EcoZoom's Founding Team Moves to Kenya!!
This is EcoZoom Amanda writing my first blog post to share some exciting news with you. Our founding team (Ben, Phil and me) is moving to Kenya! We’re nervous, excited and overall ready to rock the cookstove world in Nairobi and the whole of East Africa.
Our base of operations will be Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. Believe it or not, Nairobi is fast becoming the African home of choice for multinational companies looking to grow their presence on the continent. Firms such as Google, IBM and Pfizer are all looking to make Nairobi the base of their continent-wide operations as they race to be part of Africa’s growth story. The same is true of the international development sector. NGOs and social enterprises working on issues like health and energy are also concentrated in the city. We’re excited to have a permanent physical presence there so we can connect with more of these organizations and cooks who need our product.
We’ll soon be introducing our new charcoal only cookstove, the Zoom Jet, into the market (pictured on right). Charcoal is the main fuel source for cooks in urban areas without access to gas or electricity. But, making charcoal is a highly inefficient process that is harmful to the environment. Basically, you cut down a tree, cover it with topsoil and leaves then light it on fire. The slow pyrolysis and absence of oxygen makes charcoal. However, only 10% of that tree will make charcoal because the conversion efficiency is so low. That means you have to cut down a ton of tress to get a little bit of charcoal.
The Kenyan government has put restrictions of making charcoal but instead of stopping the process, it’s created a black market for it. Cooks need it and are willing to pay black market prices because it’s cheaper than electricity or gas. In urban areas in Kenya nearly 1 million households spend over $1USD per day, or 15-20% of household income, on charcoal for cooking fuel. Most Americans only spend 4% of their income on energy. Can you imagine if your electric bill was $750 a month vs. $150? That is equivalent to the energy burden of these cooks.
The Zoom Jet will save end consumers 55% in fuel costs and eliminate 70% of harmful air pollutants - “black carbon” that kills a documented 14,000 Kenyans a year. It is also the world’s first charcoal cookstove to use both convection and radiation heat; providing superior thermal efficiency through superior design. Designed by the Aprovecho Research Center, Diana Sierra LLC, and EcoZoom, the Zoom Jet has shined through a rigorous one-year pilot conducted with eight partner organizations in six countries. In Kenya, cooks reported fuel savings between 50 and 70 percent, and after one year of use our pilot participants couldn’t believe the stove maintained its bright color and was cool to touch while cooking.
Here is the story of one pilot participant, Erica. Erica lives in the Gatina slum of Nairobi. She received her stove from the Paradigm Project (our pilot partner in Nairobi) in February of 2012. The Paradigm Project made several follow-up visits over the months and I went to visit Erica in February of 2013 to hear the results first hand.
Erica said she has been using her stove twice a day, every day since she received it. Unless, she is letting one of her friends borrow it so they can see how “smart” it is. She says the stove saves her around 280 shillings ($3.25) a week in charcoal expenses. Erica is happy with the savings and uses the extra money to buy things for her home. She prefers the Zoom Jet to her old stove (a Kenya Ceramic Jiko) because it saves fuel and cooks fast.
Erica wanted to know when the stoves would be able for purchase in Nairobi so she can tell her friends to buy one. Her son, who lives a few blocks away and saw the benefits of the stove first hand, asked the same thing because he wants to sell them in the neighborhood.
That was a little glimpse of the results we’ve gotten to date and why we’re so excited to bring this product to market. So, stay tuned for more tales from Nairobi as we work to create a commercial market for clean cookstoves in the city and beyond.
About the Author:
Amanda West is an EcoZoom employee and likes to talk to cooks in developing countries to see how to improve our stoves to fit their needs.