For millions of households in developing countries, cooking is associated with long hours spent collecting wood and other fuels, which become increasingly scarce and costly.
In addition, smoky kitchens and the use of high intensity carbon fuels such as charcoal lead to dangerous emissions, which affect both health and the environment. It is estimated that air pollution caused by inefficient stoves leads to 1.45 million premature deaths each year – more than those from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.
Not to mention that gathering fuel - generally a women’s activity – is hazardous for they are at risk of rape or attacks.
GVEP is tackling this issue by supporting the development of markets for fuel-efficient, affordable cookstoves. We’re working with small cookstoves manufacturers and distributors throughout East Africa by providing technical guidance, business development support including marketing to reach a wider range and number of people to gain access to modern energy technologies.
GVEP has recently received a $375K grant from Spark Fund (an initiative of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves) to improve the performance and quality of locally manufactured efficient cookstoves in Kenya. The grant is providing vital support to a number of high potential cookstove businesses in relation to technical capacity building, better product design and manufacturing practices and establish a seed fund for producers to invest in necessary expansion activities.
Improved Cookstove technology in Kenya - Joseph's Story
Joseph Muriuki, an entrepreneur from Maragua in Kenya, has been involved in GVEP’s business development activities since 2008, in an effort to provide better quality cooking technologies.
With support from GVEP, he developed a new model of improved cookstoves which transformed his business, promoting higher productivity levels and generating additional income.
Since their introduction, sales of the new stoves have gone from zero to 1,500 units per quarter translating to around 900,000 Ksh ($10,350 USD) in sales revenue. Mr Muriuki has re-invested this additional income and has now scaled up his business into a stove manufacturing venture.
Through this development six more people have been employed. As well as job creation, he also trains other improved cookstove producers and manufacturers and offers energy consultancy services including kiln construction and quality control which earns him extra income.
His clients, including the company Scode who assemble and distribute improved cookstoves, have benefited greatly from his guidance and training; enabling them to improve the quality of their products and maintain consistency of supply. The steady supply of improved cookstoves has enhanced good customer relations among clients and cookstove distributors in the region.
"GVEP’s mentoring efforts has kept me focused and instilled practical ICS Technology skills and discipline. Without this support, I would not have got this far. My family enjoys the fruits of these developments and I can now afford a basic lifestyle," said Muruiki.
Muriuki has gained popularity in the community. He is currently a clean energy ambassador and trustee to other loan borrowers from the online lending platform KIVA ZIP. GVEP has partnered with KIVA ZIP to facilitate micro loans to energy entrepreneurs, including cookstove producers like Joseph.
Business and marketing training - Fausta Ntara’s improved cookstoves
Fausta Ntara from Mwanza, was recruited into GVEP’s Developing Energy Enterprises Project (DEEP) in 2010 where she received training and gained vital business skills like management, record-keeping and financial planning.
GVEP’s training helped her to improve product quality, finding out the optimum ash to clay ratios and binding techniques. Ten years on, Fausta offers a range of products including charcoal stoves, ovens, and improved cookstoves. She supplies the smaller stoves to households at markets, while larger stoves are preferred by institutions, like schools and hospitals.
Record keeping has helped Fausta improve her business and even open a bank account. As a result of GVEP’s mentorship, Fausta was also able to complete her business plan and thus secure a loan. Additionally, she has kept reliable records and can now map her business progress. Increased marketing skills have allowed her to expand her customers’ reach, using local meetings, flyers and brochures to advertise her products. Fausta has developed strong networks and has made a lot of customer contacts this way.
Through additional loans totalling (TZS) 4,000,000 (US $ 2,470) from Small Industry Development Organization (SIDO) Fausta has been able to purchase raw materials in bulk, afford a welding machine, a metal grinder and now rents a workshop for her business. After expenditures, her monthly profit has increased by 50 % increase on revenues prior to her involvement with GVEP. These extra savings have impacted on her business and family life. She can now afford to send her daughter to school costing TZS 1 million a year (US $ 620), she has four employees, an accountant and two technicians to help her run the business.
Her customers testify the efficiency of the improved cookstoves. “With the same fire you can boil three pots simultaneously allowing you to cook different foods at the same time, whereas with the traditional stove, you can only cook one food at a time. They also use a very small amount of charcoal and produce less smoke,” said Helena Msamaba - one of Fausta’s satisfied customers.
