Community Cooker Foundation

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Community Cooker Foundation
Headquarters Nairobi, Kenya

Community Cooker Foundation is an initiative by Planning Systems Services Ltd. in Nairobi, Kenya, established in 2010, with the goal of using the Community Cooker, a simple stove designed to turn rubbish into safe, clean and cheap energy, to transform Nairobi's largest slum, Kibera.


In the early 1990s, Jim Archer (Chairman of Planning Systems Ltd. and Planning Project Management Ltd.) recognized rubbish as a never-ending resource for the production of energy if processed responsibly. With Mumo Musuva (Managing Director of Planning Systems Services Ltd.) he began to develop designs for a very simple, inexpensive rubbish burner which could also serve as a stove for cooking.

With initial seed capital of US $10,000 through UNEP and coupled with funding from other institutions, the first prototype model of the Community Cooker was constructed in 2008 in one of Africa’s largest slums, Kibera. There are three Community Cookers in low-income areas in Kenya (including Kibera) and one at Planning Systems used for Research and Development purposes.

In November 2010 the Community Cooker Foundation was created. The foundation now consists of a board of trustees, a secretariat and a committee who make decisions about future Community Cooker developments. The foundation also manages a wide range of volunteers, who assist in promoting the Community Cooker.[1]



To develop economically sustainable energy solutions for a cleaner environment.


Community Cooker Foundation works to transform environmental waste into energy for improved livelihoods and healthier communities.

The Community Cooker is a sustainable Community Energy System currently operating in three informal settlements in Kenya; Laini Saba Village in Kibera, Karagita in Naivasha and Kawangware, Nairobi. This waste to energy technology has three complementary functions:

1) To address sanitation, health and aesthetic issues associated with the growing mounds of rubbish in informal settlements.

2) To provide communities with alternatives to charcoal, firewood and paraffin for cooking meals and boiling water.

3) To act as a platform from which Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) and institutions can run cost effective income generating activities.[2]

The Issues[edit]

Rubbish is everywhere, and yet Local Authorities of developing nations are less and less inclined to collect and seldom dispose of responsibly, especially in low-income areas. This results in:

Pollution of groundwater and rivers Pollution of the food chain, as domestic animals often eat from refuse heaps Breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes, flies and rats Methane gas emissions from heaps of rotting rubbish General degradation of the natural environment and the quality of all forms of life in rubbish strewn areas Decline in property values due to the degradation of the environment and health [3]

More than 80 percent of Kenya’s urban dwellers, many of whom live in poor, informal settlements, use charcoal made from wood as their primary source of energy, according to government statistics. On average, burning 2 kg of dry wood emits 1 kg of stored carbon. Environmental Resource Management (ERM), an international consultancy, has calculated that, if operated 24 hours a day, the Community Cooker could save the calorific heat equivalent of burning about 3,000 mature trees over one year. The Community Cooker offers resourceful slum dwellers a fuel source that is far less expensive than wood fuel, charcoal, gas or kerosene.[4]

The Cooker[edit]

The Community Cooker is a simple machine and can be built almost anywhere. Repairs and maintenance can be carried out by members of the community. The Community Cooker represents a low technology, low cost and socially inclusive vision for change, engaging communities to participate in collecting rubbish to exchange for energy to cook food and heat water. Once set up, it has minimal operating expenses and can run for indefinite periods of time at minimal cost. While currently designed for cooking, the potential to convert energy into alternative uses exists, including activities such as brick and pottery baking, hot water institutions, soft metals smelting and generating electricity.

The Community Cooker requires only rubbish and small droplets of water and disused engine oil to function at combustion temperatures of over 850 degrees Celsius, exceeding the WHO minimum standards for incineration in developing countries. With a total cooking surface of 1.7 sq. metres, including 8 hobs and two 18 cubic metre ovens for baking, the technology is designed to operate 24 hours a day. Over a two-hour period, the Community Cooker can cook 77 liters of food and heat 800 liters of water. 2,100 residents can be served over a 12-hour period.[5]

How it Works?

