In Memory of Naomi Wanjiru – a True Champion for Cooking with Modern Energy

Last week (23rd Sept 2020) we were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend, Naomi Wanjiru (pictured with her family in the centre of the photo above). Naomi was a vocal champion for modern energy cooking services, dedicting her time and energy to advance awareness and uptake where she lived in Echariria, a village in Kenya’s Nakuru County.

We will always remember the active role she played in the cooking component of the Solar Nanogrids (SoNG) project, which aimed to empower community members to shape their energy futures. The project has been experimenting with a range of energy services, but arguably the most successful to date has been cooking.

Naomi has played a pivotal role in this success, actively recruiting friends, family members and neighbours into the project by getting them excited about how modern energy could transform their kitchens. She was the friendly face who would greet her fellow community members when they came to refill their LPG cylinders at the solar hub. She enjoyed spending time helping people learn how to cook their favourite foods with these new solar-powered electric pressure cookers.

Although the project has faced many challenges along the way, in particular reconciling the differing opinions of project members, Naomi would frequently be the one who would stand up and speak out for the interests of women. Indeed, her voice enabled other women to see how they could work together to build a better future for their community.

Without local champions like Naomi, modern energy cooking services will never reach rural villages like Echariria. Cooking will continue to get easier and safer for urban women with easy access to modern technologies, whilst rural women continue to struggle in the kitchen, breathing in smoke, carrying firewood and tending fires, just to get food on the table for their families.

Echariria needs more Naomi Wanjirus. Kenya needs more Naomi Wanjirus. The world needs more Naomi Wanjirus.

by Jon Leary, John Maina, Ed Brown and Bridget Menyeh