Saturday, November 27, 2021

Success Stories Trail UNDP GEF’s Efficient Cookstoves’ Project

PSC group photo
A cross-section of the Sustainable Fuelwood Management Project Steering Committee members and factory workers during the study tour in Niger State.

“Before the project, our production capacity was quite low because it had to do with the machines and space and we struggled to make just 1000 stoves per month.

“In 2017, we could barely produce 1000 stoves per month. Now we can boast of a production capacity of over 4000 stoves per month,” said general manager, Nenu Engineering, Mr. Chris Obi, a beneficiary of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Sustainable Fuelwood Management (SFM) project.

Speaking to members of the UNDP GEF SFM Project Steering Committee (PSC) during a study tour to wood/charcoal stove production industries in Nigeria, Obi maintained that the cookstove manufacturing plant has scaled up its production, subdivided its production into clay and metalwork, and has produced and disseminated stoves helping the company to generate revenue and enlarge its factory since it joined the project in 2017.

“Normally we produce cookstoves and stack our shelves and wait for people to come to buy. We have to go out there and look for the market to boost the limited distribution channel we have created so far. So, it happened that, as a result of the increase in the price of cooking gas, we have people calling for this stove in their numbers.

“With regards to the environment, our mission is to preserve the environment and enable access to clean and affordable cooking solutions for households in Nigeria,” he added.

Nenu, like four other cookstove manufacturers – Lafia, Happy, Fati and Linux – were part of the five-year GEF SFM project in Nigeria launched in June 2017. The project, implemented by the UNDP with support from the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and other stakeholders, is poised to give local communities in Kaduna, Cross River and Delta access to grants/funds, to address identified problems revolving around health, environmental pollution, climate change and cost of energy to women.

One of the major components of the GEF SFM project is capacity-building and support for the research and development efforts of domestic industries to mass-produce energy-efficient wood/charcoal cookstoves for commercialisation as a major way to combat deforestation and pollution of the environment.

Participants in the project which is currently in its terminal stage conceded that their capacities have been built and opportunities to build sustainable businesses made available to them.

Factory workers packaging efficient cookstoves.
Factory workers packaging efficient cookstoves.

Another project beneficiary, the founder of Methano-Green Clean Energy and makers of Lafia Stove brand, Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulrasheed, said the project has helped the company refine its products and build traction, helping to create more channels for the sale of cookstoves.

“What makes a business sustainable is the profitability. You need to make profits to create traction. This means that the product should be able to sell itself. As small as we are, we sell over 400 stoves monthly. We don’t get orders; we have distributors beyond the SFM project.

“Apart from the distributors created during the project, we now have distributors virtually across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

“Even if the project comes to an end, its impacts will remain. It allows us to take advantage of grants, funds and loans to be independent or seek mutually beneficial partnership,” he stated.

Another clean cookstove manufacturer, the CEO, Roshan Global Services and producers of the Happy Stove brand, Mrs. Happy Amos, said the project was instrumental to her re-investment in the business and getting a good factory.

She noted that the project helped fast-track the production of the cookstoves by removing major bottlenecks in the manufacturing process of firing the liners – an integral part of cookstove manufacturing – by building a kiln that accommodates more liners.

“The UNDP GEF project sponsored the construction of a kiln and, now, we have one that can hold 1000 liners per firing. Initially, one of the major problems was our ceramic liner; you have to soak it, mould it, thumb-mill it and let it dry before you fire it.

“That made the process long and, at the end of the day, we could make thousands of metal claddings but the ceramic liner slowed things down. We found our way around that and, for each firing, we have 1000 liners. That means that, in a maximum of two to three days, 1000 stoves are ready. Our capacity [to produce more] has increased tremendously,” she stressed.

She further said the project helped create awareness about clean-cooking in Nigeria and this has brought about the needed traction for a good market base.

“I’ve been in the space for the past seven years, making Happy Cookstoves but we’ve not been able to gain traction in creating market-based sales. We sold quite some cookstoves to development organisations who gave them out for free but, at the moment, we sell cookstoves in the market space and get more customers interested in buying the cookstoves. Part of that awareness was created by the GEF project,” she said.

Cookstove liners.
Cookstove liners.

Amos, however, did not support the project end timeline, because of the degree of success recorded so far.

“As small-business people, we had no access to funding and little cash. We could hardly break even for years. Now, with this, we can comfortably say that we will survive. However, if the project ends right away, we may not survive so well. I do not think this is the right time for the project to end.

“Like many projects I have worked on, this one has imparted so much and created capacity and awareness. This is the time to consolidate what has been done rather than stop. We are just beginning to reach the market. So, instead of taking off the support, we need it to give more households access to the cookstoves,” she added.

Earlier, the UNDP GEF SFM, national project coordinator, Engr. Okon Ekpenyong, said the study tour was to help PSC members know where these stoves are produced – part of the third component, which is developing domestic industry for cookstoves’ production.

The project, he said, set the framework to ensure that the positives are sustained when it runs its course, by supporting the manufacturers to form a cooperative. This would keep money in circulation to be made available to members based on need.

In his comments, a PSC member and chairman, Nigeria Alliance for Clean Cooking (NACC), Prince Ene, said the tour was a confirmation of the success of the project. He commended manufacturers for justifying the need for the GEF programme in Nigeria.

“Today is further justification that they are on the rise; they keep improving and expanding and this could justify the extension of the programme.

“The last time we had a zoom meeting we explained to the UNDP the need to sustain this programme and not stop at this point. There is a need to support the growth being witnessed. As a representative of the Nigeria Alliance for Clean Cooking, direct beneficiaries of this project, I am happy to say that you have justified what you are doing,” he added.

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