Transforming Maasai women’s lives with stoves and solar
Traditionally, the Massais entire social structure and belief system are based on war and cattle-herding. It is said that Maasai men do the fighting; the women everything else.Kaz Janowski
Kisioki Moitiko is the project manager of Maasai Stoves and Solar Energy project. He helped establish, and is now director of, Tanzanian NGO the International Collaborative for Science, Education, and Environment, ICSEE (Tanzania). Also a translator, Kisioki is now a vital intermediary between researchers and the rural Maasai community.Kaz Janowski
A new-look traditional Maasai hut with chimney and solar panel. Maasai women have enthusiastically embraced the not-so-new technology of clean fuel-efficient stoves and mini solar panels. They take enormous pride in their new homes and independent entrepreneurial spirit.Kaz Janowski
The dark, smoky interior of a traditional Maasai hut. Children sit around the traditional cooking arrangement based on three stones. Smoke stings the eyes and catches the back of the throat.Kaz Janowski
The simple arrangement of a gap in the thatch roofing provides an exit for smoke in a traditional hut.Kaz Janowski
The shaven heads of Maasai women and their beaded ornaments confirm their attachment to the past while their mobile phones suggest a more empowered future.Kaz Janowski
While Maasai women are happy to work with local materials such as clay for building their stoves, they are not yet ready to work with metal. The steel sheeting essential for providing durability and strength to the stoves is machined in a small foundry by men from Kenya.Kaz Janowski
A woman in the process of building a stove.Kaz Janowski
Nailah has earned the reputation of being a stove expert in the community. She visits other villages where she passes on her skills or repairs damaged stoves. This earns her an income, making her more independent.Kaz Janowski
The initial success of the clean stoves initiative led to women working with solar panels. Clean air and light provide clear benefits to households who can afford them.Kaz Janowski
Nailah holds up her solar-charged light. Her children can read their school books indoors and she can make money by taking payment from neighbours in return for charging their mobile phones.Kaz Janowski
Women and children walk long distances to fetch water. A major burden in itself, the water they carry is a precious resource that is rarely free from contamination. The project is now experimenting with developing solar water purification systems. These wont eliminate the drudgery of fetching water but could at least make it safer to drink.Kaz Janowski
A young Maasai girl smiles cheekily at the camera. With the help of projects such as Maasai Stoves and Solar she can look forward to a brighter future.Kaz Janowski
The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people occupying large areas of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They once roamed freely over the plains of East Africa with their cattle and presented an iconic image of a proud, warrior lifestyle. Despite efforts to settle them, many still move around and choose to adhere to their age-old practices. The men engage in cattle-herding and roaming far afield, while the women and very young children keep the economy ticking over. The women preside over their traditional households, fetch water and firewood and traditionally cook food on three-stone hearths. Their houses are dark and filled with acrid smoke, causing respiratory problems for young and old alike.
With the installation of a clean stove and small solar panel the interior of the traditional house becomes transformed as do the lives of the women and children.
The project is now beginning to tackle the problem of providing clean drinking water using solar power.