In collaboration with our customers, our local partners, and our science & evaluation partners - Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and CEGA - we’ve designed, implemented, and scaled a high-efficiency cookstove distribution model that has impacted the lives of over 1⁄4 million people.
While we started as a purely humanitarian organization, in recent years we’ve transitioned from a free stove distribution model to a market-based cookstove wholesale and retailer. This transition is motivated by our desire to build and support local markets, enable local entrepreneurs to earn revenue on the product, and set up programming that is sustainable beyond our immediate efforts. We’ve distributed over 42,000 stoves in Sudan and Ethiopia, achieved high stove usage rates and measured our impact objectively through sensors and frequent contact with users. Here is a look at our current efforts, project by project:
Our flagship initiative. Designed by engineers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, in conjunction with local women, our Berkeley-Darfur stove is a high efficiency wood-burning cookstove, It is adapted to local pots, customs and cooking practices. And it is impacting the lives of ¼ million people.
Since 2009, we’ve built and scaled the distribution of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove, an affordable, high-efficiency wood-burning stove that reduces fuel use by 50% and saves women time and money. The look and feel of the BDS was designed with the input of local Darfuri women to ensure maximum usage. We are now on version 14 of the stove, with the vast majority of guidance for design iterations coming from our customers themselves.
We employ two operating models to deliver stoves – sales and free distribution. For our sales operations, we work through a network of local women’s organizations to sell the stoves on flexible installment plans. Our retail network provides earned income for over 35 people through our sales, distribution and assembly channels. Our free distribution work leverages local organizations to donate stoves to vulnerable populations who do not have regular forms of income. The stove is manufactured as a “flat-kit” in India, is shipped to the Port of Sudan, and is assembled locally in a shop in El Fashir. Click here to see the assembly shop workers in action.
In conjunction with researchers at UC Berkeley, we’re using heat sensors to understand how, and when, customers use our stoves.
In 2013, we worked with UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action, as well as in-house staff, to conduct a rigorous evaluation of usage on our donated Sudanese stoves. The goal of the evaluation was to determine if they were being used consistently (and, if not, what we could do to change that). During the evaluation, we installed heat sensors on 180 stoves, and measured usage continuously for a number of months. Results from this study were promising, indicating high levels of usage that averaged 1.5 hours / day.
While we can always do better, we’re excited about these early results. In addition to understanding user behavior, we also found that amongst the “non-user” group we were able to increase usage, and in many cases convert women to “users”, with simple after-distribution visits that resulted in sustained high levels of post-visit use. This and other study findings have helped us design thoughtful plans to guide additional rollouts of stoves in other markets across Africa. This study also serves as a model for the cookstoves sector, providing an example of how objective usage monitoring can help us – and our peers – understand the impacts of our efforts.
We’re rolling out adapted high-efficiency, wood-burning stoves in Ethiopia, and studying ways to achieve sustained usage levels that produce meaningful impact in the lives of our customers.
We’re rolling out hundreds of stoves in Ethiopia, and are using sensors, high-frequency mobile voice communications, and in-person surveys to understand what it takes to get customers to purchase, and use, our stoves. In conjunction with leading researchers, and USAID’s DIV program, we’re overseeing a randomized control trial (RCT) that will serve to provide much-needed data on product adoption, logistics, and new market viability not just to us, but also to the cookstove community writ large.
We’re trailing new business models to make best-in-class stoves available to families across Africa.
In conjunction with local partners in Uganda and Burkina Faso, we’re trialing new business models that will enable poor and low income people to use best-in-class advanced biomass stoves. These stoves burn cleanly, and have the most meaningful effects on health outcomes. While they are available on the market, they continue to be prohibitively expensive to the vast majority of consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are determined to find ways to get these stoves into the hands of poor and low income families.
Our trials, which we’re conducting in Burkina Faso and Uganda, are focused on generating a sustainable revenue stream from the sale of biomass fuel in pelletized form, while achieving meaningful reductions in household air pollution in the homes of stove users. We’re leasing advanced stoves and selling biomass pellets to users at a price that is competitive with locally available biomass (primarily wood or charcoal). We have already conducted substantial field research and are now in the early implementation phases. Stay tuned to our blog, and this website, for more updates on the progress of these trials as this work advances.