Unlocking Uganda’s potential market for fuel-efficient stoves

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Sustainable Energy

Unlocking Uganda’s potential market for fuel-efficient stoves

Fuel-efficient cookstoves save time, money and, of course, fuel. But if consumers don't understand the benefits, can't find a local shop that sells stoves or can't afford to buy one, few benefits will be realized. Photo: Kyla Yeoman/Mercy Corps.

There’s significant demand for fuel-efficient stoves in northern Uganda, where 76 percent of the population relies on open fires for cooking. But tapping into that market is easier said than done.

For over two decades, conflict between the Ugandan government and an insurgent group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, devastated the agricultural economy of the region. The conflict cost many lives, weakened infrastructure, devastated productivity, fragmented markets, and led to woefully poor health conditions. Hostilities finally came to an end in 2007, but the brutality of war has impeded the growth essential for the region to move from a humanitarian zone to a stable economy.

In the aftermath of the conflict, Mercy Corps launched several community-led, market-driven programs to strengthen the local economy, rather than following a traditional aid-based approach.

Mercy Corps staff analyzed the market potential for fuel-efficient stoves in northern Uganda. The stoves could provide many benefits to the region--economic growth, improved public health, and a reduction in deforestation. However, several issues must be addressed for significant market growth to take place.

Uganda's cookstove conundrum and how to fix it

Distribution problems

  • The costs associated with transporting stoves and stove components to northern Uganda are prohibitively expensive because of poor infrastructure--floods often make roads rutted or impassable.

The fix

  • Stove manufacturers can identify viable distribution partners with well-established networks of local sub-vendors, which would reduce transportation costs and result in a lower-priced stove for the consumer. Stove manufacturers receive a boost to their bottom line as well, so this is a mutually beneficial solution.

Lack of financing

  • Retailers, distributors and consumers face major challenges to secure capital. Most people in northern Uganda cannot afford to purchase a stove in one lump sum payment.

The fix

  • Banks and savings and credit cooperatives can generate flexible financing options for consumers, which would likely result in a new customer base.
  • Financial institutions or micro lending agencies can make loan products available to consumers to buy stoves.
  • Suppliers and distributors can work with consumers to design financing options that make the stoves more affordable.

Lack of consumer awareness

  • While people in northern Uganda know that fuel-efficient stoves exist, many are unaware of the numerous benefits provided by the stoves.

The fix

  • Create demand for fuel-efficient stoves with educational campaigns that describe the benefits of the technology.
  • Tailor the message to the needs of the population (i.e. some Ugandans care more about saving money, while others care more about the health benefits associated with the stoves, etc.)

Unlocking the demand for fuel-efficient stoves in northern Uganda is critical in order to reap their enormous benefits and begin lifting the region out of poverty--one stove at a time.

Here’s the full report: Market Analysis for Fuel Efficient Cook Stoves in the Acholi Sub-region, Uganda

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