Ability, not disability: The newest ICS production centre develops skills


In July 2015 construction was completed on the new improved cookstoves production facilities at the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre, located just outside the Vientiane city limits. This partnership is part of the ADB’s Harnessing Climate Change Mitigation Initiatives to Benefit Women project, funded by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). The collaboration between these organisations will provide more skills and income-generating activities for disabled women in Laos, as well as expanding the market for improved cookstoves in the country.

The partnership began in 2014 when women from the LDWDC observed the ICS production process. Interest from the individuals, and from the centre as a whole, catalysed the relationship, and the centre began selling ICS alongside the other locally-made products in their gift shop. The interest in learning more about production saw the women participate in an exchange visit to a producer, followed by the construction of an ICS production area at the back of the LDWDC property. The ICS programme recognised a lot of potential in the women at the LDWDC, as their initial interest and efforts in the partnership truly showed that these women were focused on their abilities, not their disabilities.

On July 13, the ICS production area was officially opened, with attendees from the LDWDC, SNV, and project partner, local NGO ARMI, and opening remarks expressing enthusiasm for the potential of this partnership. Local media were in attendance to cover this initiative, and two of the more experienced local ICS producers came to run the training. After the opening, participants had both a practical and theoretical training to prepare them to begin ICS production this week. Their excitement to get their hands muddy and get started shaping stoves was unmistakable! To see images from the preparation, construction, and training process, see our photostory about the partnership.

In the future, plans are already being formed to build a kiln in the back of the LDWDC in order to speed the drying process of the clay stoves, especially during the rainy season. Once the LDWDC members have more skills and experience in ICS production, they hope to become a training centre, to be able to share these abilities with other local women who would like to begin producing stoves. 

The improved cookstoves like the ones that will be produced at the LDWDC can save 29% in fuel costs, as they burn coal more efficiently, saving both time and money in the long run, and also reducing the workload of the women who use these stoves to cook. The kitchen at the LDWDC uses several ICS in their cooking, so staff already know the payoffs in terms of energy savings and durability firsthand. Women are engaged at all levels of the project, from producers, to retailers, to marketers, to consumers.

Since 2013, the ICS programme, financed by the European Union, has sold over 45,000 improved stoves across Laos. In the coming months the project anticipates the production and sale of the 50,000th stove, which will be a true milestone in terms of market development and impact. The programme aims to distribute 100,000 stoves by January 2017.