1) Rubbish collection: A community, or specific groups or individuals collect rubbish in baskets, bags and wheelbarrows.

2) Sorting Rubbish: Rubbish is deposited and sorted on the lowest of the three stepped steel welded mesh racks. Rubbish sorters receive training in solid waste management to ensure that non-combustible materials and material which create harmful fumes are intercepted and removed, such as torch batteries, glass and rubber. Biodegradable scraps that fall through become compost manure. The remaining rubbish such as plastic bags, packaging, food scraps and even flying toilets, are placed on the second tiered rack for drying. Dry materials are shovelled down the chute to the firebox.

3) Incineration: Two simple taps are the only moving controls on the cooker: one tap controls a drip flow of recycled sump oil (discarded oil from vehicles) and one tap controls a drip flow of water. A drop of each, in equal amounts, falls onto the super-heated steel plate of the firebox, where the water vaporizes and boosts the flames, thereby increasing the temperature from about 250 degrees Celsius to more than 800 degrees Celsius (the World Health Organisation (WHO) minimum burning standard for incinerators in developing countries). As the firebox gets hotter, the network of steel pipes that pass around the cooker produce hot water. As the rubbish burns, heat is distributed under 8 cooking plates on the top of the Cooker and 2 ovens in the sides of the Cooker.

4) Using rubbish as fuel: The cooker can be used 24/7 by individuals or community groups to cook food for their own use or as an income generating activity. The cooker has a cooking surface of 1.7 square meters, two large ovens for baking, and storage capacity for heating 800 litres of water at any given time. Each oven is large enough to bake up to 10 loaves of bread at one time, or roast an entire goat.

5) Cleaner waste: A ten metre tall chimney rises out of the combustion chamber and above the neighbourhood rooftops. Because the flames are boosted by the regulated mixture of sump oil and water, the firebox and combustion chamber achieves ninety-nine percent combustion efficiency (Société Générale Surveillance Kenya, Environmental Measures Report NRB1152-0094, 21 March 2011). As a result, the chimney emits a nearly odourless white vapour when the stove is in use

6) Maintenance: Once all the rubbish in the combustion chamber has been burned and the users are ready to turn off the Cooker, one simply turns off the oil and water drip feed and stops feeding the rubbish through the chute. At the end of a burn, the operator should use a pipe or shovel to remove the ash below the firebox and combustion chamber. The ash can be used for block making.[6]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

The Community Cooker Foundation has spread the idea of Community Cooker and has received multiple international awards and recognitions:

1) Sustainia Copenhagen, Demark April 15, 2013

Shortlisted for the 2013 edition of Sustainia 100[7]

2) The FT ArcelorMittal Boldness in Business Awards London March 20, 2013

Shortlisted for the FT ArcelorMittal Boldness in Business Awards in the Corporate Responsibility/Environment category.[8]

3) The Icon Awards 2012 December 6, 2012

The Community Cooker is awarded; The Most Socially Responsible Design of the Year Award[9]

4) FT/Citi Ingenuity Awards Urban Ideas in Action New York December 5, 2012 The Community Cooker was awarded;

Energy - Urban Ingenuity Ideas in Action winner, with the Metropolitan Government of Tokyo as runner up The Overall Global Leader Ahead of GSK, College Possible (A University in USA) and JC Decaux – Vėlib with the Paris Bureau of Transport & City of Huston as runners up.[10]

5) World Design Impact Prize Finland February 2, 2012

The Community Cooker was awarded the Inaugural World Design Impact Prize.[11]

6) British Expertise Awards London U.K. November 2011

Open to all British registered consultants worldwide, the Community Cooker won the Environmental Impact Award.[12]

7) Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Socially Responsible Design New York City, January 2011

The Community Cooker was showcased at the United Nations Headquarters from October 15, 2011 until January 9, 2012 as part of the Smithsonian’s Design with the Other 90%: CITIES exhibition. It then went on tour for in the United States of America for two years.[13]