- 22nd June 2022
By Sheila Chepkorir1, Paul Osogo2, Ruth Wambui3, Diana Kosgei1, Jon Leary3, Emily Bolo2, Tom Randa2, Joanes Atela2, Haron Akala2, Salome Okoth2, John Maina4, Anastancia Kamau4, Mercy Kamau4, Francis Gitonga4, and Beryl Onjala3
- Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC)
- African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)
- Gamos East Africa
This blog tells the story of the launch of the Nakuru eCooking Hub, which took place on the 26th of April 2022. This was the first in a series of eCooking Hub launches, which set the benchmark for the next three in Kitui, Makueni and Kisumu Counties.
e-Cooking in Nakuru County
The African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS) in collaboration with its partners from the Clean Cooking Association Kenya (CCAK), the Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC), Gamos East Africa, and SCODE launched the e-cooking hub in Nakuru County on the 26th of April 2022. This hub will leverage the community of practice of e-cooking, and in particular the peri-rural and rural areas of Nakuru County. The atmosphere during the launch was engaging, friendly, and interactive. It kicked off with welcome remarks and reflections from our Guest of Honor, Grace Karanja, the Director of Energy and Environment for Nakuru County.
Electric cooking is not yet a popular form of cooking in Kenya, despite electricity now being accessible to over 75% of the population. Most Kenyans opt to cook using firewood, kerosene, charcoal, and LPG. Misconceptions such as electric cooking being too expensive or unsafe are among the top reasons for the limited use of electricity for cooking. However, the live cooking demonstrations at the hub launch showed that this isn’t the case and the contrary is true.
Nakuru County was selected for the eCooking Hub as it is a cosmopolitan region and Nakuru town has recently become Kenya’s newest city with a population of over 500,000 people. Nakuru hosts various investments in renewable energy, such as the recently developed geothermal field in the Menengai Crater, yet charcoal production in the Mau Forest is leading to rapid deforestation. Nakuru County has an even higher electricity access rate (79%) than the national average of 75%, yet 0% of the Nakuru residents use electricity as their primary cooking fuel. Nakuru County also has a long history of clean cooking and electricity access interventions, many of which have been spearheaded by SCODE.
The new e-cooking hub will make a “huge contribution” to promoting the adaptation of electric cooking and economic development in Nakuru and Kenya at large, according to the speech that was made by the Director of Climate Change and Energy, Mrs. Grace Karanja.
Various institutions came together to advocate for a new, clean, and cheap form of cooking through the hubs. After extensive research, it has been shown that use of energy-efficient electric cooking results in low fuel cost, reduced cooking time and, as testified by the attendees of the hub launch, the food can often be even tastier than food cooked through other means. Despite this growing body of evidence, many Kenyans still don’t support the idea of electric cooking, partly due to these myths and partly due to lack of awareness of modern energy efficient cooking devices such as the Electric Pressure Cookers (EPCs).
Providing a space for inter-sectoral collaboration
The objective of the eCooking Hubs is to raise awareness of the new opportunities for eCooking and bring together stakeholders from the clean cooking and electricity access sectors to take advantage of them. The hubs aim to act as a platform to carry out and disseminate evidence-based research and local capacity building that can identify and implement viable pathways to achieve affordable, sustainable, and reliable electric cooking. This can only be possible through the integration of clean cooking and electrification of sectors and the collaboration of actors from various sectors, such as the government, technology providers, funders, and utilities.
The Hub Launch program was convened by the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS), as the coordinating partner for the MECS Program in Kenya, and hosted by SCODE, a MECS Challenge Fund Winner and key partner. Attendees included representatives from Nakuru county, the utility (KPLC), appliance distributors (Sayona & Mika), EPC users and other members of the community. Also in attendance as the guest of honor was Mrs. Grace Karanja, the Director of Climate Change and Energy. Who reiterated that Nakuru County is in the forefront in championing the move to electricity cooking. She pointed out that her office is open to the public should they feel the need to address issues pertaining to energy. Mrs. Karanja pointed out the challenges in electricity connection especially in the more rural areas of the county which she hoped to be addressed during the last mile connection.
Voices of the cooks
During the hub launch, we got to interact with several community members who had recently tried eCooking during a research project implemented by SCODE and heard their testimonials. Anne Njoroge, an EPC user, says eCooking is clean, healthy, consumes less time and is convenient since it does not require much attention. Esther Wanjiku says she loves the EPC since it has been helpful with her asthmatic condition. She is, however, worried about blackout incidents. Cella Wanjiru says that the cooking pots don’t contaminate the food, and she could cook various meals, from ugali to milk, using the same pot and it saved her on costs.
The future outlook for eCooking
The hubs also aim to facilitate the development of after-sales services that can provide the support that eCook users need to keep using electricity as a long term solution for their cooking needs. In particular, Sayona PPS shared that they are committed to developing a service network for eCooking devices across the country and already have a repair center operational in Nakuru.
Tom Randa from ACTS noted that, “a long time ago, having LPG was rare, but they are currently available everywhere. eCooking will therefore be available in various households in the future, considering its benefits”.
From the launch, the local champions from the region are to be trained as trainers of trainers (ToTs) for them to have the needed skills and expertise to run the hub and champion the clean cooking agenda. The hubs are then expected to be operational and contribute to awareness creation through weekly demonstrations to stimulate demand for e-cooking within the region.
Find out more about eCooking in Nakuru County in the County Electricity Access and Clean Cooking Profile.
Figure 9, featured image, top: County government officials, appliance distributors, community champions and other partners at the end of the launch ceremony (image credit: Ruth Wambui, Gamos East Africa, 2022).