In June 2015, construction began on the new Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) production facilities at the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre (LDWDC), just outside of Vientiane.
This new collaboration was formed as part of ADB’s Gender and Climate Change project, and funded by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). The partnership aims to provide income opportunities for women, while at the same time opening up the market for improved cookstoves.
The relationship between the ICS programme, implemented by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and local NGO ARMI, and the LDWDC is not completely new. Last year, women from the centre took part in observations of the production process by visiting existing producers. This sparked their enthusiasm to get involved.
Since then, the LDWDC has begun selling ICS at a display in their gift shop, where local products made by the women are also sold. A corner of the gift area is eye catching with the signature blue and superman logo of the ICS, which have become widely recognised on the market.
Improved Cook Stoves are also used by the women who cook at the centre, so they have seen benefits at hand in terms of time and fuel savings. Tests and consumer feedback have indicated that using an ICS rather than a traditional stove can amount to 29% savings on fuel costs, and a time savings of 20 minutes per meal. Although the initial cost of the ICS is more than a traditional stove, the increased efficiency and savings on charcoal costs far surpasses the price differential after only a short period of use. In addition, the ICS can last 2 years, compared to the mere 6 months of typical ceramic stoves on the market in Lao PDR.
As the women at the LDWDC learned more about ICS they became interested in getting involved with the production and sales, as an addition to the other live skills training activities done at the centre. Earlier this year, an exchange visit took place at existing ICS producers, in order for the disabled women to learn more about stove making. They were excited to learn and practice the techniques, and thus an agreement was recently signed for an ICS production centre, to be constructed at the LDWDC. Once it is complete, in a few weeks time, the LDWDC may become one of the largest stove producing facilities, that is taking part in the green economy of Laos, and helping to reduce the environmental pressures.
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.