In this very interesting and detailed interview, they share their activities in the clean cookstoves sector.
Can you give us a brief introduction of Christian Aid?
Christian Aid (CA) is a UK-based international development agency, partnering with others to end poverty in Africa. At the heart of this vision is the transformation of the lives of people who live in poverty, empowering them to have a brighter future. Christian Aid works in more than 30 countries including Nigeria.
At Christian Aid, we believe that human action is responsible for the underlying causes of poverty, that we – the wealthiest generations in human history – have the greatest opportunity to overcome this, and that when people work together, the world can be changed.
We work globally for profound change that eradicates the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality. We are part of a wider movement for social justice.
Christian Aid Nigeria has been in operation since 2003 and focuses on Community Health and HIV, Accountable Governance and Gender.
Our vision is for a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society, in which poverty has been eradicated and every person is empowered to live life in all its fullness.
Our Strategy for achieving this vision is through:
1. Governance – We work to improve government accountability and responsiveness to the needs of poor and marginalised people.
2. Community Health – We seek to improve the health of poor and marginalised people, particularly women, children and people with compromised immunity, by building on our track record in integrated community-based health promotion and health governance.
3. Gender – We aim to improve gender equality and the participation of women and girls in development activities.
What does your organization seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
We seek to impact Nigeria’s cooking energy market by:
Increasing awareness and knowledge of the benefits of use of improved cook stoves by providing consistent, correct and relevant information
Supporting the emergence of an active cook stoves market where cook stoves are easily available at affordable prices and where women especially would have opportunities for setting up small businesses in cook stove commercialization to support household livelihoods
Improving access for poor and marginalised groups to improved cook stoves
We aim to achieve these objectives because about 70% of the total Nigerian population use solid fuel for cooking. Generally, most of this population, cook on open fires known to burn poorly with resultant high pollution emissions due to low fuel efficiency and millions of households in Nigeria are exposed daily to second hand smoke from cooking with no differences between urban and rural areas.
Indoor air pollution (IAP) emitted by burning solid fuel indoors, especially in poorly ventilated conditions, has been strongly associated with morbidity and mortality especially in women and children. Similarly, use of solid fuel often results in negative social effects including more time for cooking meals, time and strain in gathering of cooking fuels and spending on cooking fuels, especially by women and children. These, in turn, negatively impact on time used for other activities including gaining education and undertaking income generating activities. Environmental impacts include pollution of ambient air and uncontrolled harvest of wood with consequent destruction of wildlife habitat and deforestation.
Our plan therefore is to address all negative impact of cooking using solid fuel by facilitating awareness and adopting of improved cooking methods.
Can you tell us about your improved cookstove project?
Christian Aid implemented the Improved Cookstoves for Community Development (ICCD) project (a 6 month pilot project) in partnership with Justice Development for Peace Commission Jos (JDPC Jos) and Sosai Renewable Energy, Kaduna. The project was conducted to improve the health status of poor and marginalized households through adoption and use of improved cook stoves.
The project was implemented using a business model to increase accessibility to cook stoves by poor households and to ensure increase in demand and uptake of improved stoves through community awareness and mobilisation. The pilot was carried out in four communities Amper and Dawaki in Kanke Local Government Areas of Plateau State and Angware and Fobur in Jos East Local Government Areas of Plateau State. In six (6) months, the project, reached over 567 people with information on improved cook stoves and 270 households in four communities within Kanke and Jos LGAs of Plateau State transitioned to the use of improved cook stoves.
The project also contributed to an improvement in the livelihood of the target population, enhancement of the quality of lives of poor households and protection of the most vulnerable groups – women.
To achieve the project’s specified objectives, a number of activities were executed successfully.
Our first objective was to increase awareness and knowledge of the benefits of use of improved cook stoves by providing consistent, correct and relevant information. To achieve this, we conducted community mobilisation activities targeted at community members in the project communities. During the community mobilization exercises, community members were enlightened on the use of Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) and its benefits. Comparisons between use of ICS and traditional cooking methods were also conducted during the sessions.
We also used radio jingles and bulk messaging to promote adoption of ICS in the project communities. The aim of the radio jingles was to further enlighten both the community members in target communities and Plateau populace on the importance of procuring and using ICS With the radio jingles we were also able to inform our target of locations where ICS could be procured.
Our second objective was to support the emergence of an active cook stoves market where cook stoves are easily available at affordable prices and where women especially would have opportunities for setting up small businesses in cook stove commercialization to support household livelihoods. In achieving this objective, we trained 18 entrepreneurs on business management, book keeping and customer relations.
Our last objective was to improve access for poor and marginalised groups to improved cook stoves. To achieve this we, trained 137 Savings and Loans Association (SLA) members on ICS, the purpose for the training was to motivate them to request SLAs to fund purchase of ICS for less privileged members by providing schemes that would allow payments to be made in instalments by those members.
We also provided seed loans to the entrepreneurs to aid their procurement and sale of ICS in their project communities. With the loans, the entrepreneurs were able to facilitate payment in instalments for community members which improved access to ICS for the community members. The seed loans were monitored by JDPC Jos.
What are the achievements of the cookstoves project?
Some of Christian Aid’s achievements with the cook stoves project are as follows:
1. 567 people including 372 females became aware of clean and improved cook stoves with 270 households purchasing ICS within the 6 month period.
2. The project also increased awareness of clean cook stoves through radio and SMS which reached over 3000 people in the State.
