Centuries of logging, hurricanes and charcoal production have reduced Haiti’s forest cover to just 1.5%. Despite this, most people cook on inefficient, polluting charcoal stoves, because they are the cheapest option.
Haitian entrepreneur Duquesne Fednard was impressed by the efficient charcoal stoves made in Ghana by Toyola Energy. He thought they would suit Haitian cooks and cut charcoal use, so in 2009 he founded a business to produce them for sale in Haiti.
The CEO and staff of D&E Green Enterprises have worked against all odds to create a successful business selling stoves that people want and can afford, helping save lives and the country’s remaining precious forests in the process.
Ashden judging panel
Centuries of logging, hurricanes and charcoal production have reduced Haiti’s forest cover to just 1.5%. Despite this, most people cook on inefficient charcoal stoves, because they are the cheapest option. With many people still living in closely-packed, temporary housing after the earthquake, smoke from cooking has a huge health impact.
Duquesne Fednard, a Haitian entrepreneur, did a work-placement in Ghana and came across the efficient charcoal stoves made by Toyola Energy (an Ashden Award winner). He thought that similar stoves would suit Haitian cooks, and could be produced in Haiti – thus helping to tackle deforestation and the health impacts of cooking. So he set up a business to make stoves, and trained unemployed people to do the work.
D&E Green Enterprises is a for-profit business established in 2009. The factory it built to manufacture stoves was almost immediately destroyed by the 2010 earthquake, but production has continued in tents. In 2012 D&E had an income of US$101,000 from stove sales, and about 30 employees.
D&E manufactures stoves and sells them to distributers, who sell them on to end users. Distributers are carefully vetted, and include established small business and community leaders. NGOs can also act as distributers, provided that they don’t give subsidies for stoves and distort the market. Distributers go through a structured training programme on stove use, business management and marketing. They are required to keep detailed records of sales, which are essential for carbon-finance monitoring.
The EcoRecho stove has an hour-glass or cylindrical shaped metal body with a conical heat-retaining ceramic liner. Perforations in the liner allow air flow through the burning charcoal, and a door in the chamber below the liner controls the flow. Ash collects in this chamber, and can be removed when the stove is not in use.
1 US$ = 42.5 Haitian Gourde (March 2013).
Medium-sized EcoRecho stoves retail for US$12 and large ones for US$14. Distributers usually pay cash for wholesale purchases from D&E, and receive cash payments from end-users. D&E is looking at opportunities to spread these payments, including mobile-money payments for end users, and inventory microfinance for distributers.
The EcoRecho design based on the Toyola ‘Coalpot’ stove from Ghana, but adapted in collaboration with Haitian users to suit local tastes and cooking practices. For example, the volume inside the liner has been adjusted so that one fill of charcoal is just enough for a typical meal, avoiding the need to re-fill or waste charcoal at the end of cooking. Details such as shape and outside finish can be tailored to user preferences.
D&E intended to manufacture in a small factory, to enable high production rates and keep prices low. But because the factory was destroyed, all stoves to date have been produced using artisanal techniques.
Stove liners are made from ceramic clay which is bought from local traders. Liners are hand thrown and air-dried, then fired in a kiln. Galvanised sheet steel is sourced from local suppliers and the pieces for the stove body are cut from templates, then joined by hand. Liners are cemented into the stove body, and the outside painted and finished.
Each stove is checked before it can have a D&E stamp and serial number, to ensure quality. Even in the corrosive, salty air of Port-au-Prince, an EcoRecho stove is expected to last for two years. This compares with only about seven months for the traditional stoves that are made from scrap metal. End-users currently get a one month money-back guarantee if they are dissatisfied with their purchase, and a six-month replacement guarantee against faulty manufacture. Records show that less than 3% have been returned.
I sell at least fifteen stoves a week, sometimes more, and no-one has ever brought a stove back. I write a receipt, with the stove number and the name and mobile number of the buyer. One copy goes to the buyer, one to head quarters and I keep one.
