In this interview, the Project Manager, Ikponke Nkanta shares information on the centre’s activities in the clean cookstoves sector.
Give us a brief introduction about your organisation. What are the objectives of your organisation?
Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRCC) is an NGO established in 2001 with a mission to create awareness, build the capacity of rural communities as well as disseminate innovative products and technologies that will promote healthy living, sustainable agriculture, environmental resources conservation and indigenous resources preservation. The organization also promotes the adoption of low cost/affordable and easily accessible charcoal/briquettes clean cookstoves in Nigeria.
What does your organisation seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Our organisation seeks to facilitate the adoption of about 5000 clean cookstoves among households in Nigeria within the next 2 years. In February 2017, the organization flagged off this initiative officially with a workshop in Akwa Ibom State bringing together relevant stakeholders in the field.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your organisation’s involvement in the clean cookstove sector over the years?
Combating deforestation is one of key focus areas of our organization, so we have integrated and adopted the use of fuel efficient cookstoves in our forest conservation program. We have recommended the adoption of efficient fuelwood cookstoves as one of the important measures to combat deforestation to some of our partners. We are also promoting the adoption of clean cookstoves as one of the measures to mitigate health hazards related to traditional open fire cooking method.
How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
Customers (users) are excited about the efficient charcoal cookstoves we are promoting. We have been receiving positive comments from users, such as: the stove saves cost; it is good for drying meat, fish and other food items; some local meals like “ekpang, banana porridge” taste better with the stove etc. Most of them said they will be happier if prices of the stoves can be made lower.
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?
To really reach out to rural women, some community women leaders have been engaged as entrepreneurs in our clean cookstove business. The women leaders introduce the cookstoves to other women during meetings. These leaders are entitled to some benefits upon the sale of the cookstoves. We are also engaging market women and their associations in the distribution. Furthermore, to ease distribution among women/women groups the organization has established a partnership with Society for Women and Community Empowerment (an umbrella organization for some women groups in the state).
If you are asked to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
The government should focus on creating an enabling environment for clean cookstoves business to thrive in the country. Specific policy options the government can do to expand the market for clean cookstoves include:
• Increased access to finance by entrepreneurs. This will be used as working capital by cookstoves entrepreneurs as well as improving the quality of the cookstoves;
• Provision of incentives/subsidies in the cookstoves industry so the cookstoves will be affordable to the poor; and
• Launch of a national awareness campaign to increase adoption of clean cookstoves.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
If an enabling environment is not created by the government, there will be low dissemination rate of clean cookstoves. The rate of deforestation will increase due to loss of important ecological sites due to overdependence on forests for fuelwood; climate change will worsen and there will be increased incidences of health hazards related to an unsafe traditional cooking method.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in terms of production?
In the next 5 years, we plan to be among the leading NGOs who are actively facilitating the adoption of environmental and health friendly clean cookstoves in Nigeria.
What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
The major risk we face is recovering funds of cookstoves sold on credit to women’s groups. Our biggest challenge is the high awareness-raising cost (promotional/dissemination cost) we currently incur. This is because the level of awareness among households is still very low, so we embark on massive awareness creation so as to increase the adoption rate.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
To move the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria, there should be increased public awareness/promotional events in the sector; increased synergies (collaboration/partnership) among the relevant stakeholders; increased national support for local actors/engagement at state and community levels; improved feedback mechanisms and market expansion for the production and use of briquettes.
Is there any other thing you would like to share?
We want to say a “big thank you” to the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves for organizing quarterly meetings for knowledge sharing on scaling up, sales and distribution of clean cookstoves among members.
For more information about our work, please visit our website: www.tropicalconservationcentre.org