The picture is almost always the same. When you arrive in a place where women parboil rice, the first thing you notice is large pots on an open fire. The pots are made from an oil drum cut in half, cast aluminum purchased from the market, or fabricated out of sheet metal. The second thing you see is a large pile of firewood, purchased by the bundle or by the ton. When firewood is not available, or is too expensive, it is substituted with maize stalk or cow dung. Looking back at the fire you can see it is carefully managed between the three stones the pots rest upon and, of course, there is the acrid smell of smoke.
When the women are done their work day parboiling rice they will go home and cook for their families over another, albeit smaller, three stone fire. This is the reality for many women in Bauchi State, Nigeria and one the MEDA’s Nigeria WAY project is working to change not only for health and environmental reasons, but because it also makes good business sense.
The Clean Cooking Alliance estimates that each day around 3 billion people globally depend on solid fuels for cooking, such as charcoal and firewood, spending 40 billion dollars to purchase it. In addition, the World Health Organization attributes up to 4 million deaths, or 7.7% of annual global mortality, to household air pollution cause by cooking with these dirty fuels. Most of these deaths are from diseases of the lungs and occur within Sub-Saharan Africa where the vast majority of people cannot afford to cook with anything else but charcoal and firewood. Nigeria tops the list of most impacted nations, with 75% of Nigerians using solid fuels for cooking. In addition, they experience 64,600 deaths every year – the highest number of household air pollution deaths in Africa. In Bauchi, almost the entire population uses solid fuel for cooking, so the story is even more dire.
The health impact is not the only problem cooking with charcoal and firewood causes – there is also the environmental impact. The rate of deforestation in Bauchi State is alarming. The seriousness of the problem is visible as you pass the stacks of firewood for sale at the side of the road or watch the lorries piled high with firewood being delivered to customers. Climate change is only exacerbating the situation, increasing average temperatures and playing within seasonal rains. If something doesn’t change in Bauchi, desertification will be a not-so-distant reality for the state with potentially widespread impacts on the local economy, which depends heavily on agriculture.
To address the challenges cooking with solid fuels presents, Nigeria WAY is working with a range of stakeholders in Bauchi using a three-fold approach: sensitization on sustainable technologies and alternatives, such as eco-stoves and briquettes; ensuring their gender responsiveness; and facilitation access through green finance mechanisms. The successful piloting of the “Happy Stove” provides an example of this approach.
MEDA’s Nigeria WAY project piloted the introduction and sale of eco-cookstoves and eco-parboilers to women entrepreneurs in Bauchi. Roshan Global Industries Limited is a woman-owned and led manufacturing company that is engaged in the production and distribution of affordable, fuel-efficient technologies. Made in a factory in neighbouring Gombe state, the environmentally-friendly products of Roshan Global are branded as “Happy Stoves” as the owner’s name is Happy Amos. The initial target for the pilot was set at 1,000 domestic stoves and later revised to 2500, which was easily met. A target of 14 larger parboilers was also set, which was also exceeded with 16 being sold, 8 of which were sold to women parboiling groups.
The success of the pilot can be attributed to several factors: the choice of technology, the choice of technology provider, and a realistic approach to sensitization and incentivization with a green financial product.
The Happy Stove was chosen because it is efficient. They are certified by International Center for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) to have an efficiency of 60%, which means less harmful emissions from cooking and less fuel required daily. The stove is also what women needed…and wanted...and was affordable. The stove met the day-to-day requirements of both domestic cooking and parboiling rice on a larger scale. It saves the women money, time, and provides them with a cleaner working environment.
The sensitization around the Happy Stove was also part of the pilot’s success. The project works with partners to mobilise women in each local government authority, or LGA, to take part in a cooking demonstration to increase their sensitisation to eco-stoves. Roshen Global has also identified 12 women sales agents (WoSAs), who form a core part of Roshan’s distribution network, to build their market share for eco-stoves, eco-parboilers and other fuel efficient and green technologies they manufacture. The combination of cooking demonstration and follow up from the WoSAs has really got the message out, and the high number of cookstove sales is an indication the approach is working.
The availability of green finance has also helped push cookstove sales. Initially this took the form of a price discount on the stove, however, the Nigeria WAY team is now working with local partners to expand the portfolio of green financial products available in the Bauchi market. This includes offering green finance training and building the business case for financial institutions to develop green financial products. It is hoped that the Happy Stove will not be the only technology supported with green finance, but that green finance will allow women and youth to purchase a range of agrotechnology.
The distribution of 2500 Happy Stoves during the pilot in 2018/2019 is only a drop in the bucket insofar as the overall need. However, the learning from the experience has been enormous for the Nigeria WAY project. Given the right approach, the adoption of cleaner cookstoves can become a household norm. More importantly, with this knowledge and platform, Nigeria WAY is positioned in 2020 to introduce a whole range of environmental and agricultural technologies that will transform how people grow and process crops in Bauchi State.
-- Dennis Tessier, Senior Program Manager, Environment and Climate Change, firstname.lastname@example.org