Smart Notes

Smart Note - project in-depth analysis

Title of the Smart Note:

  • Improved cooking stoves reduce pollution of carbon monoxide while cooking – promote women’s skills in modern stoves making and increase their income.

Key Insights (Key lessons)

  • Gender inequality remains a large obstacle to the active participation of women in running a business, especially when perpetrated by their spouses and in-laws.
  • Under the right circumstances, new technologies under development and promotion can form the basis for new business opportunities
  •  Source of business capital appears to be a major obstacle to starting businesses for some potential young entrepreneurs.
  • Potential & Existing young entrepreneurs want to start, grow and expand their existing businesses, which is an aspect often forgotten in enterprise promotion programmes.

Introduction

More than half of the world's population cooks their food indoors using open fires. Indoor burning of solid fuels releases toxic pollutants including particulate matter and carbon monoxide. These harmful cooking practices cause an estimated 1.9 million premature deaths annually. As the household members most likely to cook family meals, women and children are most affected. The reliance on biomass fuels in developing nations such as Uganda has put considerable pressure not just on the safety of families, but on the environment as well, increasing both deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions[1]. Building on this information, Fight to Improve Community Health (FICH) introduced KONY PACO Cooking stoves in Oyam district, Northern Uganda in 2012, drawing attention of community members, local leaders and other development partners. Manufacturing these modern cooking stoves has increased more than 101 women’s income through training in entrepreneurship and the technical skills to produce the stoves, as well as access to finance. This is based on the fact that FICH’s areas of operation targets skills training to youth, women and other vulnerable groups to enable them engage in Income Generating Activities (IGA) to enhance self-reliance and reduce dependency. You will learn challenges and pick lessons from this paper where one can transform this global challenge into a profit making opportunity.

Project Description

The overall goal of the KONY PACO cooking stoves project is to provide business opportunities for more than 100 young women age 18 – 35 years old which will create jobs for others in Oyam district.  Our specific objectives are to equip beneficiaries with the technical skills needed to manufacture modern cooking stoves; provide entrepreneurship training to sharpen beneficiaries to have positive thinking that interprets challenges into business opportunities; and to facilitate market linkages and access to finance through groups formed among the project beneficiaries.

The duration of the project is 12 months, from June 2012 to May 2013. It targets young women who have dropped out of school, rural young women, young women with little or no formal education, young mothers, and disabled young women in Oyam district, Northern Uganda. FICH is the main implementing body with support from International Labour Organistation (ILO). The total cost for implementation is US$ 11437.5

The following are the results and impact of the project to the project beneficiaries;

  • 101 young women trained on technical skills of making and using modern cooking stoves and guided in starting-up their own business enterprises are now equipped with basic business management skills through the same training.
  • 50 young women among the 101 who were trained have already started businesses and we expect more businesses to be started after some time. .
  • A total of 84 jobs were created:  31 jobs from the expanded businesses and 52 jobs from the new businesses started so far.
  • Increased   incomes and increase in women participation in development programs among others

Through technical training in cooking stove making, beneficiaries are equipped with technical skills of making cooking stoves in a modern way. The training involves demonstrations to facilitate practical learning so that afterwards, the beneficiaries are able to produce cooking stoves on a commercial basis. The production can be done by an individual or in groups, depending on economic ability. The market for the products is readily available at the household level, and the raw materials are locally available and affordable. The technology is easy to learn, labour intensive, and manual, and therefore easy to maintain.  During the technical training, beneficiaries are introduced to basic business management skills to facilitate the successful operation of their intended business.

FICH carried out rapid assessment to find interest and needs from the established beneficiaries and the finding shows that many youth lack concrete and feasible business idea and for those who are doing small scale businesses lack knowledge in business management skills. After in depth analysis of the assessment, FICH equipped 119 beneficiaries with entrepreneurial skills beginning from business idea generation to starting up the business since they were the gaps found. This training was aimed at empowering beneficiaries so that they are able to identify business opportunities in the challenges around them and develop viable businesses that addresses those challenges. After this training, the business choices made beneficiaries to start micro and small scale businesses including retail shops, backing, phone charging, matt selling among many businesses and this provided jobs for local youth.

