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Designing, Manufacturing and Marketing of Tsotso Stoves in Zimbabwe
by David Hancock
At first glance the stove looks like a straight-sided metal water bucket. It is painted matt black with a red 'Tsotso' logo on its side, just above the sliding door that controls the air supply. On closer examination a pot recess and a small combustion chamber 12 cm wide are revealed. Fuel top-loaded into the short, chimney-like combustion chamber receives both primary air through the grate at the bottom and pre-heated secondary air drawn up between the insulated side of the stove and the combustion chamber which has holes in it to allow the air in. The stove leaves the factory packed in a cardboard box with a large logo printed on all four panels.
The result of three years of research work, at first on an individual basis by the authors and later as part of project work by the University of Zimbabwe Development Technology Centre (DTC), the stove is now poised for national and even international dissemination. Its development has been slow, through a number of steps that perhaps could give pointers to other efforts in development technology dissemination.
The heart of the stove is based on an adaptation of a highly efficient yet very simple combustion system that of the ZZ stove. The ZZ stove itself proved wholly unsuitable for Zimbabwean conditions, being very small, unable to take larger pieces of wood (the fuel that 80 per cent of the population in Zimbabwe use, charcoal being virtually unknown) and very unstable. But the combustion system works wonderfully.
Fast cooking without smoke
The first step was to adapt the stove to the cooking patterns of the people who would eventually use it. In the course of field work to collect data for a report commissioned by GATE, a lot of time was spent sitting around various kitchen fires and the cooking patterns of rural Zimbabweans were studied in detail. Women cook while seated on the ground, so any stove developed would have to be limited to a certain maximum height. The economic condition in which rural people live are based on the cash economy, and they aspire to improve their lot mainly with consumer goods from the towns. So mud or clay (the other possible option for stove-building) is seen as retrogressive, while metal is a status symbol. The ability to cook fast was of the utmost importance, as illustrated by the widespread popularity of a wrought-iron grate under which large fires can be built (at great fuel cost) and on which two pots can be placed. Although people had learned to live with smoke it was certainly seen as an advantage to have less or no smoke around in the kitchen hut. Levels of disposable income were also gauged.
Note was taken of some of the main criticisms of enclosed-fire fuel-saving stoves, namely that they can detract from the multiple functions of the open fire: heat and light provided and a social focal point. As the area was seriously deforested, not unlike many other Communal Lands in Zimbabwe, the fire was used only for cooking and extinguished immediately afterwards: light is provided by simple paraffin lamps, and when people are cold they more often than not wrap a blanket around themselves to keep warm. It seemed that enclosing the fire was not such a constraint in rural Zimbabwe as might have been suggested.
However, as we were working in a severely deforested area we also thought that people would place equal priority on saving wood, as we perceived the environmental situation warranted.
These were the basic socioeconomic parameters according to which research and development work took place. A long process of laboratory testing helped us to perfect the design and make it as fuel saving as possible, while still adhering to these socio-economic parameters. Efficiencies consistently in the region of 23 per cent were achieved, which satisfied our ambition of creating a fuel-saving stove. It also burned more cleanly than the open fire and was very fast. We then moved on to field-test the stoves in one of Harare's high-density suburbs over a period of four months. To test its fuel consumption in the field, the amount of fuel used by ten households using the open fire under a metal grate was measured for a period of two months; this was followed by a further two months of fuel consumption measurements covering the same households, but using the Tsotso stove. The results were as follows:
These results confirmed that laboratory test results had been transferred to the field. This is what we wanted to see - a fuel-saving stove working in the field. However, during follow-up work some interesting facts emerged. By far the most impressive thing about the stove for the women using it was its speed - it boils 3.3 litres of water in about 12 minutes. Saving time is apparently of much greater importance to women than saving wood. This fact emerged from an urban situation where wood has to be bought and where as a result, urban users have already reduced their fuel consumption by two-thirds as a response to having to buy. If, in the final analysis, speed is of greater importance to urban women than fuel saving, how much more will that be the case for rural women who are still used to a 'free' supply of wood?
In fact, although its fuel economy characteristics were noted and appreciated, the stove's smart, modern appearance, its portability and the fact that it would be used as a space heater in the winter were of equal importance.
The fact that the stove satisfied the customers' real needs and desires was almost a happy accident. In research work we did try to find out what people wanted, but we were so obsessed with fuel saving that we didn't really hear what was being said.
Production and sales
With the information that the stoves were proving economical in the field and that users liked them, NORAD was approached and approved the funding of a pilot project to disseminate the stoves on a wider basis. An attempt was made to have the stoves manufactured by sheetmetal workers in the urban informal sector. However, this approach was soon abandoned as they were not able to cope with the quantities required and ensure the quality control necessary. The formal manufacturing sector was then approached and mass production of the stoves organized.
The manufacturer's price of the stove (Z $ 25) was still considered to be within reach of a majority of the low-income earners who were the project's main target group.
The first sales outlets took the form of two small stands, one in Harare's main bus station (Mbare) and the other in a shopping centre of a large high-density suburb bordering a severely deforested Communal Land (Chitungwiza). The Harare sites were chosen for ease of servicing/monitoring, because 20 per cent of the urban population are still using wood and it was hoped that due to the strong connections between town and country some of the stoves would be 'exported' into the rural areas. Stoves were sold at cost; the support services needed to keep the operation going (transport, labour etc.) were subsidized by the project.
Sales from these two fairly informal outlets amounted to about 400 units in the first four months. The customers were almost exclusively individual householders in the highdensity suburbs. Urban dwellers have rural homes into which 60 per cent of the stoves bought were sent, most of them to Mashonaland, the province around Harare. However, some stoves have found their way to the remotest corners of the country.
