The Community Cooker, by architecture firm Planning Systems Services ltd. was awarded Icsid’s first World Design Impact Prize in February 2012. To update us on their project, a year since winning the Prize we asked lead architect James Archer and Janice Muthui, Community Cooker Foundation Manager to update us on the progress the Community Cooker has made.


The Community Cooker is a significant recycling initiative developed in an attempt to address the reoccurring issue regarding massive accumulations of waste throughout Africa, while at the same time mitigating deforestation and reducing ground water pollution. In essence, the cooker provides a public cooking facility to neighbourhoods with limited electricity and clean water. At the time the World Design Impact Prize was awarded, the prototype was operating in the City of Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum.

Q: How has the project changed or expanded since Icsid awarded the World Design Impact Prize in February 2012?

We have since completed three more Community Cookers, which are fully operational, all of which are in Kenya. We also have seven (7) on our immediate order list and several other international inquiries from Bali, the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

Q: What is the business model for the Community Cooker Foundation? How much does one cost, what is the payment schedule like?

One Cooker is about $15,000 USD depending on location and access to materials. We feel that this cost is much lower than the cost of similar incinerators and is a one-off cost. The interested party will usually make three instalments at different stages of construction to ensure that the money and labour are working in tandem. The final instalment is made upon delivery and training of the rubbish handlers/sorters and the Cooker operators and managers.

Q: What has the local or international response been like? Have you secured partnerships, funding or developmental opportunities?

The local response has been adequate but we hope that there will be more uptake in the coming months. The international response, however, has been stunning and very encouraging! Since winning the World Design Impact Prize we have won two other very significant awards:

  1. The Financial Times/Citi Urban Ingenuity: Ideas in Action Awards in both the Energy and Global Ingenuity Leader categories
  2. The Icon Most Socially Responsible Design Award and we were shortlisted in the Corporate Social Responsibility/Environment category for the FT ArcelorMittal: “Boldness in Business” Awards.

A major challenge we still currently face is that the speed of construction is still held back by our limited financial capacity to deliver completed Community Cookers. In order to offset this, we have secured partnerships with a local company called Hotpoint as well as Jhpiego, which is the Kenyan affiliate of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, both of which have provided us with funding opportunities. We are also pursuing partnerships with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Danish Refugee Council to implement Cookers in the Dadaab Refugee camp in northern Kenya.

Q: Have you had to modify the design in any way or had to perform repairs beyond regular maintenance to the Cooker since you received the World Design Impact Prize?

Modifications and maintenance are a continuous process. Our target, always, is to simplify construction and reduce costs – which is happening.

The steel parts need maintenance only every 3-5 years depending on usage, and these costs are negligible in comparison to the profits that one can make using the Cooker on a daily basis.

Q: How has the Community Cooker changed the community, its attitudes, the physical and/or communal environment?

At the Laini Saba and Naivasha sites in Kenya there is very real evidence of a cleaner neighbourhood and of charcoal and wood fuel dealers moving outside the area, whose services were used to burn the trash on the side of the road. There is also strong evidence to indicate that these cooker sites have become a communal area where people are coming together to share meals and ease tribal tensions especially during this potentially volatile election period.

Q: What are your hopes for the project over the next year, 5 or 10 years?

  • We hope and intend to increase the uptake of Community Cookers particularly in schools, health clinics and other informal settlements where rubbish presents social, environmental and health risks.
  • We hope to use Cookers to generate electricity and also to be able to send out ‘flat packs’ to disaster zones. This is a concept that is still being developed in order to provide assistance to disaster relief agencies when the rubble and waste left behind can be used as fuel for a small cooker assembled on the ground.
  • We are also looking for a large scale, long-term investor so that we can plan ahead and scale up production.
  • Through all this international exposure we hope to attract more interest in the Cooker on an ever-increasing scale.
  • We also hope to connect Cookers to existing and new ablutions [washing] blocks so as to offer people in slum areas access to hot water for washing and also develop an aqua privy system that would reduce reliance on pit latrines, which invariably fill up and are not emptied and present health concerns.
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