Centring Women in Clean Cooking Projects is Key to Success – A Case study from Kenya

31 January, 2022 | Katri Hastings
Categories: Case Study, Kenya

Wisdom Energy Hub Ltd is a cookstoves’ manufacturing facility based in Nyandarua, Kenya, that designs, manufactures, and sells a clean cooking stove referred to as the Wisdom Jiko. Wisdom Energy has sold over 6,000 of these stoves across Kenya. You can learn more about the stoves here.

Wisdom Energy made its first sale of cookstoves in 2012. However, they experienced a number of challenges, since then they have adopted a new approach that centres women as key stakeholders throughout the supply chain.

Wisdoms initial approach was a marketing-based model which involved open air public demonstrations of the stoves in local markets.

1. Men typically control household finances in Kenya; therefore, they attended the demonstrations and bought the stoves. They were not the end users therefore, there was poor transfer of knowledge on how the stoves worked with the end users, the women.

2. Initially, the Wisdom Energy customer service team were mostly men. This created a barrier in conducting follow-ups and data collection as the male heads of the households were not receptive to men engaging with women in the household.

3. Lack of flexible financing options (such as Pay-go) prevented low-income users from purchasing the stove.

What was the new approach taken?

Wisdom Energy received support from CO2Balance which enabled them to formalize an approach that included women at every stage of the project.

  • In design, Wisdom have incorporated the feedback of women in the design stage of the cookstoves. Whish has led to great improvements to the stove.
  • Production: Wisdom have actively engaged women in stove manufacturing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women finish products with more meticulousness, thus leading to better quality compliance.
  • Sales/distribution Initially, marketing to women’s groups was conducted by male staff, who received poor reception from women. This caused them to switch strategies, focusing on using women as last mile entrepreneurs and sales agents to market the stoves at scale. This strategy has resulted in increased receptivity from women’s groups.

As part of the project, Wisdom Energy leverages women’s groups that are not affiliated with microfinance institutions. They carry out scheduled live demonstrations where members are allowed to acquire the stove on credit. Payments are made in 3 monthly instalments. While the group members act as guarantors for each other, the group savings ultimately become the security for members who acquire the stove on credit. This has successfully addressed the affordability issue.