Meet Lawrence Kamoni, A Young Man Who Earns A 7-Digit Figure Through Making Jikos.


Lawrence Kamoni demonstrating how his 'Kuni Moja' jikos work.
Lawrence Kamoni Muchene aka ‘Ka Ngu igiri’ has known three-stone jikos (cook stoves) since childhood for his mother cooked on one, as did most families in his community. These jikos have had a substantial burden on human health and the environment as they are estimated to be responsible for around a quarter of global emissions of soot (black carbon).

Things changed in the year 2008 when he bumped into a German N.G.O. called G.T.Z. that was training some youth on how to make energy saving jikos. He got interested in the project as everybody around him had challenges in the kitchen due to the scarcity of firewood and the high cost of fuel.

After some few months of training, Kamoni decided to venture into the business of making the “kuni mbili” jikos. His jiko is basically a stove made from clay bricks and permanently installed in the kitchen. It is designed to use both firewood and charcoal depending on the user’s preference.

Influenced by the challenges his community had to undergo while cooking, he used his newly acquired skills to create solutions to these problems by coming up with jikos that suited the needs of each one of them.
They say that charity begins at home. In order for him to get noticed by his potential clients, Kamoni first made two jikos for his mother who lives in Uthiru, Kabete Constituency.

The absence of the traditional tree-stone jiko at his mother’s kitchen without smoke or soot, as commonly witnessed in traditional kitchens was quite peculiar and created a lot of interest with the neighbours. Gone were the days when Kamoni’s mother was forced to cook in a smoke-filled kitchen as well as making daily afternoon trips to the nearby bushes in search of firewood.

“The traditional three-stone jiko would consume one load of firewood in a day since it requires a lot of wood. Nowadays it lasts for more than a month when I use the ‘kuni mbili’ jiko. Two dry pieces of firewood can cook a day’s meal,” notes Kamoni.

His customers, majority of whom came from his immediate neighbourhood, fell in love with the kuni mbili” jikos from the word go and within a short while, word spread like bush fire about this great innovation that as they said, gave them a break from the headaches or itchy eyes that they suffered before. One of the biggest changes reported by Kamoni’s customers however was the massive reduction in the money spent in fuel.

Today, Kamoni has become the local solution to the problem in poor communities with his cleaner brick cook stove, known as the ‘Kuni Mbili’, literally meaning ‘two cook sticks’. The stoves use both firewood and charcoal to cook and is much more efficient than traditional three-stone or the common charcoal jikos.

To date, Kamoni has already installed and sold over 800 jikos to domestic homesteads and commercial jikos to both hotels and institutions across the country. It takes him about four hours to make one jiko.

The smallest jiko that is meant for domestic use sells at sh. 12,000, institutional jikos range from sh. 40,000 and sh. 60,000 depending on size. The biggest jiko can be used for a 100 litre capacity sufuria. He reckons that the prices of the jikos should never put off any potential client as the end results are massive.
Another of Kamoni's jikos installed in a client's kitchen.

“This prices should not scare anyone as in the long run, what one saves in fuel consumption and costs is so great compared to the normal jiko. For instance, the firewood that I buy for sh. 5,000 here last me for more than a year when using this jiko. For the three-stone jiko, the same load will not even last three months. If you do your math properly, the jiko will be saving you more than sh. 20,000 annually on fuel, not forgetting the fact that it cooks faster, it is more efficient, healthy to use and more environmentally friendly,” says Kamoni.

Testimonials.
60 year old Mary Wanjiru is one of the beneficiaries of this new innovation. She says that since she started using this jiko, her life has never been the same again.

“I am allergic to smoke and cannot work in a smoky room. This jiko emits very little smoke and I can comfortably cook in my kitchen without worrying about my health. It also cooks very fast and saves me so much money in terms of fuel,” says Wanjiru.

Challenges.
Initially Kamoni was faced with the great task of having his invention accepted by the community since it was something new and unknown. After installing for some few people, this challenge eased and more and more people started asking for them.

His major challenge include the high cost of doing business as he has to procure some of the raw materials from as far as Nyeri County. He is also financially handicapped as he is not able to grow as fast as he would like to. This has limited him to work with a very small manpower who he contracts on a casual basis whenever need arises.

Creating awareness of his products has been also hindered by the high advertisement costs that has limited him to result to the word of mouth and using social media platforms to reach his potential clients.

Achievements and Future Plans.
Kamoni prides in his venture as according to him, he has no regrets ever venturing into the kuni mbili business. His family and elderly mom depend on the proceeds he earns from selling these jikos. He has managed to put up two self-contained houses for his family and his mother on a 50 X 100ft plot of land in an area whose current market price is about sh. 2.5 million.

Currently, he has been able to contract four young men who solely depend on him for employment.
Kamoni’s vision for the next few years is expand his business and be able to guarantee more employment to the youth. He is also willing to disseminate the knowledge and skills he has acquire to as many people as possible so as to enable more people to benefit from a safe and affordable means of cooking especially in the rural setup.

He advises the young people to be more innovative and stop whining about the lack of job opportunities as there are many opportunities as we have in the number of people around us. All they need to do is to open their eyes and see the gaps in their areas to take advantage of the same.

You can reach Kamoni via Facebook account Lawrence Kamoni or call him via 0714116308.
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