3. Going with the national population standard of household size, a total of 1350 lives have been improved upon during the project implementation period as a result of adoption and usage of ICS.
4. Application of a business model in the execution of the project allowed for installment payment system which increased the accessibility of the stove o poor and margnalised families, who otherwise would not have been able to afford the stove with an outright purchase
5. 18 vibrant community members (13 female and 5 male) and 8 community based agents were trained during the project’s execution.
6. Training of women on tracking savings made from reduced purchase of firewood while using improved cook stoves
7. Sensitisation of State and Local government structures (Ministry of Health, Jos, State Ministry of Women Affairs, State Ministry of Health, Jos East and Kanke Local Governments) on the project
What were your biggest challenges in implementing the project?
Some challenges faced during the course of the project are:
1. None use of the improved cook stoves by some of the households that purchased the stoves. These households mostly cited the size of the cook stoves which could not support the industrial cooking pot (used for cooking for households comprising of 6 persons and above) as a major reason for not using the stoves.
2. Community members reported that they could not buy the ICS because of the cost. While some members resorted to making payments in installments, others opted not to buy the cook stoves at all.
3. Most of the selected community-based entrepreneurs were not trainable on record-keeping, this resulted in poor tracking of ICS sales.
4. Bulk SMS sent during project implementation did not reach community members as intended. The content was not strategically developed to indicate benefits of using ICS but on where it can be accessed outside the project community only
What are the opportunities identified in the course of implementing your project?
To sustain the improved cook stove project some of the following recommendations are opportunities for improvement.
1. The technical partner on the project should device means of meeting the cooking needs of households who cook with the industrial cooking pot of about 20 liters capacity
2. A training manual on benefits of ICS use should be developed on commencement of the project. This will be used for door-to-door education
3. An economic empowerment component should be introduced in the project to further boost the economic capacity of community members
4. In selecting entrepreneurs and community volunteers, attention should be directed at selecting persons who are trainable and have basic knowledge to conduct activities
5. Clear outline of roles of Community Agents should be developed and documented on commencement of the project. Tools for reporting and documentation should also be provided on commencement of the project.
6. It is difficult to tailor text messages to particular recipients due to regular migration and the geo-spatial distribution of databases obtained from service providers. Other sensitization and education methods targeting community members should be explored.
How are consumers reacting to the improved cookstoves project – benefits of using the cookstoves?
A lot of positive feedback was received from consumers who adopted the improved cook stoves method for cooking and heating. A 55 year old widow living in Amper community,Plateau State noted a remarkable drop in her purchase of firewoodfrom N60 weekly to N20 weekly.
A mother of two, resident in Amper community, Plateau state said she spent less time fetching firewood, leaving her with time to pursue other activities. In her words, “Using Improved Cook Stoves has helped me reduce the time I spend in the bush fetching firewood and I now use this time to attend to my grinding business and make more money.”
An attendant at the Primary Healthcare Centre in Angware, Plateau State, the improved cook stove project presented a mix of benefits to her. She listed some of them this way, “…my pots don’t get stained, I spend less in cooking, it cooks faster and my eyes feel better now because of the less smoke.”
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How did the project help drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
In line with Christian Aid’s gender focus, one of the objectives for the Improved Cookstove for Community Development (ICCD) project was to support the emergence of an active cook stoves market where cook stoves are available at affordable prices, where women especially would have opportunities for setting up small businesses in cook stove commercialization to support household livelihoods. To achieve this objective, 13 women were trained as community based entrepreneurs. The 13 women received training in business management, book keeping and customer relations. All the community based volunteers trained in the course of the project were also women.
The project also contributed to the enhancement of the quality of lives and protection of women who are vulnerable in the society. Through community outreaches and awareness activities, 372 females were made aware of clean and improved cook stoves.
If you are asked to advise the new government in Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the clean cookstoves market?
Economic and financial barriers are a major challenge faced by potential users of improved cook stoves. To ameliorate the seemingly huge cost of purchase of improved cook stoves, the government could offer tax waivers to the manufacturers to reduce the cost of the stoves, they could also subsidize the cost of the cook stoves from the manufacturers or offer loans to entrepreneurs and women self-help groups to manufacture and sell the cook stoves at more affordable prices.
Information and network barriers are also hindrances to the adoption of improved cook stoves (ICS). People cannot adopt methods that they know nothing about especially if they do not understand the risks of existing methods. Government agencies like Ministries of Health, media agencies and health centres can initiate capacity building programmes and also build awareness of the existence and benefits of ICS. Local governments can also be engaged to facilitate awareness and adoption of improved cook stoves.
Partnership with non-governmental organisations and other civil society groups can be part of government policy to facilitate spread and use of ICS. Many development agencies can and are willing to provide support to government, communities, institutions and individuals to promote use of ICS. The government can build on these potential partnerships.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
All barriers to awareness and adoption of ICS can be overcome. Non creation of an enabling environment by the government will not necessarily stop awareness, knowledge and use of ICS. However, health risks, environmental risks and economic disempowerment will continue to be threats where use of ICS is not promoted and adopted.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
Awareness of the hazards of traditional fuel wood stoves should be created. Access to ICS should be created. Training on manufacture and sale of ICS should be offered to improve access to ICS and reduce the initial cost of purchase. To ensure use of ICS at all times, cook stoves with bigger capacity to cook large quantities should be manufactured. Policies which will support adoption of ICS could be formulated by the government the policies could be included in the National Health Act.