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Strategies for Improved Cookstove Adoption in Rural Uganda

Ugandan woman with improved cookstove, Impact Carbon

Research Overview

This project builds on Impact Carbon’s existing presence in Uganda with the Uganda Efficient Stove Project. The research has four main stages: feasibility study, baseline assessment, intervention implementation, and endline analysis.

After the preliminary feasibility study, the project chose to use the Envirofit G-3300* stove for their intervention. This stove was selected through focus groups that identified it as the most locally appropriate, acceptable and efficient cookstove.

*Click here to read about Envirofit improved cook stoves



Project Location

Uganda: Mbarara District

Map of Mbarara District, Uganda

Research Objectives

  • Identify the most effective marketing strategies to improve consumer understanding of the stove's benefits and to gain consumer trust
  • Assess informed and non-informed consumer's willingness to pay (WTP) for the improved stove
  • Identify an improved sales offer that addresses consumer financial constraints and product skepticism while achieving financial objectives of stove retailers
  • Test the effectiveness of a sales offer including a free trial and time payments
  • Measure usage of both the ICS and the traditional cookstove in households that purchased an ICS

Research Interventions

Impact Carbon and partners conducted four randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in rural Mbarara, Uganda, working with nearly 5,000 participants. The project targeted communities which experience high exposure to health damaging pollutants from cookstoves. The research began with a feasibility study to select the most locally-appropriate cookstove model and target population. The research team then conducted the following RCTs:

  • RCT 1 investigated willingness to pay (WTP) for an improved stove. It also tested the effects of different marketing messages on WTP related to improved health and/or time and money savings messages.
  • RCT 2 investigated the effect of a sales contract offering end-users staggered time payments, a free trial, and the right to return the stove, compared with a traditional cash-and-carry offer on stove purchases.
  • RCT 3 investigated the impacts of the ICS on health, time spent collecting wood, and household cooking fuel use. To investigate this we measured stove usage with stove usage monitors (SUMs), assessed particulate matter (PM) concentrations as an indicator of HAP, conducted kitchen performance tests (KPTs) for fuel impacts, and conducted household food diary surveys to understand foods cooked, stove(s) used, and number of people cooked for.
  • RCT 4, funded by Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for Sustainable Future, investigated the effect of social networking and peer influences on the decision to purchase an ICS.

Lessons Learned

Through the formative research, Impact Carbon identified four main barriers to cookstove adoption:

  • Inappropriate product or marketing for intended users
  • Lack of consumer trust in new products
  • Failure to address consumers' financial constraints
  • Failure to address behavioral change

Additional lessons learned include:

  • Many factors need to be considered to determine the most appropriate clean cookstove for a particular population and household. These include:
    • Ability to comfortably fit the size of pots that households use to cook meals
    • Ability to use the type of fuel that households currently use (or significant long term incentives to switch fuel type)
    • Compatibility with local cooking practices (e.g., sturdy enough to handle heavy stirring)
    • Involve minimal behavior change in how households cook, including how households prepare fuel and how they start and maintain the fire
  • WTP: Factors which affect it, and strategies for increasing it
    • It is extremely difficult to increase poor households’ WTP using marketing messages. Alternatively, a free trial and time payments seem to have a strong effect on WTP as is evident by RCT 1 and 2 results. Also, it is possible that given a fixed price, willingness to purchase an ICS may increase based on marketing messages. The method of delivering a marketing message (e.g., via SMS texting, billboards, etc.) needs to be considered when attempting to increase WTP.
  • Optimizing consumer financing
    • Impact Carbon found that when offering a free trial and four weekly payments, demand for a $16 stove was 12 times higher with a traditional offer of full upfront payment.
  • Designing optimal marketing messages
    • Even though the researchers' marketing messages did not increase WTP in RCT 1, it is possible that marketing messages will increase uptake (i.e., percent willing to buy given a fixed price). It may also be worthwhile to test different methods of delivering marketing messages (e.g., SMS texting, community engagement, radio/speaker advertisement) and see if different methods increase WTP or uptake. Although not directly tested, social marketing seems to have a significant impact on Impact Carbon’s sales of ICS and water filters.
  • How to choose and incentivize payment collectors
    • For the novel sales offer, the method for collection of payments has to be determined. One fairly cost effective way to do this is to select people to collect payments that live in the communities where households are buying the product(s). Reliable people may be identified in each community by working with local governments. To incentivize collectors to not steal money, pay commission each time they complete payment collection for one or more particular products.
  • Engaging community members
    • Working with community members to sell products can decrease costs by hiring local community members, ensures the project design is informed by beneficiaries, and provides publicity for the product.

Research into Action

Impact Carbon facilitated opportunities for scale up of the cookstove program by:

  • Engaging with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment to establish where improved cookstove programs can contribute to the National Development Strategy
  • Disseminate project results to local NGOs, develop capacity building tools to share the skills to develop effective cookstove programs based on a proven model
  • Conduct a multi-stakeholder workshop to ensure that findings from the research are disseminated and model replication is advocated.

Research Partners

Impact Carbon
Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley
Centre for Integrated Research and Community Development (CIRCODU), Uganda
Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP), Uganda
Principal Investigator: Theresa Beltramo, PhD
Project Director: Evan Haigler, MS

Project Status

Project Status: Dissemination

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