An inventive time

Thanks for your wonderful response to the Project updates and enews. I've been in Tanzania for the past month, moving forward rapidly on multiple fronts.

Robert V. Lange
Kisioki, Jakobo, our factory manager, and I collaborated on a new stove design and we are very happy with it.   It is now in trial phase, and I am excited to share the story. Read below for more,  and learn about our extraordinary factory manager. 

Available through the micro-grid project,  the bomas' shared computers are now in use, and we are asking you to tell us about your own experience with math learning software, as it may be of benefit in Tanzania. I include details in the story below.
I invite you to have a conversation with me directly, or via our new blogs at the International Collaborative website.    Please continue the dialog at our Facebook page.  Inviting your friends to "like" us is yet another form of your support that makes all the work possible.  
And thank you to photographers Kisioki Moitiko, Philip Lange, and Erika Wilson who share our stories through their beautiful photography in this issue and at our website. 

As always, your participation is at the heart of our work. Thank you!        
With deepest appreciation, 



Robert V. Lange  

Stove design improvements  


Latest version of water-heating stove design, now in trials

We recently found new motivation to look critically at our stove design, and it has really paid off. Kisioki, and Jakobo, our factory manager, and I collaborated on design updates, and we are very happy with the results. 

Installing the Project's stove


To scale up our micro-grid solar electrical systems adapted to Maasai bomas we have to reduce costs.  Lowering stove prices is part of the challenge, as homes must be clean and healthy before they link to the electric power grid, and every home needs a stove that gets the smoke out.  

One traditional cookstove urgently in need of replacement


How could we keep or improve the stove quality while reducing manufacturing costs?        


First we thought of how to get the amount of steel in the stove down by half. We made the the firebox narrower and put insulating bricks outside instead of inside.    


Maybe invention is always like this, but  benefits beyond our original goals kept emerging.  Moving the insulating brick to the outside to keep the stove safe for children uncovered a huge additional benefit.   


Previously, the bricks inside the firebox had sometimes caused durability issues. The mortar holding them in place can degrade from years of heat. If the bricks shift or break, the smoke path is damaged too. With the new design, that risk is gone.   


Earlier iteration of water-heating stove

And when we put in an airspace at the front of the stove for insulation, we realized that the cook could conveniently fill the space with water during long-term cooking. She could pasteurize more than two liters of water for safe drinking, or, as one of the women trying the stove told us, she can heat water to bathe her kids while she cooks. 


We are starting trials of this more durable, less expensive, and surprisingly convenient water- heating stove. So far, we have only a few trials in homes, and women love it, but as we expand into new villages we will be able to run larger trials.  

Meet our Factory Manager

The Maasai Stoves & Solar Project is reminded every day how lucky we are that Jakobo Emanuel Singe is our master fundi.


He is just Jakobo to us. 

Jakobo Emanuel Singe 


He is the manager of our stove firebox factory.  But he does a lot more than run the factory;  he works with us to improve processes in production. He has collaborated very creatively in the design of our new stove.


When the Project received the USAID Power Africa grant to develop boma-scale micro-grids, we knew Jakobo would jump at the chance to work  in our new electrification team.  He enhanced everyone's learning through  his broad expertise and creativity.

Now whenever there is a problem to diagnose or an expansion of a solar system to implement, he gets it done better and faster than anyone else.


Jakobo, his wife, and four children live in Ngarash, one of our stove implementation villages close to Monduli town.  Not a Maasai himself, he shares our enthusiasm for working with the empowered Maasai women and supportive Maasai men. 

Maasai metalworking factory
Our metalworking factory (Jakobo in orange)


During the early days when we first explored stove design needs with the Maasai women, we worked in Jakobo's metalworking shop. Jakobo collaborated on those design experiments and then helped us establish our own factory at headquarters. He is now a key member of the Project staff,  managing the four other full-time metalworkers who produce the steel firebox required for the durability and efficiency of our stove.


Thank you, Jakobo, for your insight, talent, skill, and dedication.


Calling all software ideas 

The potential for shared appliances was one of the motivations for introducing boma-scale micro-grid electrical service. Although no single household could afford appliances before, sharing could give access to the entire boma. We are trying refrigerators and computers with our initial micro-grid installations.


Even in very remote areas the computers have internet service through modems that link them to mobile phone networks. But we asked ourselves, "What other benefits and services could a computer provide?"  Google is powerful, but only useful if you have a question or issue you want to explore.

Children of the boma

 As an old science and math teacher, I was immediately challenged by the presence of large numbers of lively young children in a boma all day. Some are too young for school, others are not going for other reasons, and some just need interesting things to do.   


So I searched for software that each boma's computer expert could use to stimulate the kids and teach some basic number sense and arithmetic.

Future computer experts in training


We are now experimenting with Numbershark software from White Space, an English company. There are more than fifty activities of varying complexity and difficulty in this software, and first trials with the kids are going well. 


We would like to put out a general call for software ideas. Have you had  success with math or language software that might be of use to us?  If so, please email me
or send a sample to the address below. We would run the software on computers situated in remote locations, and hundreds of kids could have a wonderful time with this new experience. 


For a better life for the rural world, and a cleaner environment for all

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International Collaborative, Maasai Stoves & Solar Project
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