The Community Cooker
30 Nov 2009
A recycling project turns rubbish into energy and potentially transforms slums into resource-rich communities.
Attention: This article has been imported from our old websiteWhile we've taken every precaution to ensure that the content of this article remains intact, it may contain errors.
An award-winning project in one of Africa’s largest slums, Kibera, in Kenya, transforms rubbish into what is needed most of all: hot water for washing, energy for cooking and pure water for drinking. Designed by architect Jim Archer, the locals have been instrumental to the success of the project they call the ‘Jiko ya Jamii,’ which translates from Swahili as the ‘Community Cooker.’
The facility is made from welded steel and is versatile in its use. It boils water, cooks vegetables, stews beef, bakes cakes and fries food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all prepared on it, as well as cups of tea. Eight large hotplates are available, alongside two ovens, each large enough to grill a goat. “Nothing is thrown away or should be thrown away in our environment,” says Agnes Aringo, a caterer who works on the cooker.
The slum dwellers collect and sort the really useful solid waste materials like drinks cartons and packaging – as well paper, sawdust and food scraps from banana, cassava, maize cob and sugarcane peel. They store and dry the rubbish in racks adjacent to the cooker ready for incineration. These items would normally be left to rot in the street, thrown into watercourses, or dumped in the local rivers.
Volunteers from local youth groups sort rubbish. “It’s very simple,” they said. “We will do the sorting for the public from 6am until midnight. After this time, we then work the cooker for ourselves, baking bread and buns and heating water. We sell the food and that’s how we make our money.”
Hot food and water is served directly to the community from the cooker. The heated water can also be taken to washing closets, known as ‘Bafus’. Anyone who has collected rubbish, or purchased a token in exchange for cooking time, can use the facility.
It costs 5 Kenyan shillings, roughly 4 pence, to use the cooker to make a family meal. A local woman, Elizabeth Mumbi, says it is a bargain. “I come here quite often and find cooking at this communal place quite cost-cutting. The 5 shillings I pay to use the communal ‘jiko’ is nothing. Imagine how little kerosene or charcoal this money can buy. Nothing costs so little any more.”
The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, is a major supporter of the Community Cooker initiative and has contributed $10,000 towards its installation.
Locals use the Community Cooker in Nairobi
Photo: © Planning Systems Services Limted
If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation
Donating helps us keep reporting on positive news