| Boiling Point No. 21 - April 1990 |
by Hussein Mohamed Eisa, National Cookstove Network Coordinator, Energy Research Council, P.O. Box 4032, Khartoum, Sudan
Sudan's shortage of reclaimable sheet steel is viewed by stove project planners as the major constraint on improved stoves production. Here I will try to address this problem, taking the popular Surour stove as a case study. The Surour stove is an exact copy of the Kenyan Ceramic Jiko (KCJ) introduced in Sudan by CARE. Although thousands of these stoves have been produced and sold, the supply is nowhere near enough to meet the growing demand resulting from the successful commercialization of the stove.
In the pilot stage, CARE assisted an enterprising potter to set up a workshop for the production of Surour stoves. He deals with a handful of metal working artisans who have been trained by CARE to produce the steel cladding for him. Later on the question of expansion was raised and CARE responded to that by targeting another entrepreneur to ease the production bottleneck. Unfortunately, with the existing shortage of metal the new entrepreneur could not produce the stove claddings and eventually the issue presented itself as critical as far as the long-term availability of stoves was concerned.
Metal Working Artisans Environment
Most of Khartoum's metal workers are part of the informal sector of the economy. They are not concentrated in one place, but highly dispersed away from the major business areas. They work with limited resources and under hard conditions. Many of them have no sheds for protection from the rain and the sun and they usually depend on traditional stoves as their mayor activity from which they earn a marginal and irregular income.
Recruitment of such metal workers to produce the cladding for stoves is a time consuming affair. However, in the fabrication of the claddings and motivated by their expectations these incentives for such an effort would include provision of metal and advance payments. Metal and cash in hand are closely correlated because metal is costly and in short supply and the artisan cannot proceed with his work unless he has either enough metal or enough cash to buy it.
The cash problem was overcome to some extent by the prompt payment for all the claddings produced on a weekly basis but the price of the cladding had been increasing because Sudan is suffering from severe inflation and a shortage of available metal.
Sources of Metal
The materials used for stoves come from a variety of sources including old cars, packing materials, drums etc. The artisans are dependent on themselves to obtain these materials. The recent sharp fall in the availability of material can be attributed to two factors: first and foremost is the ongoing mistrust between the government and the business community with respect to the prices and import regulations. Secondly, the fact that cooking oil is now being supplied in plastic containers instead of metal containers.
1. The Surour stove requires special metal for which the artisans have to spend much of their productive time looking. This creates periods of nonproductivity which, in turn, affects their income. The light gauge metal can only be used by highly skilled artisans who can make the good joints needed for stove durability.
2. Because of their small capital, the artisans frequently run short of cash and consequently fail to meet their immediate needs or to buy metal in bulk to save time and enjoy discount.
3. There are other more profitable products which are easier to make and sell than the improved stoves, such as traditional stoves and suitcases. Although the artisans are aware of the potential benefits of the improved stoves, they will not necessarily stay in business in the fixture if they can invest their time and money elsewhere more profitably.
4. If the price per cladding increases significantly the artisans will continue their work and cope resourcefully with the shortage of metal.
5. It has been recognized that when there is a scarcity of metal it is hefter to shift the focus to many cladding producers instead of concentrating on one or two.
6. All-ceramic stoves may be good alternatives, but they will need to be improved if they are to become effective subscribers.