How a Kenyan CSO network is driving the adoption of clean cooking technologies from the ground up
Article by - Jael Amati, Programmes Coordinator, GROOTS Kenya
Jael Amati is an activist for clean cooking and one of the V4CP country partners who attended the Clean Cooking Forum in New Delhi, India, from 24-26 October 2017. Jael works for GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) Kenya, which brings together 3,500 women-led community groups across the country. What she saw and heard at the conference has not only inspired her to continue to promote clean cooking, but it also introduced her to an international network of clean cooking champions - creating a valuable opportunity to tap into new knowledge to share at the community level in Kenya.
GROOTS’ involvement in clean cooking has evolved in much the same way as our other thematic and women’s empowerment programmes over past 20 years: through listening to the needs of our members. We started off with a focus on enhancing women’s leadership and over the years we have built our thematic expertise as we try to find solutions for a range of issues, including community responses to HIV/AIDS, protecting women’s property rights, and more recently access to energy and resilience to climate change.
Clean cooking is not just an energy supply issue. To give just one example, mothers are scared that their daughters will be assaulted when they walk long distances in search of firewood. The lack of access to clean and affordable fuels and cookstoves also adds to the already heavy burden shouldered by women. For instance, even in the smallest villages, people are familiar with tetracycline, an antibiotic that they use to treat eye infections caused by smoke, yet they are not aware of the broad range of clean cooking solutions that could help them avoid such negative health impacts.
In India, I learnt that other countries struggle with the same issues. For example, even when clean cookstoves are successfully disseminated, households soon revert to traditional cooking methods. It was good to brainstorm with others on strategies to ensure more sustainability in our interventions. I was also inspired by innovative new technologies on show that we could add to the basket of options available to our members. The opportunity to participate in a range of site visits to view the latest Indian business models, cookstove designs and consumer LPG enterprises, was one of the highlights of my trip.
A few years ago, GROOTS organised a trade fair where women entrepreneurs showcased some of the products they make and sell such as energy saving baskets and clean cookstoves. Our partnership with SNV has helped us to scale up these efforts and expose us to what others are doing. The international conference offered a unique opportunity to add to our knowledge and awareness of the latest technologies that will ultimately benefit our members and help improve their lives. Since we increasingly focus on supporting our members to make an income from clean cooking technologies, it was inspiring to hear how women in India, Ghana and Uganda are building successful clean cooking businesses. The contacts we made with other CSOs from our region are particularly important, as we continue to promote grassroots women as champions of clean cooking.
So what were some of my “take home” issues from the Clean Cooking Forum?
Three things stood out for me.
First, for women to succeed as clean cooking entrepreneurs, they need to ensure that their business models address real issues faced by consumers. Secondly, when designing stoves, it is important to understand the social and cultural factors that influence the kind of stoves people acquire. For instance, unlike in Africa, people in Latin America cook while standing. Third, to change the current situation where people are reluctant to invest in clean cooking, campaigns must not only raise awareness, but also aim to positively change the behavior of communities. Our experience at GROOTS is that providing clean cookstoves is not enough. Households acquire clean cookstoves but then quickly revert to traditional cooking methods. We will only achieve sustainable behaviour change when more and more households install permanent cook stoves to replace their three-stone fires. This is the change on the ground that we are working towards.
Read the original blog by Rianne Teule, titled, ‘Clean Cooking: Talk does not cook rice,’ which highlights SNV’s participation at the Clean Cooking Forum.