Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) is the Partner of the Month of November. Olanike Olugboji, Program Director of WISE shares their experiences in the clean cooking sector.
What are the objectives of your organisation?
WISE is a grassroots nonprofit organization that envisions a safe, healthy and just environment for everyone. Our mission is to advance constructive environmental practices by empowering people, mostly women and female youth, to become community-environmental stewards; while also supporting them to take advantage of opportunities in natural resource stewardship. Over the years, WISE has been involved in strengthening the roles grassroots women play in community resource management. We have worked for over seven years to mobilize disadvantaged women, especially, in Kaduna State, Nigeria by addressing a number of environmentally destructive cultural practices in water and food supply, energy services, natural resource access, education and waste management issues.
Our programs deliver environmental awareness and education on climate change, conservation, energy, food and water security, renewable energy, as well as sanitation and hygiene. We also teach peace and conflict resolution, micro entrepreneurship, citizen journalism, empowerment 2.0 and digital empowerment. To support further WISE’s efforts, we lobby individuals, governmental and intergovernmental bodies, NGOs, CBOs and other individuals and corporate organizations to develop environmentally sustainable initiatives that socially and economically empower women.
What does your organisation seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
WISE provides easy access to clean cooking options that are often not within the reach of poor women by facilitating awareness creation, financing support and the distribution of clean cookstoves. We promote and sell clean cookstoves through awareness creation, capacity-building trainings and provision of microcredit support for women leaders’ and representatives drawn from communities across Kaduna State and beyond.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your organisation’s involvement in the clean cookstove sector over the years?
An investigative report on the health implication of women’s reliance on open fire cooking published by the Founder/Program Director of WISE became a game changer in 2015.. This attracted the attention of a philanthropist who has since continued to support our organization’s intervention programs in the cookstove sector. The same report also gained the attention of TIME magazine, as it was also published by the esteemed media outlet. In 2015, Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) a long standing partner of WISE also launched a partnership with our organization towards holding capacity-building trainings for women leaders from Kaduna State in Nigeria to promote and sell clean cookstoves.
How are your beneficiaries reacting to your intervention in the various communities you are working in?
WISE has distributed thousands of saw dust briquettes, promoted the products of Solar Cookers International and supported 36 local women micro entrepreneurs with micro finance that helped them choose improved cooking alternatives. Over 20,000 women were also sensitized in 2015 through the World Pulse Online community platform. We also recently organized a four day empowerment workshop for 30 women at the IDP camp at Gurku, Nassarawa State. Our activities, experience, network have been expanding; just as the number of beneficiaries keeps growing by the day. Nothing beats the smiles on the faces of the women that we are able to support to purchase or donate a cookstove to, and the heartwarming messages that continue to trail our awareness efforts.
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?
Sustainable livelihood and self-reliance are also at the core of our clean cookstoves drive in the various communities where we work. By purchasing cook stoves from the producers and offering them to our model WISE women’s cookstove entrepreneur, we are paving the way for women to become productively engaged. Our recently launched call for applications for 2017 will provide an integrated support to 30 women to launch clean cookstove enterprises, in Kaduna, Nigeria with training and the opportunity to purchase clean cookstoves and thus breathe healthier air, reduce deforestation, increase household savings, improve health and safety, and transform their sense of personal and communal empowerment. The components of refresher trainings, peer support, technical assistance in identifying and securing additional funding for successful projects, digital storytelling training, access to producers of clean cookstoves and fuel and other social entrepreneurs specializing in issues of energy, support linking to micro-finance to grow their businesses as well as policy and development are undoubtedly empowering for the supported women.
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?
The government should put in place policies and standards that will support all round development and growth of the cookstove sector. There is also an urgent need for government to facilitate access to low, preferably single digit interest loans; among others.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
The cookstoves market will continue to struggle. There would be no end in sight when it comes to tackling the myriad of problems associated with reliance on the traditional open fire means of cooking. More women will also remain vulnerable to hazards associated with reliance on traditional open fire cooking.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in the clean cookstoves sector?
Our goal is to grow our social enterprise to serve 3000 women annually and also have 200 model cookstoves distributors with a targeted number of clean cookstoves sales of 12600 stoves reached.
What is your biggest challenge in the clean cookstove sector?
Though we are largely interested in encouraging user centered designs, it remains a herculean task to actually get manufacturers of clean cookstoves to tailor their designs to user needs. Our efforts and reach are also constrained by funds, as we would really love to expand the type and number of products we distribute. These are very big issues for us.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
Awareness on and access to clean, safe, and affordable cooking options must me prioritized; and manufacturers of clean cookstoves should ensure that their designs are user driven. It is the only sure way to ensure that finished products don’t end up lying on the shelves longer than they ought to be.
Is there any other thing you would like to share?
It must be appreciated that women’s participation, representation and leadership is key to ensuring a sustainable future. This is the mission that WISE and WEA (a key partner of WISE) continues to advance through timely grassroots women based, focused and lead intervention programs. Little wonder that both organizations are so excited about the evolving WISE-WEA’s Women’s Renewable Energy partnership program launched in 2015. This partnership has significantly helped scale up and accelerated the efforts of WISE on the ground, especially in the light of exploring and finding solutions to the multifaceted and alarming problems of energy poverty that Nigerian women are daily confronted with in their communities.
We look forward to the participation of manufacturers and promoters of clean cookstoves and fuels at a ‘One Day Cookstoves Fair’, which is part of our upcoming 2017 Kaduna State Women’s Clean Cookstove Training Program- a partnership project between Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) and Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE). For further inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org