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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chepkurbet Jiko Project Comes to Life - Pt. 2

(Continued from part 1 which you can read here).

I tried different ways to raise funds for the Jiko Stoves Project in Kenya. First, I tried selling photos taken in Kenya. I opened an Etsy shop. I only sold one photo but I will try again later as I feel this can still be successful. I also tried to sell home made crosses on commission. You can read here about that effort. The crosses were wonderful and I did sell some. However since they aren't mine I returned the remainder to the craftsman. I used the funds raised to pay for school needs instead of jiko stoves.

From time to time I thought of other alternatives for how to bring about energy efficiencies and I did find a fireless cooker. Read about it here.  I think fireless cookers are a good thing and they are much less expensive than putting in a full stove and jiko pot.  I considered going this route instead of putting into a full stove and buying jiko but 28 households in the village were waiting to have jiko stoves like the first set of 11 women.  I also felt that a proper stove and pot would be a better investment over the long term in helping improve the lives of these village women and children.

I scour the internet a lot.  One day through Simon, one of my blogging contacts, I was encouraged to have hope that I could  really find an answer to the dilemma of the jiko stove needs.  Simon suggested I could get a mold (cast) made and the villagers could build their own stoves.  Simon also kindly provided me some information as to where to get the building plans. The challenge then became how to find the carpenter, how much to pay him and how to get the actual stoves built in the village huts because this process requires taking the mold from house to house and the houses are rather far apart.

I discussed it with my Pastor friend, Pastor Jonah and he agreed to find a carpenter. After a few weeks of  communicating with my Kenyan friend about the various ins and outs of the project and working on and tweaking the budget, I gave the "green" light to Pastor Jonah to look for a carpenter.  This wasn't as simple as it sounds. Pastor Jonah had to speak to several carpenters and show them the building plans.  Some of them would not even consider trying to follow the plans for building the mold. I could in fact understand why.  When I look at the diagrams and instructions, they seem very complicated.  I imagine that some of the village carpenters might not read very well and so could not follow the instructions. I also concluded that some of them probably have a few projects they make and limit their work to those things which they know they can sell.  I am so glad we did find someone who would take on the challenge!  He is obviously someone who is a bit more adventurous and willing to take on new things.

The first attempt at building the mold was a little rusty in that the lines of the wood were crooked.
First attempt was a little crooked
After the carpenters adjustments, the mold looks beautiful!
Two days later we had this wonderfully finished mold to make the stoves.
The next step was to get someone to make the stoves. My friend went ahead and hired two enthusiastic women in the village who are passionate about making the stoves.

Come back again soon and see the work they have accomplished. ....to be continued

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chepkurbet Jiko Project Comes to Life

Hi friends and fellow bloggers,

I had to  come out from my blogging break for a short while to share some exciting and wonderful news with you. I've written before about my volunteer efforts in Kenya for the widows and orphans. One of the projects that has been on my mind for quite some time is providing all the village women in Chepkurbet with a jiko stove.  These women are from the Kalenjin tribe in the beautiful Rift Valley.  Read more about the Kalenjin people here.

This is a traditional Kalenjin hut. Usually there is a separate one for cooking.
These women and their children live in huts without running water or comforts that many women in the west have.  I wanted to help give them just a little more ease in their lives than what they have been accustomed to. It didn't seem right that I would have running water, electricity, washer and dryer and dishwasher and these woman don't have any of these things.  Beyond that I wanted to do something that would improve their quality of life in other ways.

I learned that the women traditionally make 3 stone fires. It is the cheapest stove to produce, requiring only three suitable stones of the same height on which the women can balance a cooking pot over the fire. However, this cooking method also has many problems.

Making these fires requires the women to travel far and spend hours out of each day to gather the twigs and firewood that they need.  For women alone and travelling far, there can be safety issues and threats to their security. Purchasing wood or charcoal to make the fire are options but these villagers have limited funds which must stretch to meet many other needs.

The energy use in a 3 stone fire is not very efficient as there is nothing to contain the fire.  This means more wood is burned and the women have to spend a lot more of their time to gather the wood. The more wood that is used, the worse it is for the environment because more trees are consumed and deforestation then occurs.

You can see from the photo below that the 3 stone fire is open on all sides. The cook must balance the pot on the stones and so cooking and stirring the contents of the pot can be precarious. This is very dangerous work for women and children alike and can lead to burns and scalding from both fires and hot water or hot food.



The 3 stone fires also create a lot of smoke.  The smoke creates lung and eye problems for the women and their children. The World Health Organization says that smoke that is vented into the home is responsible for the deaths of 1.6 million people worldwide every year. This is one death every 20 seconds. That is an astounding figure and a very sad situation indeed.

A 3 stone fire will only enable a woman to use one pot at a time. This means that it is inefficient for preparing tea and a meal of ugali (ugali is an East African dish made of maize flour). It will takes hours and hours as you must boil the water in separate pots for both of these things. This is also where I got the photo of the girl making ugali on a 3 stone fire in the photo above.  I could not locate my own photo.  Since my photos were taken in 2007, I went through many computer problems and virus attacks. The photo I was looking for is either damaged or on a disc somewhere in my files.

After I learned all about the cons of a 3 stone fire, I knew I had to do something for these women.  In 2008, I was helping the school children and farmers with educational and seed and fertilizer needs as well as harvesting needs. At the same time I was trying unsuccessfully to raise funds for these projects and to find safer and greener ways for the women to cook. Finally in the fall of 2008, I went ahead on my own to fund the construction of 11 new stoves/ovens for the village women. These stoves/ovens are called jiko ovens. First we build an oven like the one you see below. It is still a bit orangey in colour as it must cure (dry) before it is ready for use. Next we add a jiko pot made out of ceramic. You will see that in one of the photos below.

