Jiko Production Using Gas Cylinders

Bush camping is one of the greatest pleasures of living in Kenya – only if you have the right equipment. On a recent hastily planned trip to Lake Magadi hot springs we discovered too late that we’d forgotten the jiko (charcoal cooking stove). Stopping in Magadi town which serves only one industry, the Magadi Soda Company, we had one made for us right there and then in a very active jua kali workshop.

It starts with a discarded gas cylinder

It starts with a discarded gas cylinder


I always wondered where the metal for jiko’s came from – In this the many discarded gas cylinders are chopped into segments to make up the body of the jiko.

Welding the finishing touches

Welding the finishing touches


There seems to be no power shortage here, a mess of electric cables and metal and wooden waste remnants from the soda company is an active business for about 20 artisans making furniture, gates, and jikos for the staff of the soda company.

Everything was home made including the tools

Everything was home made including the tools

Corporate safety message hasn't quite translated

Corporate safety message hasn't quite translated


A ten minute job turned out into a one hour event and a thousand shillings later ($20) we take off proudly with our extremely heavy stove. That’s when we discover that there is no charcoal to be had in this part of the world anyway. We ended up with a 3 stone fire.

A flat piece of salty earth was our camp at the "Community campsite"

A flat piece of salty earth was our camp at the "Community campsite"


At dinner time we realized that we’d forgotten most of the food anyway (camping note to Paula: don’t believe him when he says “I already put it in the car” ).

Magadi is spectacular for bird viewing

Magadi is spectacular for bird viewing


Nevertheless, the hot springs were fabulous.

Don't believe Lonely Planet's version of the hot springs as "tepid"  - it was excruciatingly hot

Don't believe the guide books version of the hot springs as "tepid" - these springs are excruciatingly hot

The Jiko came home and has not yet been used – and thinking about it now … should I be worrying about cooking on something made from gas cylinders? Is it just iron or could there be lead in this?

6 comments » Write a comment

  1. Wow, magadi is my absolute favorite place to be. I never carry a jiko down there, just some wood and a grill for nyama-choma. I guess the jiko you got is the most massive ever built. It’s quite unusual to make them from gas cylinders!

  2. Cool post.

    The gas cylinder is probably steel, not iron (though the difference is a little bit of carbon). I’d be surprised if there was any lead in there. Not 100% guaranteed food safe, but probably not the most dangerous thing out there…

  3. Phew thanks Ethan. I’ve been eyeing it suspiciously as it sits alone in the store – it’s not even with the rest of my camping gear :)

  4. No, there is no lead in a gas cylinder. They are steel, and lead would weaken them massively. Now, you might want to burn a good hot fire in it for some time before using it for food. Be more worried about what was in the cylinder, than what it was made of.