Kenya: Farmers invent combined cooker/brooder and save on fuel costs (The Organic Farmer)

| October 3, 2011

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Joseph Msanii is passionate about raising poultry. But keeping his chicks warm has been a problem. With the rising price of feed, spending money on charcoal or kerosene meant lower profits.

Mr. Msanii lives in Matunda in Kenya’s Rift Valley. A few years ago, he and the members of his farmers’ group heard about the Chepkube. This is a specially modi­fied chamber which keeps food warm after cooking. It is common in the households of Kenya’s Kalenjin community.

The farmers also read about a cookstove which a farmer had adapted to incubate eggs. These innovations fired their imaginations. They decided to combine and improve them, and conceived a design which suited their needs.

Mr. Msanii knew that cookstoves emit a lot of heat. He recalls, “We had to look for a simple way of saving the heat and [using] it later in the chick brooder to provide warmth for the chicks.” He explains the design they came up with. “The frame of the brooding chamber is made of wood … metal bars form the cooking area. Iron sheets on the upper part [cooker] help to trap the heat and transmit it to the lower section [brooder].” The walls are made of bricks, and mud is used as mortar for the top and to hold the bricks together.

When the cooker is used, heat is transferred and held in the brooder. If a farmer cooks three times a day, the cooker produces enough heat to keep the chicks warm the whole night. The entire structure is built against a wall. A hole in the wall allows the chicks to access a small outside area to run. The hole is closed at night to preserve heat. The covered area outside is fenced with wood and wire mesh, with a door at the top. It protects the chicks from preda­tors.

Sabina Ngare is a farmer in Matunda. She says, “Before I acquired this brooder, it was really hectic. I had to heat water and put it in bottles, and then place them in baskets together with the chicks to keep them warm.” Now that she has the new cooker/brooder, Ms. Ngare says that keeping chickens is much easier. She adds, “All I have to worry about is what to feed the chicks.”

The newly improved device also serves as a stove, with three cooking holes. The brooder is meant only for keeping the chicks warm. It is not designed for hatching.

The farmers’ group has built 11 brooders. Farmers using them have drastically reduced the cost of buying charcoal or using elec­tric heaters to keep the chicks warm.