3 stone fire to the left of the post. new jiko stove on right
A Kenyan ceramic jiko pot is also needed.
Many organizations and individuals have been working on developing improved stoves to address the kind of issues raised in using a 3 stone fire. Of all the improved stoves, the Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ) seems to be the most widely accepted and has become a standard item in many homes in Kenya and neighboring countries in East Africa.

Charcoal is the standard cooking fuel in East Africa if you have some funds to buy it or you can make it yourself. Otherwise women have to collect many twigs to start their fires.  Traditionally it was burned in a metal stove or “Jiko” as stoves are called in the Swahili language. The KCJ is simply the traditional Jiko mated to a ceramic liner, producing a stove that is at least one fourth (and up to 50%) more efficient than traditional all-metal alternative. You will often read that it only costs $2 to $5 US but I have yet to find them at that price. Although the exchange rate today is much better for the Canadian dollar than it was three years ago, Canadian money still doesn't go as far as American funds. Also, Kenya is a very expensive country with ever increasing prices.

The new stoves and jiko pots went over extremely well with the first 11 households. Over the next year and a half I received a half dozen requests as to when we were ready to continue building the stoves and ovens for the remaining village women. There are still 28 households to service.We also hope to build 5 stoves for widows in another village called Anamoi.

I racked my brain and reviewed my budget a thousand different ways to see what could be done. It was challenging due to the global recession to see how we might proceed.
 .....to be continued.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still on my Break

Hi friends and fellow bloggers,

I am so happy the weather has cooled down considerably because it means we no longer have 400 forest fires burning in my province. Instead we have about 260 fires burning with most of them under control. Sadly, it has been a year of great forest devastation but I pray that out of the ashes will spring forth new and vibrant life.

I am not actually back to blogging but I did want to share my weekend baking. It has been so hot that I haven't been able to bake anything or feel much like cooking but I was able to bake some muffins and some one bowl bread today.

The muffins I spotted recently on Katy's Food for the Hungry Soul.  Katy always has scrumptious recipes and photos on display. Once in awhile I get to try them if the recipe looks simple enough and I have the ingredients on hand.

Recently, these French Breakfast Muffins looked so tasty and Katy described them just right so I had to try them and get them ready for breakfast.


Here is the recipe Katy used from Better Homes and Gardens.


1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup butter melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl combine flour, the 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
 
In another bowl beat egg slightly; stir in milk and 1/3 cup melted butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (the batter may be lumpy). Lightly grease muffin cups. Fill cups about two-thirds full with batter. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until muffins are golden.

Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl combine the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Immediately dip tops of hot muffins into the 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine, then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture until coated. Serve warm.

Makes 12 smaller-sized muffins.

I doubled this recipe and made larger sized muffins (18). I didn't have any nutmeg on hand so added a bit of cinnamon instead of nutmeg.  They taste very good and Katy described them just right.

I also made some one bowl bread which I have made once before. Here is a photo. You can find the recipe here.  They might look a little different. That is likely because I didn't take as much time or care to shape them this time and I added a little less flour.

Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Taking a Blogging Break

Hey readers and friends,

I hope you are all enjoying your summer in North America or the end of your winter in other parts of the world. I do love all the various seasons we are blessed to have here in North America but the coming Fall in September is my favourite time of year.

Having said that I have been very busy this summer and have found I am not paying as much attention to the blog as I would like. I think most, if not all of you, can relate *smile.

So I am going to be taking a blogging break for awhile. I'm not quite sure how long. It might only be a week but then again it could be until the Fall. I just want to enjoy the rest of the summer and activities with friends as well as my swimming lessons and travel to family. I am not "pulling my blog" or deleting it. I have a lot I want to share but am not able to do so just now. Though I am taking a blogging break I will likely still pop in and read your blog entries. I hope you will all enjoy the rest of this season.  Happy blogging.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Making Powdered Laundry Detergent

Hi friends,

Some of you will remember my first foray into making liquid laundry detergent. I've used about half or just under half of it so far and it is working very well. It doesn't suds at all but that doesn't affect it's cleansing properties. I've even started hanging out clothes to dry on the patio as a way of saving on electricity costs and doing my part to go green.

My mother has been having a lot of skin issues which have baffled the doctors and her skin is extremely sensitive so we thought I should make her some powdered detergent. This is the recipe I used.

Powdered Laundry Detergent:

- 2 cups Washing Soda (I get mine in the laundry section of a local food supermarket).
- 1 cup of Borax (I get this at another food supermarket which is closer to my house than where I buy the Washing Soda).
- 1 1/2 bars of Sunlight Bar Soap (If you don't have Sunlight and you are in Canada, you can use the Ivory Bar soap. In other countries, I understand people use Zote, purchased in Mexican food shops or Fels Naphta).  If none of these are available in your area, have a look on line and order that way.

The process is rather simple. You simply mix the washing soda and the borax together. I then shred the Sunlight Bar soap in my food processor and all it to the powdered mixture and shake it well to mix it evenly. If you do not have a food processor you can grate it all up with a hand grater. It will just take longer.
Now store the mixture in a jar or a plastic baggie. When you want to do your laundry you use only 2 tablespoons of this mixture.


I've never made this detergent before but it is a variation of the same recipe that many others use and post on line so I'm sure it will work quite well. I didn't do the cost calculations per load this time but I may add them  later.

Next, I will be making bar soap for washing my face and body and I hope to post about it in future. I have been scouring the local shops to find lye which is one of the key ingredients. I've found a supply but I've also read on line that the lye is of inconsistent quality. I will probably try it anyway and see for myself. Otherwise my only option would be to purchase the lye on line which will increase the cost.

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