Can Technology Contribute To Happiness?

Dec 22nd, 2012 | By | Category: Biomass, Capacity Development, Energy, Environment, Health and Climate Change, Information and Communication, News, Opinion, Pollution, Technologies, Vulnerability

Practical Action: This short video was taken during a visit to the Ochola family, a poor family living on the outskirts of Kisumu in Kenya. The head of this family of 8 is Betty, a widow for the past two years.  The family make their living from farming a small plot of land they own and providing occasional services or domestic work in Kisumu. Do you think Betty has a good reason to be happy?

Betty’s life is hard; a normal day for her starts at 5am and ends about 9pm.  She wakes up, prepares breakfast and immediately after cooks lunch and dinner for the family.  In the afternoon she works as a household help with an Asian family.

The purpose of my visit, along with Practical Action East Africa’s energy specialist, Vincent Okello, was to start the use of a new stove. The stove was built the week before and was completely dry and ready to start.  We came into the kitchen, gave a few instructions to Betty about how to start it, operate it and maintain it safely and  immediately she started to cook. She found that this stove was quick, efficient and smokeless. She prepared a meal of ugali, meat and vegetables for her family and for us, her visitors, in about 30 minutes. She also found that the stove is strong and simple to use. Cooking ugali, a local meal made of maize flour, requires constant, vigorous stirring from start to finish. Betty found that with a strong stove like this she can use both hands for stirring, while with other stoves she has to hold the pot with one hand and stir with the other, which is uncomfortable.

Betty found that she can cook in about half the time she needed using a three stone stove and that it uses about a third of the amount of wood.  She also found that it is simple, smokeless and strong,  Betty is aware of the adverse health effects of smoke from cooking fires and is also very conscious of the amount of money she spends on fuel. I have to say that I not only enjoyed the food Betty prepared but enjoyed a lot watching her face filled with happiness.

This new stove has been the result of collaborative work between City University, London and Practical Action and was part of a larger ongoing SCORE project to develop a stove which generates electricity while cooking.   City University did the engineering design; Practical Action introduced the technology in Kisumu, tested and adapted appropriate manufacturing using local materials and local skills.  This stove has been introduced now because tests showed that it provides dramatic improvements in both energy efficiency and cleanliness in comparison with stoves generally in use.  While research continues into the energy generating capacity of these stoves, women like Betty are able to benefit from easier, cheaper, healthier cooking.





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