Farmers in central Kenya’s Laikipia County have found a clever way to both reduce their use of wood for fuel and raise more chickens for cash. They are employing an efficient ceramic cooking stove that doubles as a brooding box for chicks.
The stove is built locally, and used for cooking and heating the home in this cool region. It contains a separate warming area which can house chicks to keep them healthy and safe.
The innovation, built by Tree is Life Trust, has also helped reduce demand for wood in a country hit hard by deforestation.
Duncan Ndegwa recently sold 40 chicks he was keeping in the brooder to pay for his son’s school fees. He explains, “I could get [only] three to eight out of 30 hatched chicks [to survive] when I raised them free- range, because many died from cold-related complications and others were eaten by predators.” He says the surviving chicks took six months to reach a marketable weight. With the stove-brooder, he has managed to keep all his chicks alive, then sell them after just two months.
Mr. Ndegwa lives in Gichangi village in Nyahururu sub-county. He started using the new brooder four years ago. He says, “I refer to [the stove] as my support to cutting my expenses and a boost to rearing my chicks.” He now earns enough from selling chickens to pay school fees for his three children.
Thomas Gichuru is the executive director of Tree is Life Trust, based in Nyahururu, Kenya. He says the stoves cost less than 2,000 Kenyan shillings ($20 US) to install since they are made from locally-available materials. The ceramic stove is perched on top of the brooder, and the whole unit measures 1.2 metres long and 0.6 metres wide. When well- stocked with wood, it can stay warm for 12 hours. The brooder holds up to 70 chicks.
Mr. Gichuru says the warm brooder allows farmers to separate their chicks from the hen immediately after hatching. This helps the hen start laying eggs again within three to five days. Normally, farmers allow hens to raise the chicks until they are old enough to fend for themselves, which can keep the hen from laying again for several months.
Mr. Gichuru adds, “Using [the stove] improves peoples’ livelihoods while reducing degradation of the environment.” Deforestation is a major issue in Kenya, where more than 90% of rural households use firewood for cooking and heating and 80% of urban households depend on charcoal for cooking, according to The Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves.
Mr. Ndegwa says the stove has cut his use of wood by two-thirds, saving him about 600 Kenyan shillings ($6 US) a week.
Joseph Mwangi is another farmer who benefits from the stove-brooder. He lives in Moroto village and carries chickens to market by motorcycle along 23 kilometres of bumpy roads. He says: “I have tried to raise poultry for more than 20 years, but often the chicks died from cold. I almost gave up, but I am happy I have been able to successfully raise an average of 50 chicks with this stove.”
He adds that each small tree he cuts for firewood now lasts a week, rather than three days.
To read the full story on which this article is based, Efficient cookstoves save trees—and chickens—in Kenya, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20160826063250-du8uh/
Photo credit: TRF/Moraa Obiria