Project Gaia is the Partner of the Month of February. Joe Obueh, Director, Project Gaia Nigeria shares their involvement in the clean cookstoves sector in this interview.
Give us a brief introduction about your organisation. What are the objectives of your organisation?
Project Gaia, Inc. was founded in the 1990s as part of a global initiative for the development of clean-cooking alcohol fuels. Project Gaia, Inc has affiliates in Nigeria (Project Gaia Prospects Ltd) and Ethiopia (Gaia Association). Project Gaia seeks to displace the indiscriminate use of charcoal, wood, dung and traditional low – grade biomass fuels by creating robust markets for locally produced alcohol fuels for cooking.
What does your organisation seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Our organization seeks to pioneer and position the Cleancook fuel canister to become the universal containment model for alcohol fuels – thereby serving for alcohol fuels much as the gas cylinder serves for LPG distribution. If developed for Nigeria, this innovative containment system would be available for replication in other countries.
We want to establish in Nigeria’s fast moving consumer group a comprehensively designed, full-service, retail-ready methanol stove and fuel business. We also want to measure consumer adoption of the methanol stove, investigate usage patterns and identify facilitators of and barriers to sustained widespread adoption.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your organisation’s involvement in the clean cookstove sector over the years?
Project Gaia has leveraged on the opportunities in Nigeria’s peculiar business environment to consolidate its position in the clean cooking sector over the years. Some of these opportunities are:
1. The large size of the cooking fuel market: Our market study reveals that 60% of the consumers in the target areas are willing to switch to cleaner and more efficient way of cooking.
2. Urbanization: The influx of people to urban centres has stimulated demand for our Cleancook stove and its fuel canister technology.
3. Gas flaring: Utilizing the flared gas to produce an indigenous household cooking fuel presents a huge opportunity to diversify Nigeria’s cooking energy base. Our work with methanol over the past decade reveals that the gas flared in Nigeria’s delta region alone is sufficient to cook every meal in Africa.
4. Fragmentation of the retail environment.
5. Indoor Air Pollution (IAP): Diseases due to heavy reliance on traditional biomass fuels for cooking has created demand for Cleancook stove.
How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
A recent result from household tests conducted on a select group of respondents in Ibadan shows reduction in respiratory problems as a result of clean indoor air associated with the use of our stove. The technology is clean-burning with emission levels as low as LPG stoves.
The other benefits derived from the use of our methanol stove as reported by our customers include: affordability – our unit cost of fuel is below the unit cost of competing cooking fuels; less cooking time – a tier 4 stove with efficiency of 61+% and produces 1.75 kW of power; as well as safety- stove has received a 39 out of 40 safety rating in the Nathan Johnson Iowa State University safety assessment protocol used by Aprovecho Research Labs etc.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How has your organization helped to drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
Our fuel production and the commercial distribution of our methanol stove for household energy use has provided many direct and indirect jobs for hundreds of Nigerians, especially women.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in terms of production?
We have up to 20,000 clean cook stoves comprising the burners and canisters in Nigeria. We are currently facilitating in-country manufacture of our stove with a local technology partner so we can roll-out our locally produced stoves in critical mass over the coming months. Our SNEPCO-sponsored commercial pilot scheme will deploy 2,500 methanol stove and 15,000 fuel canisters in the Lagos area. We also have an ongoing investment in a small-scale gas-to-methanol plant which we believe will foster a full commercial business of clean cook stove built around a local and well-secure supply chain of over 100,000 stoves by 2022.
What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
Macroeconomics-related risk such as cost of capital, foreign exchange, multiple taxation and high overhead cost remain our biggest challenges. Other risks include trade and investment regulation risks as well as logistics and infrastructure risks.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
We suggest that there should be tax holidays and waivers for investors, entrepreneurs and institutions genuinely involved in the local cookstove market. Also there should be policy commitment by government at all levels for clean cooking similar to the interventions recorded in health sector. Finally, clean cooking technologies and their fuels should be addressed as part of the 5 strategic plans under the national energy vision by government.
Is there any other thing you would like to share?
We hope the Project Gaia initiative will serve as a platform for stakeholders to get together and build partnerships that will result in getting clean alcohol fuel stoves into the market.