| Boiling Point No. 23 - December 1990 |
Boiling Point Editorial Review of a Case Study by Myles Allen, Technical Manager, Bellerive Foundation
Myles Allen's excellent and detailed case study examines the UNEP/BELLERIVE Kenyan stove project in terms of market research' dissemination strategy, project design and impact assessment and draws conclusions for the next phase now being planned.
The great achievement of the project is the extent of its success in promoting nationwide use of the fuel efficient institutional stoves originally developed by W.Micuta and his colleagues in the Bellerive Foundation with the support of the Kenyan Government. "More than half of the institutional stoves now installed in Kenya are from the project modern. The study also covers the promotion of fuelwood production but this component is not reviewed here.
The project was initiated in 1984 and a 5 year extension is now being considered. It was based at Ruira near Nairobi. The aim of the stove part of the programme was the introduction of fuel efficient stoves as a means of reducing fuelwood consumption to a sustainable level.
In planning the project, strong emphasis was placed on flexibility - initial assumptions may turn out to be wrong. Flexibility from both donors and project implementor alike is essential if "we are to adopt a sufficiently responsive approach to such a diverse and complex problem". The report warns that "there is a tendency for technologies to be over emphasised (how many stoves disseminated) at the expense of the human aspects.
'This aspect often goes unnoticed by those accustomed to addressing global issues. For her, this is a local problem. Where last year she gathered fuel, the land has now been cleared for agriculture, so she has to search beyond. But as far as she is concerned, it makes little difference whether the rest of the planet is desert or virgin forest. Unlike an increase in the price of oil, the fuelwood crisis should be seen as an aggregate of millions of village scale tragedies rather than a single, global problem'.
'The tools of micro-economic policy have little impact on the use of firewood outside the monetized economy and even on the micro level we cannot expect to find a single, globally applicable solution to so diverse a problem. Rather we have to investigate ways and means of improving the situation where it is most acutely felt in the villages of the developing world'.
In assessing the role of the market in stove dissemination, the report states 'fuelwood is still effectively free almost everywhere, the only cost being collection, and it will remain so until the environmental situation is beyond hope. Thus, conserving fuelwood cannot in general be presented as an economically feasible activity', 'we must therefore design the project to create the conditions in which market forces will work in our favour'.
The Project -Domestic Stoves
The project set out to disseminate domestic, fuel saving stoves but this phase was wound up in 1986 as unpromising. It was based on two massive mud stove designs, the Kamini Kega, single pot, chimneyless stove and the Pogbi, 2 pot chimney stove, both being built by specially trained 'masons'. As experienced in many other countries, significant dissemination was not achieved because the masons could not make a living from stove work and did not produce consistently good stoves, nor could they be built with sufficient accuracy by the users.
Insufficient thought was given to the role of the stove maker who also became the seller and distributor. The stoves were, in fact, neither cheap nor attractive to the potential customers. Even so, the key reason (as thought at the time) for this failure was not the cost of the stove; just as fuel consumption at minimum cost was found not to be the top priority for stove buyers elsewhere.
The importance of tailoring improved technology to the needs of the consumer in the project target area is generally appreciated. The emphasis placed on the consumer may, however, lead to the producer being neglected: the product which the housewife wants may not coincide with the product which the local artisan finds easiest to produce and market.
'With effective promotion, we can often persuade people to buy a new product. But to persuade producers to adopt a production and marketing system different from that to which they are accustomed is virtually impossible. Think of the risks involved: the husband who buys his wife an improved charcoal stove is risking Ksh 90/- the artisan who takes up stove making as a career is risking his livelihood'.
A stove programme should start from a thorough investigation of the problem to be solved, without prior assumptions. Is it really a shortage of woodfuel or the stoves or the smoke or is it s 0 m e inappropriate governmental actions such as guarding forests? Where the answers are not clear, then flexibility must be built into the programme. In this case, it became clear that domestic fuelwood use was not a major cause of deforestation.
The Non Interventionist Approach
The Project - Institutional Stoves
Further market research and needs assessment and production studies were carried out and for the Bellerive basic purpose, an institutional stove programme was seen to be the most appropriate approach. The research report resulted in reasonably accurate information which could be used for stove designs, production methods planning and development strategies. Many of the unanswerable questions and unpredictable effects inherent in domestic stove work did not arise. The information needed for planning was readily available and reliable.
Wood was bought regularly and in large and measured quantities from commercial suppliers who could make tree felling economic and could be involved in the forestry component of the programme. The potential stove market was estimated at 4-500 per year (this figure is now believed by FWD to be much too low) and although the total fuel use by such institutions represents only a small percentage of Kenyan total wood fuel use there is a clear, measurable and significant saving possible from more fuel efficient institutional stoves.
So in 1986 the UNEP/BELLERIVE programme turned its attention to institutional stoves and the subsequent work is the main part of the case study. The report describes the work of the programme, the problems encountered and how they were dealt with, the alternative methods considered and the technical, sociological and managerial arguments involved. 'Pilot dissemination was an immediate success - limited only by production capacity'. However, it resulted in a change of plans from commercial production by a private company to continued production by the programme for several more years.
'Small scale production in densely populated parts of the country is commercially viable and at least 5 independent producers are now in operation, installing stoves of the Bellerive design in their own districts.'
'Even though the programme is run on a non-profit basis, the prices charged to programme beneficiaries, with training costs built in, are such that we are not undercutting a private entrepreneur who wishes to produce and market institutional stoves over a limited region'.
'The 1987 market survey found that a nationwide programme, reaching the remote poorer regions (such as the arid north) would not be an attractive venture for a private company so should these remote regions, which cannot support a programme run on a profit making basis just wait until shortages put up the price of fuelwood sufficiently for programme beneficiaries to become prepared to pay a much higher price for fuel saving equipment? No doubt time will give the answer'.
There are very many interesting lines of thought, procedures and methods described in the 45 page report. They are presented in helpful and sometimes new ways and are relevant to every type of stove programme. The paper is relatively free from socio-economic stove jargon and we recommend all stove workers read it.
However, readers should recognise that this institutional stove programme is very different from the normal domestic stove programme.
Firstly - The Bellerive Programme's primary aim is to reduce woodfuel consumption. This may not be the primary aim of a domestic stove programme. This programme aim coincides with the primary need of the customer, i.e. the institution, but our experience of the last 10 years has taught us that fuel efficiency is not usually the demand of the domestic customer - this is much more difficult to determine and of course if the "improved" stove does not give her what she wants, she will not buy it or even use it.
Secondly - domestic stove programmes cannot get the same detailed and reliable information about markets etc. Requirements such as design, fuels, transport, diets etc vary widely, even from one village to another. Extension of a successful programme to another area often leads to disappointment and the need to start again. Urban stove programmes are often different from rural programmes. Bellerive has recognised that urban stove programmes are likely to be easier and provide quicker returns for fuel saving than rural programmes, just as institutional programmes are easier than domestic programmes and so their next phase is expected to be urban stove promotion.
Nevertheless there are many things to be learnt from Myles Allen's excellent report, but they should be seen as ideas and experiences rather than as recommendations for domestic stove programmes.