In one of Kenyas biggest slums a community cooker project uses rubbish in an innovative way
Kibera - a Rubbish free Zone
I had never been to Kibera before and the stories I used to read in the newspapers made me almost believe it to be a no-go zone. To put this opinion to the test, I decided to go to Kibera on my daily assignment. I was accompanied with a friend of mine I work with while he made a radio program about creative innovations in the slum.
After starting our journey through meandering paths in the slum we reached Laini Saba community cooker. We were welcomed by women who eagerly waited for us and immediately they introduced us to their project.
Laini Saba Cooker
This is a community cooker that was started in 2008 by Nairobi-born architect Jim Archer. The slam dwellers have every reason to be happy because their crucial problems had been solved by innovation of this community cooker.
Mr. Mokaya, the manager of the project says: “In this project volunteers from various youth groups sort and store garbage in metal racks arranged in steps and adjacent to the cooker to dry. Materials that cannot be burnt such as rubber and glass are put to one side. Biodegradable scraps that fall through become compost manure. In this process the most useful solid waste materials such as paper and plastic bags, drinks bottles and packaging, saw dust and food peel from banana, cassava, maize cob and sugarcane peel are forked up to the top level of the racks. They are then ready for ignition.”
How the cooker works
The cooker is made entirely of welded steel and has eight circular hotplates on the top. This is similar to a traditional hob design except that the big metal cooking pots can be easily submerged into the hotplates to gain and retain heat from the firebox below. The cooker has two ovens under the hob, one on either side of the firebox.
A tall and narrow chimney rises out of the firebox between the hotplates and reaches high above the slum. White vapour emerges and wafts away the almost odourless fumes from the spotlessly clean kitchen area. Sliding down below the hob, a wide metal chute feeds a constant supply of rubbish from the storage racks into the firebox’s hungry flame.
Mr. Mokaya is the only person who has the knowledge to ignite fire in the oven. “The two containers on either side of the kiln are for oil and water. One tap controls a drip flow of recycled sump oil and the other tap controls a drip of water. A drop of each falls in equal amounts on to a heated steel plate at the face of the firebox, where the water vaporizes into hydrogen and oxygen. A combustive reaction with the flames occurs, and the temperature increases. As the firebox gets hotter it heats the network of steel pipes that pass around the cooker.”
It was during the design development that Jim and his friends introduced the combined effect of heat generated from droplets of disused sump oil and water dripping onto a super heated steel plate to combust rubbish.
Low tech is the future
The idea of the community cooker in Kibera slum has attracted the attention of so many people all over the world. Therefore with this simple concept there are infinite uses to which the cooker can be applied for local development. These include kiln for clay bricks, pottery and tiles, small hot water systems for homes, hot food and water for hospitals, schools and colleges, hotel and lodges. In addition it demonstrates that local solutions to specific problems of plastic and other waste can be transformed to benefit human beings.