| Boiling Point No. 30 - April 1993 |
by D Walubengo, Associate Director of Kengo, P O Box 48197, Nairobi, KENYA
In a paper presented at the Stove Commercialization Workshop, December 1992, Sri Lanka, Dominic Walubengo looks at the factors behind the KCJ's commercial success and some of the problems it raises that have emerged.
The KCJ - Commercially Marketed
The Kenya Ceramic Jiko is an example of successful commercialization. There are now more than 200 artisans and micro enterprises manufacturing some 13600 improved stoves every month. To date, it is estimated that there are some 700,000 such stoves in use in Kenyan households. This represents a penetration of about 16% of all households in Kenya, and 56% of all urban households.
The KCJ has two main components: metal and fired clay, both made by entrepreneurs; the metal part (cladding) being made by small-scale enterprises or individual artisans, while the clay part (liner) is manufactured by slightly bigger and more organised enterprises or women's groups.
The assembled stove is sold by the artisans directly to their customers or through retail shops and supermarkets. The stove is promoted mainly by KENGO and the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, through the mass media (newspapers, radio, television); market demonstrations and trade fairs.
In the early 1980s, when the KCJ was first introduced in Kenya, a decision was made not to subsidise the production and dissemination of the stove. The promoters agreed that the private sector would take a leading role in the production and marketing of the stoves. The reason for this was quite simple: "place the goods where customers expect to find them". What they did not agree upon at first, was whether this private sector was to be formal or informal. Indeed, the early KCJ stoves were produced by a formal private sector entrepreneur, Jerri International. However, a little later, a decision was made to separate liner production from that of the cladding. Those artisans who then produced traditional stoves were trained to produce KCJ claddings and then to assemble the complete stove. These artisans went ahead to use their established channels to market and disseminate the stoves.
Initially the price of the KCJ was very high, in the region of US$ 15 each. This attracted more entrepreneurs and soon many artisans were manufacturing the stoves. Competition lowered the price to US$ 3.00 per stove. Thus the profit motive played a key role in disseminating the KCJ.
Commercially, dissemination of the KCJ is sustainable. Indeed, it is the commercial interests that have kept the KCJ on the market. The institutions that promote the stoves are not self-sustainable, they must be subsidized, by donor or government funds.
It is important to stress that institutions like NGOs and government agencies are important in dis-seminating stoves. These institutions can advertise the stoves without any profit motives. As a rule KCJ manufacturers do not advertise the stove. They fear that other entrepreneurs would benefit from the sales resulting from the advertising.
The benefits of the dissemination approach used in Kenya can be seen from various points of view. The government looks at the KCJ dissemination strategy as a source of employment for the artisans and so is beneficial in that sense.
The artisans are happy, because they earn a living by making and selling the KCJ. The customers are happy because they can get the improved stove from the same place where they have traditionally bought stoves. NGOs like KENGO are happy because the production of the KCJ is steady and sustainability is ensured. The donors and international agencies like ITDG, who invested their money and other resources in the development of the KCJ, are satisfied that their efforts have paid dividends.
The Kuni Mbili - Still Subsidized
The Kuni Mbili Woodstove, a close relative of the KCJ, made its appearance in 1984. It is also a metal/ceramic stove, but with a larger firebox (than the KCJ) to allow for the combustion of wood. This stove is targeted at the rural households who use wood as their fuel.
The Kuni Mbili is manufactured in much the same way as the KCJ, but sold directly to customers in
the rural areas. It is not sold through commercial outlets. The stove is promoted mainly by KENGO, the Bellerive Foundation (both NGOs) and the Rural Technology Enterprises (RTE) - a commercial enterprise based in Nairobi. The promotion of this stove is mainly carried out through NGO newsletters, brochures, market demonstrations and trade fairs. This continued reliance on subsidies provides a sharp contrast to the KCJ story and suggests that some stoves, particularly rural stoves, are less suitable for commercialization.
Although there is a high demand for Kuni Mbili stoves, the artisans, who are mostly urban based, concentrate on the KCJ. For this reason, only about 1000 Kuni Mbili stoves are manufactured in the whole country every month. And to date, only about 20,000 Kuni Mbili stoves are in use in Kenya. This represents a penetration of 0.48% of all households in Kenya, and 0.68% of all rural households in the country.
