Designing stoves for sub-Saharan Africa

More than half of the world's population cooks over open fires. Smoke from these traditional cookstoves kills more than 4 million people, mostly women and children, every year.  Not only do these open fires produce terrible health affects but they also contribute to rapid deforestation.  Burning forests for charcoal is responsible for more than half of deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Burn Manufacturing, aims to produce the world's most efficient and clean burning cookstove.  

As a mechanical design engineer, I worked with a team of engineers and researchers to develop a clean burning cookstove.


Project Length: 1.5 years

Project Date: 2015

Collaborators: Pieter Depape

Skills: Design research, physical prototyping, manufacturing


Market Research

Our design process involves extensive research of the way users cook and interact with their cookstoves. Prototypes were tested in dozens of neighborhoods in Nairobi, Kenya ranging from rural villages to upper class areas. The users, primarily women, interact with the stoves by cooking traditional Kenyan dished including ugali and madazi.



Value Charcoal Stove prototype sent to Nairobi, Kenya for market research

Prototype & Iteration

Insights that developed from market research sessions informed my design decisions. The current stoves on the market were too expensive for the average family. Users wanted to see a lower cost stove that didn't compromise performance, durability or efficiency.



Value Charcoal Stove

I wanted this stove to share design characteristics with the original, Jikokoa stove, but allow it to have its own identity.  By reducing the diameter of the stove by 20% the VCS became significantly smaller taking on a "cute" aspect while also cutting material costs by a third.  A smaller stove, however, still needs to accommodate large household pots, so I designed the VCS pot supports to extend from the outer diameter of the top deck.  The feet use half the material as Burn's original stove and have three gussets for added strength.