Global Air Quality Trekkers (GAQT) is an initiative founded by the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) Program within the Purdue University College of Engineering. Since the creation of the project in the Fall of 2016, the GAQT team has been committed to developing a kitchen design that utilizes natural ventilation to reduce indoor air pollutants in homes in the Nandi community of Kenya. In the Nandi community, traditional cooking methods, which involve the burning of biomass fuels to heat a stove, are still utilized. Because the burning of these fuels takes place inside of the kitchen, the women who are cooking become ill from inhaling the smoke that is emitted from the stove and trapped inside their homes. In the last three years, the GAQT team has worked with the Nandi community to establish a design that increases airflow through the kitchen and reduces the amount of pollutants present.
Kenya is one of many African countries that is significantly impacted by indoor air pollution. In recent years, lower respiratory tract infections have become the leading cause of death in Africa, killing nearly 1 million people in the year 2015. The burning of biomass fuels emits many harmful pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and other carcinogens, which when inhaled, cause respiratory infections such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Women and children are most affected by these diseases since they are responsible for household chores such as cooking and cleaning, and are therefore inside their homes for long periods of time.
Cooking is an important part of the culture in Nandi, and it has proven ineffective to try changing the long standing cooking traditions of the community. So in order to reduce the amount of pollutants present inside the home, the women of the Nandi community decided to approach this problem in a different way. By changing the way their kitchens are ventilated, they were able to reduce the amount of indoor air pollutants without changing their cooking traditions. The Global Air Quality Trekkers are committed to improving upon these kitchen modifications utilized by the women of Nandi.
Through the collaboration of AMPATH, Moi University, and the women of the Nandi community, a kitchen design was created that reduced the amount of indoor pollutants present inside homes. This kitchen design had modifications such as an added chimney, a roof vent, and additional windows that were strategically placed in order to align with the dominant wind direction. When the GAQT team traveled to Kenya in May 2019, they found that the modified kitchens had reduced the amount of indoor air pollution by about 90%. The team’s goal in 2020 is to make any necessary design improvements to the current Modified Kitchen design while exploring cleaner fuel alternatives and spreading the word about the benefits of these new kitchens.