Ola Samuel, Admin Executive of TEAMCOBY shares the organisation’s experiences in the clean cooking sector.
Give us a brief introduction about your organisation. What are the objectives of your organisation?
TEAMCOBY-Nigeria is a community development and a social oriented initiative deploying creative ways to inspire, engage and empower youths and low income women by addressing the health, educational, environmental and socio-economic challenges within barracks communities through effective partnership with other organizations.
Our deep conviction is driven by the reality that our real wealth as a nation is our people and its worth every effort or investment and as such a major component of our strategy is our ability to foster collaborative alliances that are very essential to addressing society’s most pressing social challenges and sustainable social impact which cannot fully materialize without these alliances. Through our various initiatives and projects we are playing a critical part and leading social interventions that are innovative and relevant to the people we reach out to.
Gladly we are privileged to have collaborated with Run for Cure Africa, Carib Health Ltd, Nutriville Services Ltd, Quick Medical Consult, Dandridge International Ltd, Envirofit International Ltd, June 19 Services and several others on a number of community’s related projects.
By the end of 2016 we should have concluded partnership agreements with another 3 reputable companies as well.
What does your organisation seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
Behavioral change and the mindset of the women in the communities where we work is a major challenge. Creating a mind shift and the total empowerment of an average woman by their adoption of the clean cookstove technology within these communities is our central objective.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your organisation’s involvement in the clean cookstove sector over the years?
Low income communities have massive populations with great market possibilities. This for us is a great opportunity. However not every organization has the patience, resources and awareness of the peculiar mindset of the population within these communities to harness these possibilities or opportunity.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How has your organization helped to drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
Total women empowerment is at the core of what we do as an organization. We do this in every sphere – economic, educational, health as well as environmental. In this same respect any support also given to children and youths in a sense helps in reducing overall economic burden on our women as well .Our programmes and community projects are not fashioned only to change the attitude and mindset of the women but it’s structured to also provide business and economic opportunities. This is the way we help create businesses and empower women within these communities. It’s only then all projects are sustainable on the long run.
If you are asked to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
Firstly, the Central Bank of Nigeria has institutional developmental funds given to some established NGO, Deposits and Microfinance banks for disbursement to micro businesses at single-digit interest rates for agriculture and environmental related businesses. It’s our conviction that clean cooking falls conveniently within the Central Bank’s mandate. There is a very strong reason to believe these funds are largely diverted to other sectors of the economy because the institutions that have accessed these huge funds are not published and so the general public is largely unaware and cannot take advantage of it in any way. Information in any way is the currency of this new global economy, and Government agencies must make it a priority. In addition, most of the banks almost have no knowledge about how clean cooking benefits communities. We think the Federal Ministry of Environment and Agricultural Resources needs to train banks irrespective whether its deposit or microfinance banks to appreciate this industry and craft products tailored for it especially for low-income women. This is imperative because the success and adoption of the clean cooking is largely at the grassroots.
Secondly, smoke from cooking with wood cause 90,000 deaths annually, mostly women and children in Nigeria, accordingly to WHO. Beyond health, increasing wood use costs poor families money that can be used for food, education and health and contributes to deforestation. Also, Nigeria loses about 5% of its forest every year due to several reasons. The spate of deforestation by some foreigners in Ikorodu, Lagos State and other parts of the country is shocking and poses serious environmental challenges to us as a nation.
So an investment and support by the Governments to an emerging clean cookstove industry will drastically reduce government budget spending on health both for women and children and reduce the massive deforestation rate. It will also check waste on poverty alleviation schemes etc.
Thirdly, the epileptic power supply to all industries makes it hard to manufacture the products locally and so zero tariffs on importation of related clean cookstove parts will further help to reduce the retail cost of this technology to further make its adoption easier. This becomes imperative to reduce household’s dependence on cooking energy that are equally so expensive and impoverishing an average household in Nigeria.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
The biggest challenge Governments in Nigeria has had over the years is policy inconsistency and the inability to plan long term by creating an enabling environment as suggested earlier. Inability to implement these suggestions will only further impoverish average families by reducing their family income and Governments will incur more expenses on tackling women’s and children’s health related diseases. The clean cookstove industry will grow slowly; its adoption by households will be affected as well.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in the clean cookstoves sector?
Our vision is not only to be the choice organization and a reference point in terms of advocating for women empowerment in Nigeria especially for those living within the barracks communities. We are striving to create multiple channels that connect many more to opportunities that enhance households living conditions across Nigeria.
What is your biggest challenge in the clean cookstove sector?
For us as an organization, funding clean cookstoves community awareness campaigns is challenging without which altering the mindsets to increase the adoption of the clean cookstove technology is almost impossible. Also business and financing models that encourage women to start the business at small scale within their domain is another challenge. Sponsored trainings and workshops to build capacity are also important.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
Building partnerships and collaboration is critical for tangible progress to be made. Affordability is also an issue, massive communal awareness and Government support are all essential in the long run.
Just like our name suggests ‘TEAM’ Together Everyone Achieves More. This is why we are called TEAM-COBY NIGERIA
Is there any other thing you would like to share?
The clean cookstove industry globally has immense possibilities to solve multipronged economic, social, health and environmental challenges on a large scale and in Nigeria the industry can thrive with some enablers especially from the Government. Domestic capacity building not only for commercial production of clean cookstoves but also an emerging sector engagement in distribution, sales and marketing of cookstoves industry value chain is very critical.
On a final note, we commend ICEED/NACC for the great work done so far but suggest an effective partnership with several international agencies to sponsor trainings/workshop for partners.
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