"What's unique about it is its utter simplicity and the fact that something so simple can generate immense heat," explained Archer.
The cooker is made of simple bricks and cement covered by a metal plate, which serves as cooking surface. It is said to be able to burn up to 2 tonnes of rubbish per day, regardless of the composition of the trash. Operating at temperatures of up to 900 degrees Celsius with an efficiency of 99%, the cooker is claimed to eliminate all the toxic fumes such as dioxins and furans, as certified by global quality standard agencies.
The Community cooker was deliberately designed as a simple, low-cost and socially inclusive technology. "It is incredibly easy to operate and to maintain. When it goes wrong any competent stone mason can fix it,'' remarked. Archer.
According to UNEP, the project provides a wealth of uses, including cooking, baking, boiling water, and sterilisation, to a community that lacks access to basic services and lives in an environment characterised by poor hygienic conditions. It also has potential to mold plastic-based pavement stones.
UNEP's technical and financial support to the project is part of a broader effort to help developing countries in Africa sustainably manage their solid waste.
"Over 60% of solid waste in Nairobi is generated in informal settlements. The Community cooker was conceived as an ideal solution for residents of Kibera - Kenya's largest informal settlement with up to one million inhabitants - to manage solid waste while generating energy for their daily needs," commented Henry Ndede, Coordinator of UNEP - Kenya Country Programme.
UNEP said that all the conditions were carefully examined to make the project technically and commercially viable. Its simplicity, affordability and scalability were said to make it unique in Africa and “probably in the world”.
However, UNEP added that the project faces a critical challenge today: community-based sustainable management.
It was initially designed to be managed by volunteers from the community. However, lack of management capacity among the residents and the absence of a business model posed serious challenges to the sustainability and viability of the project.
With waste to run the cooker so easily available - the area was heavily littered with solid waste - a voluntary collection model seemed to be the best solution. Instead of dumping their waste in the river, the households were supposed to collect it and use as fuel whenever they wished to use the cooker.
Scroll up and click arrow for next slide...