Cover Image
close this bookBoiling Point No. 30 - April 1993 (ITDG - ITDG, 1993, 48 p.)
View the documentSales & Subsidies
View the documentWhy Commercialization for Stoves ?
View the documentReport of the International Seminar on Stove Commercialization
View the documentCommercial Marketing for the Indian NPIC- National Programme on Improved Chulhas
View the documentA Commercial Drop in an Ocean of Subsidy
View the documentCommercialization of Kenya's Rural Stove Programme
View the documentAhibenso - The Improved Ghana Coalpot
View the documentCooking Stoves for Commercial, Sustainable Production & Dissemination in Africa
View the documentPoor Project Planning & Unsuitable Stoves
View the documentChulhas for Tibetan, Communities in India
View the documentGTZ Section
View the documentStove Dissemination in China
View the documentStove Designing For Successful Marketing
View the documentPractical Tips for a Marketing Strategy
View the documentESMAP in the 1990s
View the documentFiji Woodburning Stoves
View the documentThe Health Impacts of Biomass & Coal Smoke in Africa
View the documentSmoke Gets in your Eyes-and Forms Cataracts
View the documentNEWS

Why Commercialization for Stoves ?

by Caroline Ashley, Stoves & Household Energy Programme, ITDG

The question is how to get stoves from producers to cooks. An increasingly common answer is to use shop-keepers and market-sellers more and extension workers and subsidies less.

There seem to be 3 main reasons for the upsurge of interest in commercialization:

· concern that networks of stove extension workers or project field staff will only ever reach a tiny minority of the population. The commercial market has reached the majority of homes with pots, pans, or plastics, so why not with improved stoves?

· concern that stove dissemination which depends on either subsidies or staff from a stove-promoting agency will last only as long as the project lasts.

· the cost of subsidies and field workers is an unsupportable strain. The prospect of reaching more stove users, in a sustained way by harnessing the commercial drive of profit seekers suggests commercialization may be more cost-effective for stove agencies. i.e. result in more stoves to users for less agency input.

However, there are concerns about disseminating improved stoves commercially:

· it is more difficult to reach poor households, due to higher prices, and the difficulty of targeting the poor through private sellers:

· some types of stoves are very difficult to sell commercially, particularly chimney stoves which are expensive, and require skilled installation which is difficult to organize

The articles in this BP edition include project case studies and practical advice. First, however, an analysis of two successful examples of commercialization can shed some light on their benefits and problems, mentioned above.

These are the Kenyan Ceramic Jiko in Kenya, and the Anagi woodburning stove in Sri Lanka. Both countries also have experience of the alternative dissemination system, relying on extension workers with partial subsidies (abbreviated to EW/S dissemination). In Sri Lanka, the ceramic 2-piece 2-pot Sarvodaya stove has been disseminated through government networks for 9 years, while the similar 1-piece Anagi has been sold commercially. In Kenya, the charcoal-burning metal/ ceramic KCJ is a commercial success in Nairobi, while the wood-burning Maendeleo clay liner is disseminated through extension workers in rural areas.

Does commercialization reach more cooks?

These examples suggest that either strategy can disseminate large numbers if the stove, the price, and the reach of the chosen network are appropriate. In Sri Lanka, around a quarter of a million stoves have been sold through government workers, at heavily subsidized prices, while commercial sales of the Anagi, which started 3 years later, are estimated to have reached around 140,000 so far.

In Kenya, 700,000 KCJs have been sold, with a market penetration of around 7% Sales of the Maendeleo rural stoves are around 100,000 so far, and are partly constrained by the limited size and resources of the home economists' extension network. Other obstacles to reaching more users through commercial channels include the fact that rural women using 3-stone fires have little money and no tradition of buying stoves or fuels.


As Dominic Walubengo's article explains, KCJ sales are commercially sustained. 585,000 KCJs have been sold in Kenya since the project ended in l 985 and new producers have entered the market. On the other hand, commercial sales may shrink rather than expand over time. In Sri Lanka, commercial factory production of Anagis has fallen from 30,000 a year by the end of the first project, to around 12,000 a year, and the number of factory producers has reduced.

Problems of sustainable and limited adoption through subsidized programmes are discussed in Kiran Moghe's article about the National Programme for Improved Chulhas in India, where subsidies are being reduced and user-prices raised.

Cost-effectiveness: more stoves for less funding?

Several years after most KCJ project work ended, the funding cost per stove is very low (around $0.50) because sales have continued to rise. In Sri Lanka, both commercial and subsidized programmes tapped into existing networks (markets and government agents), so donor cost per stove has been similar (around $1-2).

For a programme aiming to benefit cooks, it is not the number of stoves sold that counts, but the number used, and how much they are used. The vast majority of market-bought stoves are likely to be put to use whereas rejection rates in subsidized programmes are often well into double figures. On the other hand, commercialized stoves are often used for only a fraction of family cooking: two thirds of urban Anagi users also have a gas, electric, or kerosene stove. If EW/S stoves reach rural and poor homes, they are more likely to be the main cooking stove.

Reaching the Poor

Subsidies, and the ability of extension workers to target poor households, would be expected to make EW/S more appropriate for reaching the noon In practice. both strategies hut particularly commercial sales, tend to reach mainly middle-in come urban households. In both commercial examples, the Anagi and KCJ, only 5% of purchasers were found to be low-income. In the Sarvodaya (subsidized) case, poor homes were included, but under-represented, among recipients. The exclusively-rural focus of the agricultural extension network in Kenya, combined with the Maendeleo's low-cost and popular design, ensures that users are in the poor majority, though probably not the poorest.

Practical Difficulties of Commercialization

Durable installation and maintenance services are hard to commercialize, so the important objective of reducing smoke exposure through chimney stoves is unlikely to be achieved. Training in how to use the improved stove, and in other aspects of kitchen management (for example, given by home economists along with Maendeleo demonstrations) is much less likely from a retailer than an extension worker.

Stove design for ease of transportation and installation is addressed in Peter Young's article. The reduction of extension workers' training role is one of the disadvantages of commercialization of the Maendeleo in Kenya, that is weighed against the advantages in the articles from Hellen O'Walla and Viv Abbott.

Quality Control

It is difficult to maintain stove quality in commercial programmes, though poor stoves can be a problem in any system. In Sri Lanka many shops sell 'look alike' stoves which, although cheaper than Anagi, are less efficient and have a shorter life. Dominic Walubengo's article deals with similar problems with the KCJ in Kenya.

Commercialization and Objectives

Ultimately, the choice of dissemination strategy must depend on the projects' overall objectives. It is essential to assess in advance how commercialization or EW/S will affect the impact of the project, and how this matches with project goals. Both strategies have disadvantages.

Different dissemination approaches may be appropriate at different stages of the project or complements each other. In Sri Lanka, Anagi sales built on the stove-awareness created by the government's Sarvodaya programme, while subsidized Anagi projects for the poor now build on the status that Anagi has acquired in middle-income markets. Neither strategy guarantees results: commercial sales will not necessarily take-off and be sustainable. EW/S will not necessarily reach poor users. Much depends on the design of the stove and the programme, definition of targets, careful selection of appropriate commercial or extension networks etc. As became clear at the Sri Lanka Seminar described in the next article the process of setting up or transferring to a commercial marketing strategy need careful thought and detailed planning.