Plop Plop! Find out what D&E Green Enterprises has been up to
As the newest member of Ashden’s International Team, I have been enjoying getting to know the various aspects of my new role. Keeping up to date with the progress of our International winners through our monitoring programme is an important part of this.
It is inspiring to hear what winners have gone on to achieve since winning an Ashden Award and, in many instances, how their work has grown. But more than this, it helps us to understand their ongoing story – what barriers they have successfully overcome, what new ones have arisen, and how our winners continue to find solutions which enable them to provide sustainable energy access to the people who need them most, often against the odds.
D&E Green Enterprises, which won an Ashden Award in 2013, is a perfect example. For my first monitoring interview, I was lucky enough to speak to Duquesne Fednard, who founded the successful Haitian business which produces efficient charcoal stoves.
To prepare for my call with Duquesne, I familiarised myself with D&E's compelling back-story. After the earthquake of January 2010 destroyed their newly-built factory, Duquesne and his employees built the business up again from scratch, initially producing the stoves by hand under tents. Despite the setbacks, by 2013, D&E had sold 33,000 of their EcoRecho stoves which are reducing fuel costs and indoor air pollution for Haitian households and helping conserve Haiti’s rapidly diminishing forests. They have now sold over 40,000 stoves, directly benefitting more than 66,000 people.
When Ashden caught up with Duquesne earlier this year, D&E’s brand new factory was almost complete and the organisation had teamed up with International Lifeline Fund (ILF), Haiti, an NGO selling Plop Plop fuel-efficient cookstoves. This move allows them to offer greater choice, with different price points, and reach more customers. I was very much looking forward to hearing what happened next.
On our call, Duquesne told me that they were now 90% moved into their new factory, which had been financed in part by investment from USAID, Compete Caribbean (supported by UK Aid, Canadian Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Inter-American Development Bank) and Ashden. They had needed to halt production for a few months to train all their staff on the new machinery - such as circular shears, benders, rollers, extruders and spot welders - a marked change to the artisanal techniques they had previously been using. This is now paying off, with D&E producing 80 stoves a day on average, working in batches to test the machinery and get the process perfect. The new machinery is helping them to improve standardisation, quality and production capacity.
In addition to this increase in production, D&E are about to launch their first ever co-ordinated marketing campaign through demonstration stalls on the open market, blast SMS messages, TV & Radio ads, online campaigns and advertising on tap taps, the decorative public buses used by thousands of Haitians each day. While they are still focusing their attention on the capital city of Port au Prince, as 80% of charcoal is used here, they have also moved into a number of new areas including Southeast and Northwest Haiti. D&E are also putting effort into aftersales service, providing a service guarantee on stoves and working to ensure customers can get in touch when problems arise.
They are not stopping there. One of the biggest challenges they face is the economic climate in Haiti, where almost two-thirds of people are unemployed. Even though the savings from fuel mean the stoves pay for themselves in around 4 weeks, giving people the opportunity to spread payments over time is important in making the stoves accessible to even more people. D&E are piloting micro-credit programme with schools and churches where trusted figures such as pastors and head-teachers become D&E reps, purchasing a batch of stoves and offering them with a 1-month payback period to those in their immediate community. So far this is working well, and D&E are looking at ways to offer in-house micro-finance for batches of products in the future.
It is fantastic to hear how D&E’s work is progressing against a challenging economic backdrop and how their new factory will help them grow their capacity even more in the coming months. We look forward to the next update.