Cashing in on stoves
Cooperative pour la Promotion des Soudeurs (COPST) is a youth group composed of 60 artisans and based in Gakinjiro market in Gitega Sector, Nyarugenge District. It deals in different home appliances.
Sam Ndizeye, 23, is one of the members, who have used the platform to invent and promote unique products which have won him customers from across the country.
He is a welder but has ventured into electronic products lately.
But perhaps Ndizeye is increasingly becoming more known for one product – the wind stove. The stove, powered by electricity and wind, is not only environmentally friendly but also user friendly and by far cost-effective compared to use of other kitchen tools.
When The New Times visited him at his workshop Gakinjiro, Ndizeye was busy making another wind stove. “You cannot find it anywhere else in the world,” he boasted.
Several people had formed a ring around him, eager to see how he makes the stove.
To use the charcoal, you need to feed in volcanic stones (lava) and charcoal residue. An inbuilt fan blows wind into the stove, which produces heat enough to cook a meal or boil water. The fan is powered by electricity. And while volcanic stones turn hot red to burn the charcoal residue, they don’t get finished themselves. Thus a handful of lava stones can last for months.
“This stove is my own product, it is connected to electricity and has a fan that produces wind which is channelled through tubes to produce fire,” Ndizeye said.
You can also regulate the time you want your meal to get ready by adjusting the speed of the fan accordingly, he added.
The stove, which can have multiple saucepan layers, goes for Rwf60, 000 each. “It does not use much electricity; it only uses 12 volts.”
Phocas Musonera, a resident of Gakenke District in the Northern Province, is one of people who purchased stoves from Ndizeye.
A brewer of local beer, Musonera says he has purchased three stoves from Ndizeye which he uses to boil water in his brewing process, and attests that these stoves are efficient, and economical.
“With these stoves, using electricity is not expensive, when you cook food, the electricity you use costs between Rwf20 and Rwf30, while to boil water we use Rfw120 for more than 200 litres,” said Musonera
“It also saves time because cooking food can take less than 20 minutes,” he said adding the stoves have never had any technical failure. He bought the first two stoves two years ago.
Ndizeye makes an artistic impression of his products before he could start making them.
He says he did not acquire this skill from school.
But he started his vocational crafts way back in 2000 after completing Primary Six. His skills could be traced down to his family roots, with his father having been an operator of a milling machine.
Ndizeye says that while he was in primary five, he used to visit his father’s workplace and lend a hand with petty activities.
His father also works in the same workshop.
“By sort of default, I came to this place as a welder because this is where my father works, he’s the one who guided me. I couldn’t continue with secondary education because of financial reasons. We are a family of 14 children and, therefore, I needed to support my father in providing for the family”.
But Ndizeye, a fifth born, has since moved out of his father’s house, as he looks forward to getting his own family.
“When I came here, I did not have a coin; I joined this cooperative, we worked together and we shared equally all the proceeds. Slowly, clients saw my potential, they started coming to me and even contacting me directly”.
After curving his own niche and making some money from his skills, Ndizeye decided to go back to school as a private candidate, pursuing a course in electronics. He’s now in Senior Six and wants to pursue a career in electronics.
“I feel I am yet to utilise my full potential which I am positive, I want to go all the way”.
When he looks at how far he has come, his face beams with pride. “I have been able to furnish my house, I have a savings account where I save 50,000 per month, I help my family, I afford to pay school fees and I bought a computer and other materials which help me in my studies,” he explained.
However, his relative breakthrough notwithstanding, Ndizeye, just like most of his colleagues at Gakinjiro, can hardly access credit from banks – something he says has restricted his business to small-scale status.
“The problem is that we cannot access funds from banks because we don’t have the required collateral; we believe we can do more, far beyond the Rwandan market but we need financing to do that,” he says.
But he remains a confident, young Rwandan full of promise. “We are capable of producing some fine products, including those that are imported. Rwandans should have trust in us, our products are durable and original”.