In the case of the Kuni Mbili stove, commercial production has not reached sustainability levels yet. So the NGOs promoting this stove subsidize its production by producing it and then selling it at cost price or even below cost price. Here, the subsidy is justified because the stove is still being demonstrated. However, the danger exists that the users will get used to subsidized prices. Indeed, the true price of the Kuni Mbili is almost twice that of the KCJ. And this for a stove which is Meant for rural dwellers who usually do not have access to extra sums of money. It therefore seems that a rural stove like the Kuni Mbili may need to be subsidized for a longer period than an urban stove.
The commercial marketing of the KCJ has resulted in several problems, the major one being lack of quality control. With so many liner manufacturers and even more cladding producers, quality control is a nightmare. The result is KCJs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some liners crack on first use. KENGO has attempted to solve the quality problem by providing the liner makers with a standard liner mould; but even this can be made and supplied by anybody. KENGO has also tried to educate liner makers on correct clay mixtures.
Because many artisans are now making the KCJs, the profit margin has been eroded continuously and the profit motive has driven some liner makers into using sub-standard materials. The artisans have therefore resorted to thinner metal sheets for making claddings. The result being that the stoves buckle at the waist after being In use for only a short period.
The quality control problem has brought about
several reaction. For example, the Bellerive Foundation, an NGO promoting institutional stoves, has decided to contract a formal sector workshop to manufacture all their stoves. These stoves are then \passed on to agents approved by the Foundation for onward dissemination to schools and colleges. In this way, the Foundation argues, quality is controlled and maintained. However, this does not prevent other manufacturers from making similar (and lower quality) stoves and marketing them. This in turn has triggered another reaction: patenting of stoves. KENGO at one time considered the patenting of the KCJand the Kuni Mbili. However, this was rejected as being impossible to "police" and likely to do more harm than good.
The third reaction that has resulted from the poor quality of stoves now being made is that of retraining the artisans. This seems to have a lot of support, both at KENGO and among the stove manufacturers.
Production & Marketing in other Sub Saharan African Countries
Several dissemination methods have been adopted in other SSA countries. Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia based their stove programmes at the ministries responsible for energy. They did not in the initial stages involve NGOs. The result was a disaster: not many stoves disseminated Zambia recognized their problem almost immediately and went on to involve the NGOs and the informal private sector. Tanzania have only this year (1992) started involving the NGO community and already some progress has been recorded. Malawi obstinately shut out the NGOs and the informal private sector, with the result that improved stoves have not taken root yet. Rwanda has started involving the informal private sector with positive results.
Botswana and Zimbabwe placed their improved stoves in the hands of the formal private sector, the argument used being that the populace in those two countries are used to high quality manufactured goods and would therefore not buy anything from the informal sector. But the stove promoters reckoned without the pressure for quick profits at formal sector manufacturing units. This played a role in the collapse of the improved stove programme in Botswana. In Zimbabwe, the search is now on for informal sector stove manufacturers.
Both Uganda and Sudan placed the manufacture of their improved stoves in the hands of the liner makers. Thus individual metal artisans were expected to sell their claddings to liner makers who would then assemble and sell the stoves. The informal sector artisans in Uganda were soon up in arms, claiming that the liner manufacturers were skimming all the profits. They therefore stopped supplying claddings and the liner makers were left with no choice but to negotiate terms with the cladding artisans.
The success of improved stove programmes in SSA will depend heavily on the capacity of the institution used for dissemination. Unfortunately, most such institutions are not strong many work with stoves only as a sideline rather than as their main focus.
Where NGO stove institutions have started to take root, they have sometimes come across incredible government red tape or political interference beyond their control and have found it increasingly difficult to keep good and experienced staff.
It is therefore important for development agencies to continue to provide support and to help programmes to learn from each other's experience, not only on technical matters but on marketing, institutional development and management.
Ed Note: Details of the changing quality, and scale of production are given in "Household Stoves in Kenya: The Case of the ACT" by Stephen Karekezi and Dominic Walubengo (KENGO 1989). Extracts will be included in BP theme articles on "Clays for Stoves" in BP31.