| Boiling Point No. 19 - August 1989 |
by Dominic Walubengo, KENGO
Improved stove programmes have been with us for more than ten years now. And therefore this is a good stage at which to look at the one thing that seems to have eluded the programmes completely. That is publicity, promotion or public education.
For a long time now, many stove programmes have preferred to operate quietly, keeping a low profile and making as little "noise" as possible. The reasoning has been that it is not necessary to advertise one's good deeds. What is more, some people also felt that a big publicity campaign for stoves would lead to a trig demand for them, which would in turn lead to public disenchantment with the stove programmes. This being the case, many stove programmes did not see the need to budget for publicity campaigns for their stoves. Not that there were many donors who were willing to provide funds to publicise improved stoves! Luckily, things are now beginniing to change and publicity is no longer seen as merely blowing one's own trumpet.
In many countries now, improved stove programmes are featured on television and radio. They appear in the daily newspapers regularly and some even have their own newsletters. Some stove programmes have gone as far as publishing their own posters and printing promotional T-shirts and car stickers. This is the case in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia. Agricultural fairs, especially in Kenya and Zimbabwe, attract large crowds. These fairs have been used in Kenya to promote improved stoves. There is no question that stove programmes have got a long way to go yet, as far as raising public awareness is concerned. They certainly cannot hope to compete with the private sector in this sphere. There are several reasons for this: certain questions must be answered first. For example, who should carry out the public education/awareness campaign? And who will reap the benefits of this campaign?
Some people suggest that the improved stove manufacturers should themselves pay for the publicity. The reasoning being that, it is they who benefit the most from increased sales. Others argue that the government should carry out the campaign. This will ensure that more improved stoves are used and the government's objective of reducing the amount of biomass fuels being used will be realised. While these arguments rage on, no publicity :is carried out. For one thing, a
publicity campaign can be very expensive and individual stove producers cannot afford it. For another, there are not enough trained extension workers to carry out such an exercise consistently.
It is suggested here that stove programmes should themselves carry out publicity/awareness campaigns. Again, here, the problem of public image may arise. Many of these stove programmes are run by NGOs which may not want to assume a high profile in the society. These NGOs may therefore see publicity campaigns as a distortion of their main raison d'etre; that is, to do good unnoticed.
Public Information Methods
The main public education methods that have been used by stove programmes in East and Southern Africa are: public demonstrations at markets, schools or training centres; the print media; radio and television; T-shirts and posters. Each of these methods has its audiences, advantages and disadvantages.
Use Demonstrations: Markets, Training Centres, Schools.
Demonstrations have remained the most popular means of getting improved stoves to the target communities. These demonstrations are held at public markets, social centres, public rallies, schools and training centres or at the homes of influential people like chiefs, church leaders or leading farmers.
There are several major advantages in carrying out "live" demonstrations. The target audience can participate; and there is usually an immediate reaction to the improvements the new stoves offer. The audience can ask questions and receive answers from the stove programme workers, and the target groups can discuss the stoves among themselves. These demonstrations also enable the stove programme workers to gauge the expectations of the target groups. Quite often, some improvements are suggested by the audience.
At market places and agricultural fairs, demonstrations are best carried out in conjunction with stove manufacturers or sellers. This is because on the spot sales will occur.
Demonstrations carried out at schools and training centres do not usually result in big sales immediately. These demonstrations can be seen as investments for the future. The students may go to their homes and convince their parents to invest in the improved stoves. Training centres are particularly useful, especially if they are training extension workers. These extension workers usually come into close contact with households during the course of their duties and so can pass on the information to the target groups.
The main disadvantage of demonstrations at markets, schools etc. is that they do not reach a big audience and their effects tend to be highly localised. This means that stove programmes must carry out demonstrations in every village, if they hope to reach a wide audience.
Another difficulty faced by demonstration teams is that if they do not provide stoves to the target groups immediately, interest in the subject may wane. It is therefore important to carry out demonstrations in an area where the stoves are available or one at least within reach.
Newspapers (print media)
The print media have been used extensively in promoting improved stoves in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. Some stove programes even have their own newsletters which highlight the progress of improved stoves. However, many national newspapers do not see improved stoves as a selling point. They tend to relegate the subject to the inner pages and sometimes do not give it a serious enough coverage. Quite often, the journalists who cover improved stoves activities do not themselves understand the subject enough and worse; they may have no interest in it.
The print media has the advantage that it reaches a wide audience; but has the main disadvantage that the majority of the people who read newspapers in some countries are men, who may not see improved stoves in the same light as the women, who do most of the cooking. The other disadvantage of the print media is that many of the people who read the papers may be more interested in obtaining an electric stove than one using charcoal or wood.
Newsletters run by the improved stove programmes have the disadvantage that they do not have a wide enough circulation and are written for stove workers (and by stove workers) who already know the subject thoroughly and do not have to be convinced of the advantages of using improved stoves.
T-shirts, Posters and Calendars
T-shirts, posters and calendars are becoming very popular with some more recent stove programmes. They give an immediate impact in that they are very visible; and people do not have to be literate to appreciate their message. Bright coloured posters etc are very popular.
T-shirts, posters and calendars have been used widely in Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia. However, they have the disadvantage that they are expensive and many stove programmes do not have the resources to carry out a sustainable campaign using this method. Here, especially in the case of posters, the government can play an important role. Certainly, the Government of Kenya through its Ministry of Energy has in the past published posters highlighting improved stoves. In Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda, the publishing of posters has been suported by the charity CARE.
As for calendars, very few agencies have managed to print them on a yearly basis. They are extremely expensive and not easy to sell.
Radio and Television
Radio and television have been used only to a small extent as publicity tools for stove programmes. However, whenever they are used, stove sales shoot up by anything up to 30%. This has happened in Burundi and Kenya. In Zambia, the improved charcoal stove programme has also used television effectively. Nevertheless, many governments in East and Southern Africa do not see improved stove programmes as crucial to nation building and prefer to feature other development programmes on their national television and radio. Thus programmes featuring water, education etc. and political rallies are given greater airtime.
While television has a big impact, it has the disadvantage that not many people own television sets in Africa and those who own them are likely to be more interested in using LPG and electricity than charcoal or wood for their cooking and heating. Television also is limited to urban populations and to a large extent rural populations are missed.
Radio has a much wider audience in Africa, but has the disadvantage that it is not visual. Thus it is only useful to those people in the audience who know what the improved stove looks like.
The future of improved stove programmes will depend heavily on public education/awareness campaigns. These campaigns will stimulate sales and attract more entrepreneurs into stove making. Publicity for improved stoves will give respectability to stove making activities. Stove manufacturers will not be looked at as tinkerers.
Campaigns will also create a better image for the informal sector artisans who make these stoves. Up to now, there are some countries in Africa which give no recognition to the informal sector. This has not helped improved stoves to reach their target. Every agency working on improved stoves should decide what method is most suitable for use in raising awareness; and train their stove programme workers accordingly.
Public demonstrations will continue to be in popular use in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. This is because these countries have a tradition of regular open markets to which women go to buy household necessities.
Newspapers, posters, T-shirts, radio and television campaigns are suggested for Sudan. This is because many people in Sudan read newspapers and listen to the radio.
Global stove networks like the Foundation for Woodstove Dissemination (FOOD) and regional stove programmes like the Regional Wood Energy Programme for Africa (RWEPA) can play a big role in popularising stove programmes. These networks should take a lead in publishing newsletters, posters and booklets on stoves. They may also consider making videos on the subject. These videos can then be screened on the national television networks of several countries.