The majority of rural households in southwestern Uganda prepare their meals using the ‘three-stone method’. The technology is just as it sounds. Collect three large stones and gather them closely together in a triangle, start a fire in the middle (using the branches of eucalyptus and pine trees) and place your cooking pot on top.
Depending on the weather, women typically cook outside their homes, or inside if there’s rain, or in small one-room kitchens that are built in close proximity to their homes.
Part of the downside of the three-stone method is that a lot of heat and energy can easily escape while cooking, which means a woman requires more firewood (and as a result, costs her more work, more time spent away from the home, more money, and more deforestation). It also produces a great deal of smoke, and when cooking indoors, can lead to inhalation and respiratory issues.
A couple of months back, in September, I had the pleasure to receive a visit here in Uganda from Sarah, a friend of a friend who had been working in Tanzania for three months. Sarah had been a part of a project with a UK-based organization, Raleigh International, that had been working in Gongo, a community in northeastern Tanzania, to build demonstration ‘majiko’ (Swahili for rocket-stoves, or eco-stoves) to respond to the high rates of deforestation in the region. At our request, Sarah passed along the low-resource technology – and today, I’m happy to pass it along with you…
Building a ‘Jiko’ Eco-Stove – 10 Easy Steps
Eco-stoves make sense. They save people money, time. They reduce the harmful effect of inhaling smoke while cooking. They lessen the footprint on the environment, as they’re found to be 50-60% more efficient than the traditional three-stone method. The magic ingredient, of course, is cow manure, which insulates the heat and reduces energy loss.
In some respects, they’re even more sustainable than solar-powered stoves, as they rely on appropriate technology and locally available building materials: soil, ash, cow manure, water and clay bricks. In southwestern Uganda, all of these materials are easy to find and affordable, making them an excellent alternative to the three-stone method.
Step 1 – Pick Your Location, Lay Your Bricks
Stoves should be built in a flat, dry area that isn’t vulnerable to rain, or water leakage. For a two-burner stove, lay down your clay bricks in the pattern shown below in the photo.
Step 2 – Mix Your Medium – Soil, Ash & Water
Mix together 4 parts soil, 1 part ash, and add enough water to create a thick (not too runny) ‘concrete’ medium.
Step 3 – Filling in the Cracks
Use a trowel or flat edged piece of wood to put the ‘concrete’ between the bricks, and on the top layer.
Step 4 – Putting into Place the Top Layer
Place the second layer of bricks on top of the concrete mixture, one by one, and using the butt-end of the trowel to gently hammer them into place.
Step 5 – Fill in The Rest of the Cracks
Add the concrete mixture between the spaces of the bricks, and form even, solid corners. Then get ready to mix the manure and water for the final coat.
Step 6 – Mixing Your Miracle Ingredient – Cow Manure
Mix together (relatively fresh) cow manure and water to create a thick, sloppy mixture that will serve as the final insulating layer.
Step 7 – Make it Smooth Like Butter
Use the trowel to coat the entire stove structure with the cow-manure mixture, use the flat end of the trowel to smooth it clean.
Step 8 – Make Pot Holders
Use the trowel to build four rectangular ‘burner edges’ at each burner – these will hold the pots slightly above the coals and flame once the stove is ready to use.
Step 9 – Let the Sun Do the Rest
Let dry. The less clay in the soil, the longer the stove will take to dry. Ours took approximately 5-6 days, and while it dried with deep cracks, don’t let the appearance fool you – it’s rock solid and sturdy against the elements. We suspect it should have a lifespan of a year, or so, though it may need a top coat of manure.
Step 10 – C’mon Baby Light (Your) Fire…
Once dry, start a small fire using kindling and newspaper, and add sticks to build nice, hot coals. The rest is yours for the cookin’…
We christened our jiko stove by roasting one of our rabbits, Chocolate. Is it weird that I name the animals we’re eventually going to eat? Perhaps, but that’s another story for yet another day…
Step 11 – Share this Recipe for Eco-Stoves with Somebody Else!
Happy jiko (eco-stove) building to you!