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  • Writer's picturePaula Hammack

Life Saving Straws and Cooking Pots

Now I would like to introduce you to two items that have been an overwhelming hit in rural Kenya, and they are things I learned of by being there.  I was told about this wonder item called a “life straw” made by an american company primarily for hikers who can’t carry a l

In rural Kenya young boys around 8 and up go out with the cows daily to keep watch on them and there is never any water for them, so we provided hundreds of these life straws and the young boys were in wonderment that if they came across a rain puddle they could use the straw to drink the water and it would taste wonderful.  We provided several thousand of these miraculous “life straws” to tribesmen, young children, women walking to market and it’s time now to replace a lot of them as I’m sure they’ve done the 4000 liters already.  Imagine how much easier to put a lifestraw in dirty water and drink it instead of having to make a fire, wait for it to get hot, boil the water and then wait for it to cool down before you can drink it.  

The other item introduced to me by a local is called a jiko.  So imagine that almost all the cooking is done outside, and usually in one pot over an open wood fire.  When it rains or is cold the cooking has to move inside and when that occurs the people living in the hut get smoke inhalation in their eyes and get a quite bad disease from the damage  caused by the smoke.  But there is no option given the type of huts they live in and how they cook.  However, these jikos have been the best thing ever, along with the life straws.  Imagine a stack of freshly cut wood about 7 feet tall by 2 feet deep by about 5 feet wide.  That amount of wood used for cooking will last about one month using normal cooking methods.  Now imagine the same amount of wood and just one small stick of wood about 3 feet long is put in the jiko and it not only cooks the same amount of food but it can be used inside the huts as it gives off almost no smoke- so saves eyes, keeps the huts warm and saves wood.  That same stack of wood will last about one year when cooking is done with a jiko rather than over an open fire. So one year instead of one month – wonder how many trees are saved by the use of kilos.   Jikos sell for around $40 and there is a need for way more than we have purchased. We had a monthly plan to buy jikos, but, unfortunately, the need for food now is so extreme (because covid 19 has caused so many people to be laid off with no income) that the provision of food has had to take precedence over purchasing more jikos.

Ladies showing off their jikos with a stack of wood behind them that will last many months when using jikos as opposed to weeks when building a traditional wood fire.
Ladies showing off their jikos with a stack of wood behind them that will last many months when using jikos as opposed to weeks.


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