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Health professionals drive up demand for cleaner cooking in western Kenya


In some of the poorest rural communities in Western Kenya, up to 85% of people still use open fires to cook their daily meals. Energy 4 Impact has teamed up with clean cookstove producers, distributors and health workers in the region, to deliver a behaviour change campaign which is raising awareness of the health, economic and environmental benefits of clean cooking and increasing adoption of improved cookstoves.

Nyalore Impact is one of the distributors taking part in the campaign. Its founder, Dorothy Otieno, is passionate about spreading the word on cleaner cooking. She recognised that cooking and searching for fuel falls mainly on women and girls, so she began talking to them about the health and cost benefits of switching to cleaner cooking technologies. However as she didn’t have the resources to reach out on a larger scale, she asked for help.

Maurice Onzere, Business Development Services Coordinator at Energy 4 Impact, explains the thinking behind the campaign:

We saw an opportunity to use trusted members of the community – in this case public health workers – to incorporate clean cooking messages in their work. Our field team also trained these health professionals as sales agents for cleaner cookstoves, linking them with last mile manufacturers and distributors of stoves and briquettes who could meet the increased local demand.

Community health workers have established trust within the communities where they work and their views on health matters are respected. They have credibility and people may take them more seriously than they would entrepreneurs like myself.

- explains Dorothy.

Energy 4 Impact helped in the recruitment of the 30 health workers as sales agents for the clean cookstoves and briquettes. Esther Akothee, a community health volunteer, bought an improved cookstove for use at home.

In addition to the health and environmental benefits, we save considerable time and effort because we do not need to look for firewood. People in my village were interested in my experience and the benefits of this way of cooking, and now I am starting to sell to my neighbours and earning additional income.

- she explains.

Felix Abok, Homa Bay County Public Health Officer, says that although the messaging on cookstoves is compelling, the high level of poverty in the region is a major barrier to uptake.

These are some of the poorest rural communities. Women rely on the financial support and goodwill of their spouses to acquire the cookstoves but the stoves are simply beyond the reach of many households.

- Abok says.

To help make the cookstoves more affordable, Nyalore Impact and other distributors have put in place a payment mechanism that allows poor households to pay for cookstoves over time, typically in three instalments. Women who lack access to the formal banking or financial networks are also tapping into informal Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) to help with saving and borrowing towards the purchase of a stove.

The campaign has driven up demand for the stoves in Homa Bay and in neighbouring counties of Migori and Kisumu. Nyalore Impact has tripled its monthly sales of cookstoves and built a reputation as a credible voice on greener energy, with the county government involving them in the formulation of energy policies on clean cooking.

We would like to bring up a generation that understands the benefits of clean cooking and how they can make a difference.

- Dorothy says.

We are planning to integrate our messages into school curricula and I really hope that we will inspire some of our young people to get involved in the clean cooking value chains as entrepreneurs, helping to build a more prosperous life for themselves and their neighbours.