At this point, sales were slow but steady. The people to whom we were selling had limited access to the product and as a low-income group needed time to budget for the purchase of the stove. For the stoves to really catch on, they needed to be more widely distributed and available in such a way as to give low-income customers a chance to save for the stove, knowing it would be available for them to buy at a certain place accessible to them at anytime. Roving demonstrations attracted a lot of interest but supply systems that would enable people to buy at a later date were lacking. Clearly, the stove had to be available at established retail outlets throughout the country. But it was difficult to persuade retailers/wholesalers to stock an untried product for which demand was still low.
A breakthrough came when the project was represented at the National Agricultural Show. Although low-income urban dwellers and rural people made up the bulk of the crowds surrounding the stand, it was the commercial farmers and and mine managers, with large labour forces to whom they have to supply fuel, who started to come forward and place large orders. They saw that, for them, it made plain economic sense: the stove would pay for itself within a few months and thereafter bring them significant savings. Wholesalers and retailers have since begun to show considerable interest in stocking the stove. Orders of up to 300 units are now being placed. The stove is now enjoying the advantages of commercial production as well as the wholesale and retail distribution networks by which most goods are made available to the majority of the people in this country.
At the outset, the objectives defined were to develop a highly efficient stove that people liked and used and to disseminate it nationally. Unforeseen factors have influenced each stage of the project and changes had to be made to adapt to suit the circumstances prevailing in Zimbabwe. In the course of design work we saw that our blinkered approach to producing a stove, i.e. seeing fuelwood-saving as the number one priority, was not necessarily in line with what people wanted. The end result is a stove that has consumer appeal and also happens to save wood. In production we thought that using the informal sector could lead to job creation. This ended up being a deviation from our originally defined objectives. By involving the formal sector in mass production techniques, most production problems were overcome (i. e. volume, quality control, etc.) and the fine factory finish of the stove has contributed greatly to its consumer appeal. When it came to dissemination, we tried to market through our own outlets. Although this method reached our original target group, i. e. the low income group, and served as a good pilot market test of acceptance within this group, both exposure and disposable incomes were too low to create an immediate high demand that would interest retailers in stocking this new product. As it happened, it was the commercial farmers and mining companies, who have plenty of disposable income but were not considered to belong to the target group, who are now providing the necessary impetus to wide dissemination of the stoves through the wholesale and retail networks.
We are continuing to make improvements. We are currently looking at alternative materials as a possible means of increasing the life and performance of the stove. Two plate models are being developed directly as a response to consumers' reaction to the one-plate Tsotso. The essence of the lessons to be learned from this exercise is that products should be developed around consumers, and that for planners and development agencies the order of priorities is not always the same order as for consumers. A degree of flexibility is necessary, to adopt approaches that were not originally envisaged, in order to achieve clearly defined objectives. Although the attitude towards the business world is negative in some development circles, commerce can be very effective in getting to people what they want.
Average kg wood/ day/family
Number of meals prepared/day
Scientific and Technological Cooperation
"Towards a World Decade for Scientific and Technological Cooperation for International Development" is the full title of a four-day conference to be held from November 20th - 25th 1988 in Kingston, Jamaica. The organizer is the Association for the Advancement of Policy, Research and Development in the Third World, with headquarters in Washington D. C., USA.
The Association's conferences are forums where serious discussions about international developments take place. The conference in Kingston will serve as a forum for all those participating, and for affiliated professional organizations to identify issues of common concern, including major global questions which today remain unsolved. It is the Association's belief that these problems, including all other professional, interdisciplinary policy matters should command our attention.
Further information is available from:
Dr. Mekki Mtewa
Association for the Advancement of Policy, Research and Development in the Third World, P.O. Box 70257 Washington D.C. USA
The subtitle of this forum is "The Audio and Video Festival for Socially and Environmentally Appropriate Technologies". It is to be held at the 1 9th World Conference of the Society for International Development in New Delhi, India, from 25 to 28 march 1988. The theme of the conference is "Poverty, Development and Collective Survival".
According to the organizers, the forum will be a unique showcase for nonprinted development communications, a week of events, screenings and workshops to gather the best audiovisuals, and the people who make and use them. It will give talented communicators a chance to show their work, win prizes, and find new outlets for their programmes.
Submissions may include any of the following: audio tapes, video tapes, films, filmstrips, tape-and-slide productions, radio programmes, television programmes and posters.
Details of how to enter and entry forms are available from:
Small World Tapes
167 Fentiman Road
London SW 8 1 JY, UK
Phone: 44173539 10
Telex: 933524 Geonet G.
First line should read
"Box Geo 2:SWT"
Teacher of Technology in Development Aid Services
After a three-year test phase the course of supplementary study leading to the qualification "teacher of technology in development aid services", offered by the Padagogische Hochschule (teacher training college) in Flensburg (FRO) in cooperation with the Institute of Engineering and Rural Technology of Allahabad (India), is to be expanded.
The training, which focuses in particular on appropriate technology and its dissemination in rural areas, is intended for applicants from both Germany and abroad with suitable previous qualifications and at least two years' professional experience. Students receive a theoretical and practical introduction to the principal fields of activity essential to life in villages in the Third World, special importance being attached to learning through work on projects and cooperation with development services and the counterpart organization in India.
As of 1988 it is probable that the degree of M.Sc. will be awarded to students who successfully complete this supplementary course.
For further information please contact
Dr. Uwe Rehling
Murwiker StraÃŸe 77
Federal Republic of Germany