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  • Writer's pictureSamantha McCandless

The Kiruis | Since the Stove, Life Changed

Updated: May 15

Nestled among the green hills not too far from Nakuru, the Kirui’s compound is neat and peaceful, despite the dozens of children running around, skipping rope and chasing each other.

The house the family of four lives in is humble but charming. Newly built using traditional materials such as cow dung and mud, it has electricity thanks to a solar panel on the roof, a big investment for the family.

region and hills

A few meters away from the house, smoke rises out of a shiny metal chimney atop a small outbuilding. This kitchen is where Janet used to spend hours every day, tending to the fire, warming water and cooking for the family; her son, Felix Kipngeno, was always strapped to her back or resting on her hip.

“I used to be afraid of leaving him on his own and it was really hard to do the work around the farm while carrying him around” says Janet.

Felix was born without feeling in his legs and has always been unable to move them.

One day Janet left Felix alone in the kitchen whilst she tended to the animals. He crawled close to the fire, but unable to feel pain in his legs, he didn’t cry out when they started burning. When Janet returned his injuries were already severe.

“We put eggs and honey on his skin to soothe the burns and then took him to Nakuru hospital. But some burns were too bad and one of his legs had to be amputated”.

Whilst in the hospital, Janet heard there was going to be a presentation about fire safety. She listened to Todd, (country director) and Justus (operations manager) talk about the negative effects of smoke inhalation and how, by using different cooking methods, it was possible to save a lot of money on fuel. This is the first time she saw a Salama Stove.

“I had heard about improved stoves but I wasn’t sure what the benefits were, and I never thought I would own one” Janet says. “I was surprised when I received a Salama Stove a few weeks after Felix was discharged”.

Since owning the stove, the family’s life has changed in unexpected ways. As well as saving money on fuel – spending about $6 a month instead of the $15 that they used to – and suffering from fewer coughs and eye problems, the family is able to use the time they save on cooking and tending to the fire to engage in other productive activities.

Weldon Kiprono Kirui, Felix’s father, started running competitively three years ago. He and his family are Kalenjin, the Kenyan tribe who has produced some of the world’s fastest runners.

“Before owning the Salama Stove, I would have to look after Felix when Janet was out on the farm. Especially after the accident, we were afraid that the same thing could happen again, to him or other children”.

Having to cook for the family of four, and sometimes even Weldon’s six brothers and their families, meant that Janet and Weldon had little time outside of the household.

“It used to be really hard on Janet when I left to go and race in Nakuru or Nairobi, because it was hard to tend to the fire, work on the farm and make sure that the children were safe at the same time” says Weldon.

But the Salama Stove has changed that. With its low surface temperature and raised body, the stove is a lot safer than a three stone fire. Now, Janet can leave the kids in the house whilst she works in the fields – where they grow maize, potatoes and beans – knowing that her children are safe.

Weldon trains three times a day and often travels to compete in marathons, half marathons and hurdle races. Since he has started training more frequently, his times have gotten more competitive and he is hoping that soon he will be able to turn his passion into a source of income for his family.

Felix is recovering quickly, and when he is a bit older he will begin to receive physical therapy to help him move independently.

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