One of the projects receiving the support of TRANSFORM is the Myanmar Stoves Campaign (MSC), which delivers clean and efficient cooking stoves to rural households in Myanmar. In this Portfolio Learnings article, we see that, since its inception, MSC has helped more than 26,000 households purchase fuel-efficient cookstoves.
Established in 2012 by the Soneva Foundation and Mercy Corps, a global organisation, MSC set out to provide clean cookstoves to households in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Wood cultivation for fuel is prevalent in this area, leading to extensive degradation and desertification, as well as exposure to smoke and other toxins in people’s homes.
The project is founded on a local distribution solution that recruits women and youth to become entrepreneurs. They receive support to set up micro-enterprises that sell clean cookstoves, along with ongoing business coaching and training.
TRANSFORM has been supporting the project to optimise the last-mile distribution. It has also been funding an awareness campaign and providing sales support and customer service training to upskill its salespeople.
MSC’s stoves reduce wood consumption by 50% and cooking time by 60%. They also contribute to improved health and safety by reducing air pollution by 80%. In less than one year, MSC estimates its stoves have saved communities more than 210,000 hours collecting firewood and saved almost 20,000 tonnes of firewood. Reductions in wood consumption are rigorously monitored and recorded as carbon credits which when sold on the voluntary market, help to fund the project. The entire carbon certification process is certified by Gold Standard.
Clean cooking in rural Myanmar
To date, more than 26,000 households in over 1,700 villages have been able to purchase fuel-efficient cookstoves, thanks to MSC. The project has also helped train 850 entrepreneurs to sell them. With the support of TRANSFORM, Mercy Corps’ project has expanded to a further 12 townships in the Magway region, and is exploring opportunities to expand even further.
In addition, it has conducted entrepreneurship training for more than 423 entrepreneurs and 18 sub-distributors in the Magway and Mandalay regions, provided coaching activities, established partnerships with local business retailers and conducted hundreds of awareness campaigns, with end-user follow-up.
Challenges and key learnings
Over the reporting period, MSC identified some challenges that the team have been working to address. They include:
- Delay in orders – due to a slow response from MSC’s stove supplier the stoves were not regularly resupplied to entrepreneurs, leading to a drop in business motivation. To address issues in the supply chain, Mercy Cops worked with the stove supplier and the Soneva Foundation to order a higher number of stoves.
- Less incentive – 80% of villages in some Mandalay townships and 40% of villages in Magway townships have access to electricity. While this means there is less incentive to purchase fuel-efficient stoves, many still rely on inefficient and environmental damaging means of cooking. MSC is developing strategies to promote the benefits of these stoves and increase sales in the region.
- New competition – a cheaper concrete stove is now available on the market, offering similar fuelwood savings but which is not as portable and has a shorter lifespan. MSC plans to improve its marketing techniques to sell what it believes is a superior product. The team is also exploring alternatives to the existing model.
- Competitive labour market - New job opportunities in local urban areas and international markets (e.g., Thailand, Malaysia, and Korea) increased the entrepreneur dropout rate during the project, with 9% of entrepreneurs dropping out during the project period. This change in the labour market also impacted the productivity of farms in the targeted area, as only unskilled and older labour has remained while younger, skilled labourers have left for migrant work to other countries.
A cleaner home and environment
MSC has registered positive effects on the livelihood of underserved rural communities in Myanmar, from providing income to its entrepreneurs and empowering women, to promoting families’ health and protecting natural resources. By the end of the project, more than 400 agents have sold stoves to 10,730 families, benefitting a total of 50,000 people. MSC is striving to increase these and other results in the future.
This is just one of several projects supported by TRANSFORM in its mission to drive progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enhance lives across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Please check Our Portfolio to find other projects we support.