MUSICEYES & EDGE

Kickstarter Pick: Kenya Stove

MUSICEYES & EDGE
Kickstarter Pick: Kenya Stove

Who: Payan ole-MoiYoi, industrial designer, and Erin Engelson, public health researcherWhat: Kenya Stove, a clean-burning and energy-efficient wood gas stoveGoal: $15,000So far: Successfully raised $18,800The story:Twice as many people die from breathing toxic fumes emitted by cooking fires than from malaria.In Kenya, charcoal stoves are to blame. Most people in urban areas of Kenya use charcoal stoves, which take much longer to heat up, are energy inefficient and release carbon monoxide fumes.Payan ole-MoiYoi, a Portland industrial designer who studied environmental science at Princeton, grew up in Kenya and knew the dangers firsthand. So he eagerly created a solution: a wood gas stove, which burns cleaner and costs less than $5 to produce with sheet metal from Kenyan artisans. A stove is ready to use within three minutes of lighting.He and a project partner, Erin Engelson, raised more than $18,800 on Kickstarter to fund their trip to Kenya, where they are now testing their cook stoves in Kenyan communities.“We’re actually doing something that’s really innovative,” said Engelson, who earned a doctorate in researching infectious disease and public health. “We’re trying to introduce a fuel that people don’t readily use.”Wood chips are 10 times cheaper than charcoal coals and briquettes, more efficient and less pollutant, Engelson said. Forests were also being chopped down to make charcoal, so using wood chips directly would decrease deforestation, she said.They’re now two months into a six-month trial period in Kenya. After training artisans from Nairobi on how to make and use the stoves, they’re now gathering information on how families actually use them at home. Their research will help them understand how to adapt stoves to different Kenyan cooking styles.So far, results have been surprising.“What we found is that people are receptive to trying it if they know it will save them money,” Engelson said. “You’d think that people wouldn’t want to suddenly switch technologies.”The two partnered with the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute to see how wood chips from mesquite trees, an invasive species, could be used as fuel for the stoves. Mesquite, known locally as mathenge, has long been used as a cash crop, but it could instead by sold as cooking fuel, a message that the institute could help communicate to Kenyan landowners.They’re also working with an NGO to train Kenyans who may want to sell stoves and fuel. Those merchants will undergo a rigorous evaluation process and receive training in entrepreneurship, Engelson said.“Every day, someone new reaches out to us,” Engelson said. “It’s really something that’s been embraced so far in the community.”This is part of a series of profiles about socially-conscious Kickstarter campaigns. See Sunday's story about seed-savers. And coming up on Tuesday: 'Aging Out,' a story of a photographer's search for his birth motherWritten by: Dominique Fong//