Envirofit is a major player in the clean cookstoves sector in Nigeria. Biodun Olaore, Country Representative of Envirofit shares the company’s vision and strategy on the Nigerian Market with partners. Here are the excerpts.
• Can you introduce Envirofit please?
Envirofit is a social enterprise that designs, produces, and sells efficient, durable and affordable cookstoves which create environmental, health, and social impacts for homes and institutions in developing nations. Envirofit uses a market-based approach to create access to affordable, efficient, clean cooking technologies for household and commercial users. Our goal is to improve livelihoods, empower communities, and transforms lives.
• What does your company seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Our vision for the Nigeria’s cooking energy market is for people living at the base of the economic pyramid to enjoy durable, affordable, aspirational, well-engineered technology products that offer economic payback incentives, while improving health and the environment. We want Nigerians to have access to the best clean cookstoves available and see for themselves the difference that having one in their kitchen can make.
• What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your business over the years?
Nigeria’s incredible growth has led to increasing demand for safer, healthier stoves. With the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves promoting clean cookstoves and creating awareness, more organizations and policy makers are aware about the need for clean cookstoves and are coming together to support this issue. As the government and the media increase promotion and awareness raising activities on the need for clean energy cookstoves in Nigeria, more people will understand the dangers of cooking over a traditional fire. As demand rises among the communities that are in the greatest need, Envirofit has positioned the company to be able to respond in line with the growth in demand.
• How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
We build our stoves to cook meals faster and use less fuel. In every market we’ve entered, our customers talk about how much time and money they save using our stoves and how much less smoke is in their kitchen. Women tell us that they have more time to spend with their children or on other profit generating activities, and that the money they save on charcoal helps them pay school fees and buy shoes and clothing for their families. Our diverse fleet of product boasts features that accommodate a wide variety of cooking needs, fuel types and budget requirements. As awareness of the good that clean cookstoves continues to grow we hope more communities will be able to benefit from this technology.
• What has been your experience in the carbon market and what are your major challenges in the market?
There are no laws guiding carbon emissions in Nigeria, therefore the government is not keen about reducing carbon emissions through the adoption of clean cooking technologies. However we still believe that carbon credits purchased through Envirofit give companies and individuals the opportunity to know that they are helping others gain access to clean energy technology that can improve livelihoods.
• Will you recommend other clean cookstoves businesses in Nigeria to subscribe to the carbon market?
Yes – the carbon market is a meaningful way to reduce greenhouse gases produced by polluters, and lower carbon emissions in an attempt to reduce future climate change. Participating in the carbon market helps the industry be promoted. We also want to encourage businesses in Nigeria to offset their carbon through clean cookstoves carbon credits. This is an opportunity to directly support communities in Nigeria while transitioning to a carbon neutral status for the company.
• Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How can your company help drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
By developing innovative partnerships with women’s organizations to help make our stoves more affordable, and through the continued support of our Women’s Empowerment Program, which assists first-time female sales-agents as they begin their journey as an Envirofit last-mile entrepreneur.
• If you are asked to advise the new government in Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
We hope that there is support for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Much of the success that Envirofit has had was achieved by finding motivated cookstove sellers in each of our markets who are a part of the community and can explain the benefits of our stoves in ways that are relevant to their audience. Helping people like this succeed is a great way to encourage prosperity that helps both individuals and communities. As a market-based company we promote the use of business based solutions and would love to see the government engage in a way that can make clean cookstoves affordable and accessible for Nigerian families and support financing solutions to overcome the initial finance barrier for a stove that pays for itself in the first 6 months.
• If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
Without an enabling environment the population of Nigerians, unaware that they are harming themselves every time they cook a meal, will grow and the strain on deforestation, with trees being used for firewood, will come to a critical scale. Without support from the government the need for clean cooking will reach a critical state of emergency where people could starve not from lack of food but from lack of fuel. We work to cultivate partnerships and raise awareness in the sector and in communities around Nigeria through the marketing and sale of our stoves that will hopefully allow us to ensure product availability before the need rises to a level of crisis.
• Where do you envisage being in the next 5 years in terms of production?
Within the next 5 years we hope to have stoves available in every state in Nigeria and see wide scale adoption by families as well as schools and institutions. We will continue to develop the highest performing; most reliable products in the clean cookstoves market and improve our products for Nigerian customers. The population of Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States by 2050 and our hope is that we can help those future generations grow up in homes that are safer and healthier.
• What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
Envirofit has long been a champion of the clean cookstoves sector, and our hope is to see more oversight in enforcing quality standards for the clean cookstove industry. When companies that claim to sell clean cookstoves produce products that breakdown quickly or aren’t very efficient this can hurt the image of the sector as a whole. Envirofit recently sold our 1 millionth stove and we published a lessons learned document* that we believe can help other social enterprises produce the type of high-quality durable consumer goods that we have become known for.
• What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
Awareness and education are the two biggest barriers we face when establishing a market. The more people who become aware that products like ours exist that can help make their kitchens safer, the more opportunities we will have to help families overcome the energy poverty gap and start realizing the benefits of modern technology.
• Is there any other thing you would like to share?
Along with household stoves that help families save time and money, Envirofit also makes larger institutional stoves that schools and other institutions have benefitted from. A school in Kenya had been spending up to 50% of their annual budget on cooking fuel to feed their students, and after switching to our EFI-100L institutional stove they saved US $2,400 a year. The stove paid for itself after about 5 months, which means that they were able to use that money for education rather than firewood.