Solar Cooking
Last edited: 15 April 2022      
Mount Kenya Energy Project 2014.jpg

The Mount Kenya Energy Project was started in 2009 by Ingelore Kahrens to spread the use of appropriate technology and to develop an awareness of its advantages. The project, associated with Lernen - Helfen - Leben e.V., currently serves people in the small village of Gaketha, Kenya. A local women's group has been formed called Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group. The project coordinator is Mugo Justus.


Biomass briquettes

  • August 2015: Our German organisation Lernen-Helfen-Leben e.V. has focused on the construction of gasifier/pyrolysis stoves during the past three years. These stoves perform very well when pellets or biomass briquettes made from plant waste are used. In my discussions with MKICDO board members we came to the conclusion that making briquettes for sale could be a viable income-generating project for the Kiini workshop. It would also be in line with our plans to build gasifier stoves at the new institute and train promotors to market them. Mugo found a young entrepreneur who already had some experiences in setting up such projects. We met and came up with a basic outline for a medium-scale business. The briquets will be made of sawdust and coffee husks. Sawdust is readily available from carpentry workshops. The husks are a waste product at coffee dry mills and are sold very cheaply. We went to a nearby coffee cooperative and made arrangements to be given priority once we need these raw materials.

Participants in the September 2013 training

  • September 2013: Solar cooker construction workshop - In the first week of their training twelve participants worked in two groups and finished building one small and one large Lazola box cooker each. In the remaining two weeks each trainee worked with one partner and by the end of the course 12 cookers had been built.

Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group gathering, November, 2012

Using a heat-retention cooker to save fuel.

  • November 2012: Integrated Cooking Method promoted in Kenya - Ingelore Kahrens reports that last summer she went to Kenya again for five weeks to celebrate the birthday of the newly founded Mount Kenya Integrated Community Development Organization (MKICDO). The Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group, which was founded after Ingelore's first visit in 2009, is promoting the use of fuel-efficient stoves and basket cookers, as well as promoting soil and crop management practices. A Lazola 3 solar box cooker was introduced, which was approved by the board members of MKICDO. The group is planning to train artisans at a training center near Chogoria on how to build the cooker. On September 28th, the Lazola 3, along with a basket cooker and a Fuel-efficient wood stoves, was taken for demonstration to a divisional show. The County Commissioner from Kitui, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and many other people were delighted to eat rice that was cooked with the sun.” Read more: Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group update, November 2012
  • April 2010: Ingelore Kahrens went to Kenya again. In the meantime, Mugo had established contacts with several groups in the region and made arrangements for visits with them. In community centres, churches and schools and at the homes of women´s group members we met representatives of different types of groups. Mugo had recruited members of the Gaketha group as promoters. They explained to the listeners the advantages of the new technologies. A male member of the group gave information on the use of the neem tree for medical purposes as a natural insecticide. In every place we visited we left the participants with a solar cooker set and/or a clay liner for building an energy-efficient stove. The interest of the participants and the requests for further information were very high. In the future, Mugo was to act as contact person and a coordinator of the work of the promoters. Follow-up visits to new groups were planned in order to monitor their work and progress and to support them. (Text from Ingelore Kahrens)
  • August 2009: Kahrens went to Kenya to visit the family of an African friend and former teacher colleague, Mugo Justus. They live in the small village Gaketha on the slopes of Mount Kenya at the boundaries of Mount Kenya Forest. At the East Africa office of Solar Cookers International in Nairobi I had bought a collapsible solar cooker (CooKit) and a retained-heat cooker (basket cooker). My friends found the cookers very useful and had the idea to interest others in them as well. With the assistance of the area chief, we mobilized representatives of different women´s groups and invited them for a demonstration. When they came we explained how solar cookers, basket cookers and energy-saving clay ovens function and what advantages they have over traditional cooking methods. In the kitchen house of the host, the women built a clay oven underneath a chimney and thus learnt about the advantages of a smoke-free kitchen. After this successful event, women from the Gaketha village founded the Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group. After my departure they tried out the new technologies and met regularly to exchange their experiences. Mugo Justus functioned as an advisor and project coordinator. (Text from Ingelore Kahrens)
  • July 2009: Ingelore Kahrens travelled to Kenya to visit some friends. Margaret Owino had made arrangements with the SCI office in Kisumu; so she had a chance to see a demonstration of women building a fuel-efficient mud stove with clay liners. Since the Agricultural Show was on at the same time, John Amayo took Ingelore to SCI´s display stall. She was particularly impressed by the fireless cookers – well-crafted baskets lined with cotton fabric and insulated with cotton waste. They looked very attractive. Back in Nairobi, she decided to take a basket and a CooKit along for friends. Her last visit to their place was 9 years ago. Mugo and Ingelore were colleagues when Ingelore taught in Garba Tula (1983-87) and she have been a family friends ever since. The cooking- basket and the CooKit raised interest not only among the household members, but also some women in the neighbourhood. Mugo liked the new technologies so much he decided to convince more people of their benefits. He contacted the village elder and we got an appointment with the chief of the area. The chief was in favour of promoting energy-efficient technologies. So he instructed the village elder to inform women groups and tell them to send representatives to a demonstration at Mugo´ s place. In the meantime, Ingelore and her group had found out that fuel-efficient cookers and clay liners for mud stoves were readily available at Chuka. They got some for a demonstration. Mugo also called a carpenter who built a chimney on their kitchen house to make it smoke-free. On the day of our demonstration, about 40 women came to Mugo´ s place: members of different women groups, neighbours and friends. Mugo demonstrated the CooKit even though the sun was not in our favour that day. He gave a short lesson on nutrition, introduced the fuel-efficient stove and the cooking-basket and talked about the manifold benefits of those devices. With some of the women, Ingelore started to build a mud stove in the kitchen house. As they were quite familiar with using mud for construction, the women became quite enthusiastic and took over after a short time. Small groups of women were scattered all over the compound collecting stones, preparing mud, testing the fuel-efficient stove and cooking rice in the cooking-basket. Mugo and Ingelore walked around watching and ready to answer questions. The day was a great success and they received positive positive feedback in the days following. The carpenter's wife had turned one of her baskets into a fireless cooker and her husband was very happy with the tasty results. One woman from Gaketha had made a “bucket cooker” and invited Mugo and Ingelore to sample her “bucket-cooked” bananas. She was very excited that it worked so well. To her it was of even greater importance because she was to sick to collect firewood herself. She had to pay someone to do it for her. Back in Germany, Ingelore has received reports on the progress of the new energy project. The women are about to officially register their group -- Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group. They meet regularly and try out the CooKit and the cooking-basket. They have also started making baskets and want to manufacture the CooKit as well. Inegelore looks forward to meeting them again. (Text from Ingelore Kahrens)

