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January 21, 2019

Cooking with clean energy can save Kenyan lives

Patricia Kingori
Patricia Kingori

In many ways, climate change has become a matter of life and death.


This is particularly true for those living in urban settlements in Kenya. Indeed, a recent study from the John Hopkins University found that because the living conditions of people living in settlements like Kibera often results in a warmer micro-climate, the elevated temperatures brought about by climate change are very dangerous.


To make matters worse, our country continues to be ravaged by floods and drought, exacerbated by an overdependence on rain-fed agriculture. And at the mercy of poor housing and dependent on natural resources for their living, underprivileged people are worst affected, with little protection against these harsh conditions.


Deforestation has a major hand in the current crisis. In 2015, it was estimated that Kenya was losing a shocking 5.6 million trees daily. This is a dilemma which affects the whole of Africa, with the Green Africa Foundation revealing that the rate of annual deforestation in Africa exceeds the global annual average of 0.8%.


Part of the reason for deforestation in Kenya is the country’s heavy reliance on charcoal by households used for cooking. And with statistics from Mombasa-based NGO, Green Development, revealing that 10kg of wood is needed to make just 1kg of charcoal, it is clear to see where the problem lies.


Though the 2010 charcoal rules, which seek to regulate the charcoal industry, are being enforced by the Kenya Forest Service, the impact of the illegal charcoal trade continues to be seen in the ongoing depletion of the Mau Forest as well as other indigenous forests.


This is why government’s plans to cut carbon emissions 30% below the business-as-usual levels by 2030, are so critical. While government has plans to meet this target by expanding solar, wind and geothermal power, it is become increasingly evident that we will all need to play our part in reducing carbon emissions if we wish to alleviate this dire situation.


Technological and financial support from the private sector in particular, will prove essential to the country’s success in turning climate change around.


That is why earlier this month Samsung Electronics sponsored the launch of the Ethanol Stove Project. The project, which promotes clean, renewable energy, aims to reduce the demand for charcoal countrywide by subsidising the retail price of over 10,000 ethanol stoves being piloted in households across Mombasa County.


As a result of the subsidy, the eco-friendly stoves, known as Safi Cookers, are being sold at Sh1,995, down from Sh4,000 per stove, making them more accessible to everyone.

This is extremely significant because one litre of bio-ethanol replaces 4kg of charcoal, meaning the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Kenya by 500 000 tons over the next five to seven years.

The stoves, which last for five to ten years, not only allow households to benefit from a cleaner environment, but also reduce cooking fuel costs and help save on time.


The project is also aligned to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular Goal seven, which aims to create affordable and clean energy by 2030.


Through this project, Samsung hopes to make a significant impact, not only on the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions produced, but also the concerning rate of deforestation.

It was for this same reason that Samsung, earlier this year, launched a project to plant over 10, 000 trees in Nairobi’s Karura Forest with the intention of boosting forest cover in Nairobi.

Through initiatives like these, we believe we can start to reverse the harmful effects of deforestation, and in doing so, make a radical difference in the lives of many people across the country.

But each and every one of us needs to play our part in combatting climate change for this to become a reality.

And the question is with so much at stake, can we afford not to?


Ms Patricia Kingori is the Head of Marketing, Citizenship and PR for Samsung Electronics East Africa


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