the majority of Kenyans use wood for cooking causes a variety of environmental and health problems. For one, there is the deforestation that comes with cutting down trees to obtain firewood. Burning wood also creates indoor air pollution, leading to the deaths of 16,600 Kenyans annually. 

The effect is seen most acutely in women and children, as they are the ones primarily tasked with cooking and other domestic duties. In fact, women and children dedicate hours every day to simply fetching firewood, which could be spent on more productive activities such as generating income and going to school. Asiachi’s 4-in-1 clean cooking stove thus mitigates all of the aforementioned issues. 

Related article: How to transition Kenya to a clean-cooking country

F&M Industries helped by KCIC 

Impressed with the innovation, F&M industries was recently admitted as a client. KCIC has already provided the startup with a training on sustainability. Asiachi says that, in the training, he learned about himself and his company, how to manage waste, and how to be accountable and report about sustainability. 

Asiachi hopes that KCIC will help his company obtain funding for upgrading his equipment from manual to hydraulic machines. This would reduce the manpower necessary to operate the machinery and reduce pollution.

In the longer term, Asiachi has plans to develop new innovations using renewable energy. He also envisions empowering women and youth to get involved in the renewable energy space in order to help them gain employment and make an income. Ultimately, seeing his mother and grandmother suffering gave Asiachi the passion to make innovative and sustainable products to benefit society. 

Advice for other young entrepreneurs 

At age 32, Asiachi has already become quite a successful young business owner. When asked what advice he would give to the youth with entrepreneurial dreams, he says, “We all are seeking funding, but you should try and prove your concepts- don’t just wait for funding. Try out something and see how it works. If your product is viable and efficient, try to patent it with the help of an intellectual property lawyer.”

He added that, “Always focus on solving the issues. Many entrepreneurs just focus on how much money they will make- forgetting about efficiency. The real goal should be having customers who say, ‘Wow, this product has really helped me.’” 

 

By Alise Brillault 

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