Project goals[]

The purpose of the project is to spread the use of appropriate technology and to develop an awareness of its advantages. Income-generating activities are to improve the financial situation of the group members and to serve the welfare of their families, their community and their country.

  • The use of solar cookers, heat-retention cookers (basket cookers) and energy-efficient stoves saves time (collection of firewood), which can be used for other activities
  • The health of women is improved when they can work in smoke-free kitchens.
  • The group members promote protection of the environment. The new way of cooking saves firewood (also time and money). Fewer trees have to be cut down while new trees are being planted (in tree nurseries).
  • The group contributes to further education of the community and to the development of a general environmental awareness.
  • The women initiate income-generating projects and thus contribute to an improved standard of living in their families and their community.

Current and future activies[]

  • December 2010: Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group has a director, a committee of nine people with a chairperson, a treasurer and a secretary. The group members meet regularly and at least once a month. Every member pays a fixed monthly contribution. The money is kept in a bank account and will be used to carry out the projects of the group.

Current activities of the group

  • Producing basket cookers for sale
  • Informing the public about the advantages of the new technologies and giving practical assistance in their application
  • Purchasing chickens that are to be distributed among the group members in order to improve their families´ diets as well as their income (the sale of eggs brings good profit in Kenya)

Future plans

  • Purchase milk goats for every group member
  • Produce solar cookers for their own use and for sale
  • Establish tree nurseries with neem trees for their own use and for sale
  • Participate in courses at Murugi Polytechnic in Chogoria


See also[]

External links[]


Ingelore Kahrens
Kanstr. 13
25541 Brunsbuettel

Tel. 04852-940731