‘In the next five years, I see myself as a trainer and I shall have trained more than 200 people,” said Wilson Wamalwa after benefiting from training in making improved jiko at Busia County Energy Centre.
Wamalwa says that he learnt the trade from his colleagues through apprenticeship but the five days training by the Department of Energy and GTZ has sharply improved his skills.
“I have been running a workshop in Bungoma, but after getting more skills during the five days training here, I know my work will be much better,” he says.
The elderly Wamalwa who holds a standard seven certificate says that the trade does not demand for any level of education.
“I sat for my CPE in 1983 and I’m doing this work,” he says, adding that he has educated his sons to the level of a Master’s degree through proceeds of jiko making.
The artisan further says that he has resorted to using the internet with a view to get a wider reach of customers.
He exudes confidence that the multi-purpose jiko whose idea he has gotten from the centre will be more marketable since it saves on space and consumes less charcoal or firewood.
“This multipurpose jiko uses less firewood compared to the traditional fireplace that uses three stones,” he says, adding that it uses both charcoal and firewood depending on the preference of the user.
Wamalwa urges young people who have undergone the training to be patient, explaining that the business can take up to two years before they start enjoying its fruits.
Edwin Tarus, a young man from Eldama Ravine says that the commodity is very marketable in the area but they have to source for it from Western Kenya.
“I sell this commodity in Eldama Ravine and I have come all the way to Busia Energy Centre to learn how to fabricate it,” he says, adding that they rely on Kisumu and other counties in Western for it.
Tarus explains that the jiko is energy saving and therefore very friendly to the environment.
“Learning this jiko making trait will be a source of employment creation not only to me but also other youth,” he says, adding that it is a way of achieving President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda.
He however laments that accessing tools and the right material for the work is a major challenge urging the government to support them.
“I appeal to the government to establish energy centres in each county or equip the available vocational training centres for ease of training among the youth,” he says, adding that Baringo County does not have such a facility.
Vincent Mwanzi, a resident of Kakamega County says he engages in jiko business in the Ilesi area but without value addition.
“So we have come to learn about these claddings so that we can add value to our products,” he says.
Mwanzi appeals to the youth to embrace the trait as an income generating activity.
“Jiko liner alone trades at Sh. 200 but if we add the cladding it sells at Sh 1, 500,” he explains, adding that there is more profit in value addition.
Caleb Ochere who offers training at the facility urges the female youth to consider embracing the trade.
“We have trained several women in Makueni and Tharaka Nithi but none of them have ventured into the business,” he says adding that women consider the work as a male dominated trade.
Busia Energy Centre Manager Cyrus Njuguna states that the Centre churns out an average of 100 graduates per year after training on the energy saving jikos.
Njuguna adds that 80 percent of artisans trained at the facility are already successful and are earning a living through the training.
‘We look forward to training more youths so as to bridge the gap of unemployment and help to promote renewable energy activities and creation of energy saving devices such as modern jikos and parabolic cookers,” he says.
He however cites inadequate tools and funds for use by the trainees to implement their ideas after they complete the program as some of the major challenges.
“Some of our energy saving devices have also not been widely accepted by the local community as they prefer more well-known cookers but they look forward to being able to convince more people to buy into our ideas,” he says.
The centre works closely with GTZ and other development partners to promote the use of environmentally friendly energy saving cookers.