Ferdinand Max, who sells stoves at his hardware shop
Most promotion to date is by word of mouth, but more active marketing will be needed when factory production re-starts. The main features that D&E highlight are the higher quality and durability of EcoRecho stoves compared to traditional alternatives. These, along with careful branding and finishing, are establishing the EcoRecho as a desirable household product.
Despite the challenges of an earthquake and a hurricane, D&E has managed to establish and increase its stove production. Between the start of commercial sales in September 2010 and the end of March 2013, 33,000 EcoRicho stoves have been sold, about two-thirds medium and one-third large. With a two-year lifetime, an estimated 28,000 are in use.
The average five-member member household uses three stoves, so about 9,300 households and 47,000 people currently benefit.
About 250 stoves of other designs have also been sold: these designs may be developed further in future.
Reducing charcoal consumption cuts greenhouse gas emissions, because virtually all the wood used to produce charcoal in Haiti comes from unsustainable sources. A recent carbon finance validation determined an average saving of 0.27 tonnes/year charcoal per stove compared to the traditional alternative (about 55%), equivalent to a 2.15 tonnes/year cut in CO2 e emissions. Thus the stoves currently in use are saving about 7,700 tonnes of charcoal and 60,000 tonnes of CO2 e per year.
Crucially, reducing charcoal use also helps protect Haiti’s rapidly diminishing wood resources. Clearing one hectare of forest in Haiti produces only about nine tonnes of charcoal, because of the inefficient pit kilns that are used. Thus stoves currently in use save about 850 hectares of forest each year.
The target market for Eco Recho stoves are the 80% of Haitian households who earn less than US$4 per day, and therefore choose charcoal because it is the cheapest way to cook. With charcoal costing about US$0.70 per kg, each EcoRecho brings a daily saving of over US$0.50, making a real impact on available cash. This means that the cost of the stove is paid back in less than four weeks.
The EcoRecho stoves make cooking more pleasant too. Food cooks more quickly, less smoke and smell is produced, and pots stay cleaner.
Even though many people cook outside, the closely-spaced homes (particularly in the ‘temporary’ housing from after the earthquake) mean that smoke gets indoors. Indoor air pollution has huge health impacts in Haiti, in particularly contributing to acute respiratory illness which is a major cause of death in under 5s. Thus reducing charcoal consumption directly benefits health.
I recently bought a third stove, as I like them so much. I cook two meals a day and sometimes a snack in the evening. The stoves is very, very fast and clean. The pots do not get dirty, the ash is contained.
Madeline Eliscar, stove user
Stove production has provided secure jobs with training, salaries and benefits. Because of the restricted space, D&E employs only 30 people at present, but this number will increase when the new factory is built.
Around 20 distributers are currently used by D&E, and sell an average of 500 stoves per year. With a markup of about US$2 per stove, this is a useful addition to the income of a small business.
D&E is currently selling to distributers at a loss, because the costs of artisan production are high. The most pressing need is therefore to build the new stove factory, in order to cut costs and increase the volume of sales. Land has already been identified and the price negotiated, and some equipment salvaged from the original factory. Yunus Social Business (a social investment fund in Haiti) is considering providing a loan and, if an upfront payment of carbon finance is agreed, there will be sufficient capital to build and open the new factory during 2013.
The factory will enable D&E to use machines such as circular shears, benders, rollers and spot welders to fabricate metal parts, and extruders and clay presses to mould the liners. This will allow greater standardisation and improve quality, and provide new skills to workers. Crucially, it will increase production capacity to 600 stoves per day, or over 150,000 per year.
The government of Haiti is currently developing efficiency standards for stoves, as part of its strategy to combat environmental degradation. This will really stimulate the market for D&E stoves: with about 5 million charcoal stoves used in Haiti, there is significant potential for growth.
D&E aims eventually to cover the whole of Haiti and also start exporting to neighbouring islands, and to expand into other sustainable energy technologies as well as stoves.