The project is unique in that it helps young women to access finance through the formation of groups called Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). This is financial literacy programme which introduces local communities to savings and credit culture that enable them to know that money build very fast when save and financial literacy helps in budgeting pattern and on how to use money borrowed from lending institutions to maximize profit and pay debt

Lessons Learned

  • Under the right circumstances, new technologies under development and promotion can form the basis for new business opportunities. We realized that the critical factors for the acceptance and success of new technologies are the social and economic situation of the target market. Our project beneficiaries believed that the modern cooking stove technology could alleviate their drudgery, lower cooking costs and cooking time, and improve their livelihoods.  The introduction of innovative technology must progress from simple to complex. The production process should go from unit production to commercial production and marketing of the technology to ensure the long term sustainability of the initiative. In the case of FICH, there were several considerations that contributed to the overall success and long term sustainability of the intervention. They include community involvement in stove development and design to ensure that the technology is appropriate for local manufacturers and users, considering local cooking practices and costs, developing local markets, promotion and commercialization. The cost of the stoves must be affordable to the target community, and financial schemes should be in place for continuation of production.
  • Gender inequality remains a large obstacle to the active participation of women in running a business, especially when perpetrated by their spouses and in-laws. Generally, the local culture and social settings in the rural communities mostly in Africa do not permit many young women to freely participate in business world. One finds a married young woman doing a business being stopped from speaking to men while selling predominantly by her spouse and in-laws. This means some traditions that are rooted deep among some African tribes still surface in gender inequality. Men are still viewed as the 'bread-winners' of the family and are the main source of income. Men control many of the family resources, while women are viewed as a subservient group and not as individuals with ranging emotions and opinions. Threats of harm from spouses to the project staff is commonly experienced. FICH planned to mainstream gender programmes to aid in reducing violence to the beneficiaries.Source of business capital appears to be a major obstacle to starting businesses for some potential young entrepreneurs. After the training many young entrepreneurs want to try their business plan but they are constrained by a lack of in kind or financial supports. This is therefore an opportunity for some financial institutions and individual money lenders. It is also a chance for the organization to think outside the box on how to negotiate and create possible avenues to ensure young people develop mind-sets of savings and borrowing among themselves. As our project demonstrates, this can be done through a Village Savings and Loan Association approach and this mean members will divide their total interest accumulated according to how each of them saved.
  • Potential entrepreneurs. There is a problem in ‘selling’ enterprise as the best option for everyone and forgetting that successful enterprise development begins with the personal initiative coming from the entrepreneur. Awareness of various career options and possibilities for business start-up is still a gap that needs to be addressed. Young people need to fully understand what entrepreneurship is and what it takes to own and manage a business so that they can consider self-employment realistically as a career option. Then, should a young person decide to explore further, or to start their own business, the second step is the provision of practical support services such as training, advice and access to finance.
  • Existing young entrepreneurs want to grow and expand their existing businesses, which is an aspect often forgotten in enterprise promotion programmes. Growing a business requires specific skills, knowledge and attitudes that differ from those of establishing a new business.  Some youth are at the state where they need to transform their micro-enterprises into commercially viable and competitive small businesses. Thus, their needs largely revolve around tactical skills for growth and transformation, recognizing that certain skills are important for the entrepreneur to have, while others can be accessed or employed.

In regards to Policy and Programme Design by government to support potential and existing young entrepreneurs, leaders should be able to advocate and make policies that favour and support youth enterprise creation and promotion programmes. We strongly recommend that the design of such programme should recognize the capabilities of different category of youth groups and how this should impacts on their ability to set up, run, manage and expand a business.

Conclusion

It is vital to involve direct and indirect beneficiaries in the stove development and design to ensure the sustainability of the technical intervention of this initiative. This involvement should include sharing the vision and goals for the project with all the stakeholders involved in the project and maintaining flexibility and integrity throughout the project implementation. We learned that it is important to introduce and promote the culture of savings and encourage business idea generation. When young people can start and manage their own businesses, they are able to create more businesses and jobs for young people.

We also learned that we need to mainstream gender equity in the project implementation to prevent gender-based violence, especially from the participants’ spouses. We intend to introduce more activities promoting gender equity during the replication process.

Additional information about the Author: Emmy Zoomlamai Okello

Emmy Zoomlamai is results-oriented person who works to provide an equal opportunity and a platform for young people to realize their potential. He is the Programmes Director at Fight to Improve Community Health (FICH). Furthermore, he is a specialist in youth development programmes and a trainer of the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) programme. 


 

Emmy Zoomlamai with young women during collection of bamboo for erecting 
project demo structure.

 

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