Carbon finance fuels market for cleaner cooking technologies
Consumer uptake of improved cookstoves, like solar powered technology, has lagged behind expectation in East Africa.
GVEP runs a number of technical and business training initiatives to help East African entrepreneurs to improve product quality and expand their businesses.
Carbon finance and the UN’s clean development mechanism (CDM), which allows developed nations to reduce their carbon emissions through funding clean energy projects in developing countries.
The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy commissioned GVEP to produce an accessible guide to carbon finance. The guide is designed to help energy entrepreneurs to understand better whether they should consider carbon finance more closely in their business plans, and to provide recommendations on the first steps to assess their potential.
GVEP has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Uganda Carbon Bureau, one of the pioneers of carbon finance in East Africa, to help improve access to carbon finance for small cookstove producers.
From NGO to social business
Improved stoves and solar lanterns are affordable for many Kenyans. They save people money as well as having health benefits. John Maina is determined to make these products available to a wide number of people and he’s using commercial marketing methods to achieve this goal. John is the director of an NGO called SCODE based in Nakuru, Kenya, which is evolving into a social business.
SCODE has been in the energy sector for many years. John and his team have installed around 500 biogas units across Kenya and he also produces and sells improved stoves. Now he’s extending into selling solar-powered lanterns thanks to a loan from EcoBank which GVEP helped to facilitate. The loan from EcoBank enabled John to buy a small stock of lanterns to test in the market. These were an instant success. He sold 50 lanterns in 2 weeks, and is already ordering more. He stocks two sizes of lanterns: D-Light’s powerpack which sells at 6000 Kshs and the smaller Firefly from Barefoot Power, selling for 1600-1700 Kshs. The smaller lantern, which comes with a phone charger, is particularly popular. SCODE has a network of 15 local distributors who have been selling its stoves for some time. Now the same people are starting to stock the lanterns.
The EcoBank loan allows John to offer his distributors 30 days credit on 50% of the cost of purchasing stock. The other 50% has to be paid up front. The distributors also extend credit to some of their customers, giving them a little longer to find the money to complete a purchase. Because they know their customers the distributors are able to minimise any risk of non-payment. Customers also deal directly with SCODE. John told me an order had come in from the Ministry of Health for 15 lanterns for rural health posts around Nakuru.
The lanterns will make it much easier for the nurses to work at night. He’s confident he will get more such orders. As well as facilitating the loan for SCODE through a partial risk guarantee, GVEP has been providing business advice and is helping SCODE develop a brand and professional marketing materials. The staff and distributors will all be trained in marketing in a bid to help them increase sales. The SCODE stoves are of high quality but are not branded, so they appear indistinguishable from poorer-quality stoves. More distinctive colouring and labels will in future help customers identify a SCODE stove. ‘We need to strengthen our sales and marketing,’ John says. ‘The training will be very useful. GVEP has helped us a lot.’ GVEP has been able to provide loan guarantee funds thanks to its partnership with the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Selling energy efficient stoves in rural Tanzania
Verediana Salala lives in Mbela, a small village about 50 Kms from Mwanza, Northern Tanzania. She is a small producer of energy efficient cookstoves. Had you asked her, two years ago, what net profit she was making from the sales of her stoves, she would not be able to answer. This is because she did not keep any records of her income, or expenditure.
Through dedicated training and support, GVEP has helped her business take off. She now boasts a sound business plan that looks at cash flow, sales projections, product costing, marketing and risk assessment. Thanks to her business plan, she knows how much she earns and what share of her income to reinvest in her business on a monthly basis.
Today she produces about 10 stoves a day and often sells a load every two weeks at the local market. Over the last year she has made an average of 27,000 Tanzanian Shillings a month (about US$300) from sales alone. When the opportunity arises, she takes part in trade fairs to market her products further. In this family business, her children help her to transport and sell the stove in the local markets. "Since receiving training and business development support, I adapt my products to my customer's needs and listen carefully to what they have to say. I longer wait for them to turn up at my door step but I go out to find potential new markets and this has helped to increase my sales", says Verediana. See Verediana's photo story.