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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

Commercialization of Kenya's Rural Stove Programme

by Viv Abbott and Hellen Owalla, ITDG SHE Programme - West Kenya Dissemination Strategies in the Maendeleo Programme

In Africa, most rural stoves programmes have opted for dissemination through an 'extension' approach, rather than through a 'market' or commercial approach. In some cases this decision has been dictated by the type of stove being disseminated ea. the owner built mud stoves - where extension workers teach people to build their own stoves. In some cases the choice of the extension approach has been the result of programmes believing that the people cannot (or will not) afford to purchase stoves at a real market price, particularly due to high transport costs in areas of low population density. Some programmes have attempted a combined approach, where the stove may be 'sold' to the end user, but installation and distribution costs are not passed on so are indirectly subsidized.

It is this last combined approach that has been used. in Kenya by the GTZ/Ministry of Energy, Women, and Energy Project. ITDG's rural stoves West Kenya project has worked with women producers of the Maendeleo liner while the dissemination of the stoves has been done through the Agriculture ministry whose activities have been subsidized by GTZ.

Small-Scale Production

The liner is a baked clay firebox which incorporates the correct size door (for fuel feed and air intake), the firebox and pot supports. The 'stove' is 'installed' by surrounding the liner with mud and stones. This can be done by the owner or neighbours if they have received basic training by extension workers, or alternatively the installation can be done on a commercial basis as an income generating activity by members of the community.

Extension Workers' Success

The stove has proved popular in the areas where it has been promoted, with a high demand generated. The growing 'success' of this project in the past 3 years is largely due to the role played by the Home Economics Officers (HEO) of the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, who have been raising awareness and promoting the stoves, distributing and marketing the liners and training women to install their own stoves. It is a part of the work of HEOs visiting homes to teach women about nutrition and hygiene related issues.

The combination of commercial and subsidized dissemination approaches works as follows:

The stove liners have been 'commercially' produced, by entrepreneurs, women's groups etc ... They then sell the liners (initially the price was fixed but now there is some flexibility), wholesale, at a current price of about Ksh 30 (approx £0.50), with a retail price of about Ksh 40.

The HEOs receive a small fund from GTZ/MOE to cover liner collection costs (ie. fuel for Ministry vehicle) and any breakage costs, so they sell stoves to rural women at the wholesale price. HEOs appear to have generated an overall demand that is greater than the current supply.

The advantages of this method of dissemination are that:

· stove buyers are trained in installation and stove use. This training results in higher fuel savings and fewer user problems.

· with the small subsidies the stove can potentially reach poorer households - prices are kept low.

· because women perceive the stoves as bringing real benefits, stove dissemination and installation training can be used as a development 'entry point' enabling HEOs to gain access to communities for other work such as family planning, forestry, hygiene and nutrition.

· a substantial demand has been generated.

The disadvantages are that:

· the extension services can only ever reach a very small proportion of the households, eg in south Nyanza where the stove dissemination started in 1988, after 2 years only 2% of that population had been reached, even though HEOs estimate that 10% of the community are 'innovators' who could be expected to adopt a new technology.

· the NGO or Government extension service is not extendable and in the long term priorities may change. So the system is not sustainable.

· the producers do not view the project as being fully theirs as they don't have control of marketing activities.

· as they are dependent on one customer, producers are not able to earn their income when they want to ea. the producers in West Kenya always lost heart whenever they had stocks and the HEO was not coming for them.

· without developing their own markets, producers are unlikely to be able to continue earning money if HEOs lose their capacity or subsidy for dissemination.

· the demand created is not matched with the supply, either in terms of quantity or location ie. demand is created over a wide geographical area, but not necessarily where the producers are located.


A commercial or marketing approach to overcome the problems needs to be initiated around the producers, fanning out from the point of supply. Extension services could do promotion, but the pricing, distribution and marketing would be independent of the project, either controlled by the producer who identifies retailers to supply, or controlled by a profit making distributer who orders from the producers and sells directly or through retailers.

A commercial/marketing approach will require either a much simpler method of stove installation or a commercial installation service to run along-side the liner distribution and marketing.

Advantages of this approach would be:

· it has the potential to grow and reach far more households.

· users can get the stove any time they are ready for it even if they are not in contact with either the producer or the extension worker.

· it should be sustainable, not relying on ongoing external funds or inputs

· the producers should not be dependent on a single unsustainable outlet. They have full control of production and marketing and can expand their business and income as much as they want by exploring marketing channels (with training from ITDG). It is then also easier for them to see it as their own project.

· there should be better matching of the demand with the supply.

The disadvantages are that:

· the stove will be more expensive to the end user, possibly unaffordable to some. Price depends on the production, transportation and promotion costs.

· there will be little or no training to the stove user and therefore fuel savings may be less.

· the stove will provide a less effective entry point for agencies doing other community development activities if they only promote, rather than sell, the stove.

The Two Approaches: Combinations and Transitions

Both approaches have their merits. However, looking at their strengths and weaknesses it is possible that commercial approach is taking care of one of the most important issues, which is making the producer see the project as hers, not ours, now and in the future. The system could more easily incorporate the extension system; to give integrated education the extension workers could still visit the users when they already have the stove, but without actually supplying it.

However, it is a task changing from extension to commercial. If the eventual development of commercial sales had been planned from the start, both HEOs and producers could have adopted their approach and expectations early on eg, HEOs selling through extension services but at the same time encouraging the commercial channels, while producers plan for commercialization rather than see it as something totally new.

ITDG believes that the Women and Energy Project has gone as far as it can with the extension/semi-commercial approach and that now is the time to make the transition to fully commercial marketing of the stoves. However, the following problems exist:

· Ministry of Agriculture officials feel that their other work may suffer, and they will lose the little funding that they receive. The HEO Section's credibility is largely a result of their efforts with the stoves.

· the agencies are unwilling to see the stove price increaseand perhaps the demand decrease.

· promotion would have to be targeted at areas where the supply could reach without subsidies - therefore some existing demand would not be met.

· ITDG and the other agencies do not really have the necessary skills to initiate a commercial market.

· producers are more open to the idea, but are nervous about the inevitable loss of their main customer.

ITDG aims to demonstrate in West Kenya that the transition to a commercial approach is possible. It has gained the support of the Home Economists in the area for the proposed market strategy and has begun implementation.

Women potters have started promoting and selling liners at local fairs and to neighbours; ITDG is working with them on costing; and a more appealing marketing name - Upesi - has been chosen. So far, commercial sales are still low compared to sales through home economists, but they are increasing. Marketing tips from the project appear on page 31 and further news on our problems and progress will be reported in Boiling Point.