At 28, Charlot’s childhood pain has borne a solution for thousands of low-income earners. Having grown up in Nairobi’s low-income informal settlements, all her childhood was characterised by a dark past with bad memories of life in the stifling Mukuru slums.
She lost her father when she was two and her mother at 10. At 16, she became a teen mother. One day, her daughter got burnt by a traditional cooking stove.
‘‘Everything good has an end, so is anything bad.” These were the days, she says, when the idea to find safer cooking stoves whizzed past her mind. “Of all the events that shaped my career journey was when my baby was burned by a traditional stove.” “After that day, I started thinking about cooking solutions that posed less of a safety risk to children in the household.”
The Environmental Science graduate says the idea was refined during her days at Kenyatta University. In 2017, she founded Mukuru Clean Stoves to address three problems: excessive fuel consumption, household air pollution, and children’s burn injuries. Mukuru Clean Stoves designs, makes, and distributes improved “reliable and affordable” cooking stoves to low-income households. She uses water hyacinth, cassava stems, sorghum waste, and sugar cane in making the stoves.
"Burning fuels exposes families to air pollution at levels as much as 50 times greater than the World Health Organisation guidelines for clean air."
“Upon further research, I found out that child burns were not even the worst risk associated with open-flame cooking, but rather, household air pollution.”
Indoor pollution results from burning solid fuels, such as wood, charcoal, and agricultural waste, in open fires and traditional stoves.
“Burning these fuels exposes families to air pollution at levels as much as 50 times greater than the World Health Organisation guidelines for clean air.”
She started the social enterprise at Mukuru slums but moved to Rarieda, Siaya. She has actively employed 25 men and women and worked with about 200 sales agents. However, she is not about to drop the tag –“Mukuru”.
“This is where I have known as home. I do not want to shed Mukuru from my identity because I grew up there. I know and relate to their struggles and I had them in mind when I started the venture.