Case: Sri Lanka - Commercialisation of Improved Cookstoves

Commercialisation of Improved Cookstoves in Sri Lanka
A Case Study

By R.M.Amerasekera, Integrated Development Association (IDEA)


Sri Lanka’s stove programme can be identified as one the few successes in the developing countries in the quest for sustainability. The stove dissemination is fully commercialised and several studies have established that its production and social marketing process has reached sustainability in Sri Lanka. At present over 300000 stoves are produced by 185 rural potter families and marketed by a network of private traders dispersed through out the country. The stoves are demanded and traded like any other commercial product in the market without any external influence or intervention. However, to reach this level of success several strategically structured moves with consistent efforts were employed over a period of nearly 30 years by several organisations.

Background of Stove Development Activities

In Sri Lanka several ICS projects have been implemented over the period 1979 to date by a number of organisations. It is difficult to speak of a particular project in isolation since each project is closely linked and is based on the progress and results of the previous project. Smooth transition and continuity observed from one project to the other is a remarkable phenomenon despite the fact that the project actors viz the donors, implementing organisations, project objectives and location of the projects have changed with each project. It is therefore prudent to give a brief overall picture of the stove development activities beginning from 1979.

Looking back, the interventions can be broadly divided into three phases of development:

Phase 1: Design Stage 1979 - 1983
Phase 2: Dissemination 1985 - 1990
Phase 3: Commercialisation 1987 - 1996
Phase 4: Diversification and reaching the poor 1996- 2005

As mentioned before these are not planned phases of one project but characteristics of different projects building up from the stage where the other left. To make a long story short this paper will lay emphasis on the activities of the third phase namely commercialisation which led to the sustainable stage which is where Sri Lanka is now.

The commercialisation phase consisted of two projects. Urban Stove Programme in the City of Colombo 1987/1988, Rural Marketing Stoves Programme Phase1, 1991/1992 and Phase2, 1995/1996. Phase 1 and 2 covered twelve districts in the country.

Prior to the commercialization process, there were several agencies taking part in the the development of a suitable design. The design phase was implemented by Sarvodaya with technical Assistance from ITDG( Practical Action). The main actors in the design stage from 1979 to 1982 were the Sarvodaya organisation and the ITDG. While the Sarvodaya ensured and secured the community participation and provided the local staff required for the project, the ITDG facilitated the transfer and sharing of technology and training of project staff based on international experience particularly from South America, Dian Desa, Indonesia and South India. The project introduced methodologies to accommodate user perspectives in the design and carrying out lab and field testing and evaluations. The project was able to successfully design a socially acceptable stove at the end of the project and the technical efficiency was proven scientifically. Prior to this exercise IDB and the CISIR and at a later stage NERD the three leading leading government research organisations in the country too designed stoves which were proven to be scientifically efficient but could not be used for wide spread dissemination due to lack of social acceptance because of their inability to address user concerns in the design stage despite giving higher thermal efficiency.

After the pilot stages were completed in 1983, Sarvodaya could not continue its dissemination efforts mainly due to the inability to secure financial resources for an extended project and to maintain the 6 member stove team. However with the entering of the MPE/CEB into the stoves field in 1984 with a view to promote energy conservation the Sarvodaya dissemination efforts gradually got dissolved into the CEB programme. The main implementing agency of the dissemination stage was the Ceylon Electricity Board under the auspices of the Ministry of Power and Energy deriving funds from several donor agencies mainly from the Dutch Government. This project covered 12 districts. The stove selected for dissemination was the two piece two pot mud insulated pottery liner stove developed by Sarvodaya –ITDG project. During the project period of 1985 – 1990 nearly 400000 stoves were disseminated as against a target of 500000 stoves. Over 200 potters and nearly 2000 stove installers were trained under the project and officials of the government administrative structure were used in the promotion and extension activities who were provided a financial incentive depending on the number of stoves installed in their respective areas.

The stove which was purchased at Rs 15 from the trained potters by the project officials were given free of charge to the user. The user was expected to pay Rs 15 for the installation to the stove installer. The payment and installation were facilitated by the government extension officer. The main objective of this project was to reduce the use of firewood and thereby reduce the rate of deforestation. After the project was terminated it was expected that the linkage among the user, potter and stove installer developed by the project would continue.

There was a considerable amount of awareness created due to dissemination programme by the CEB but it also raised several questions with regard to the future and sustainability of stove promotion and use.

Taking into consideration the large quantity of 400000 stoves disseminated during the dissemination phase covering 12 districts over a period of six years, the project was considered to be a rare achievement and a great success when stove programmes were failing else where in the developing countries. “But behind the success there were several questions hidden as to the sustainability of stove use and promotion there after. Once the subsidy was removed and involvement of the government officials in promotion activities were withdrawn the linkages built connecting the producer (potter), stove installer and the user gradually disintegrated. However the project demonstrated the multiple benefits of the stoves and the need for further involvement in extending the project activities to cover the urban areas of Colombo District. The lessons learnt from the rural stove programme highlighted the need for the adoption of a commercial strategy to activate the market forces and the need to modify the stove design to suit a market strategy.

In the mean time ITDG(UK) learning from the successful experience gained in commercialisation of the “JIKO” stove in Kenya came out with a proposal for a similar commercial approach for which funding was secured from the ODA, Ministry of Power and Energy and CEB. The project was implemented by the Ceylon Electricity Board in the Colombo City and the suburbs. The project duration was 18 months starting in June 1987. Thus began the commercialisation process of stoves which is the main focus of this article. The total cost of the project was Sterling Pounds 101404.

Accordingly the USP formulated by ITDG and CEB made provision to improve the Sarvodaya design (not a complete new design) to be made as a single piece two pot design thus making it portable item which could be marketable as a off the shelf product and used as it is without the need for installation by a skilled person. This modification facilitated the stoves to be sold commercially like any other potter item and to adopt marketing strategies making use of existing channels to market similar products. The modified Sarvodaya Stove was named Anagi 2 because it has two pot holes. The programme also included the CISIR one pot grate design in the promotion efforts and it was called the Anagi 1. These stoves were produced by the tile factories making use of trained potters and spare capacity in the tile firing kilns. Thus new techniques had to be innovated and introduced in making and firing the stoves as compared to the Sarvodaya stove. They were marketed through private sector dealers. ITDG provided technical expertise in the design, training, production and marketing of the stove. Evaluations show that urban stove project was more successful than the rural sector project in terms of sustainability, due mainly to the suitability of the model, large scale production by tile factories and independent distribution by private sector dealers at market price which did not include a subsidy by the government.. As the urban users found out the benefits of the stove and stoves were available in the market, demand for them increased.

This, however, later resulted in the production of low quality stoves to meet the demand. The urban project was also unable to reach out to the urban poor1.

The objectives of the project were:
· The reduction of the consumption of fuelwood for domestic cooking and designing an improved design of cooking stove
· To reduce rate of deforestation
· To enable households to reduce their expenditure on wood fuel
· Improving quality of life through cleaner kitchens and the potential to increase the availability of hot meals and hot water

At the end of the USP project in 1989 the infrastructure for producing and marketing 50000 stoves annually have been established.. At the same time the rural stoves programme too was phasing out and the need for a commercial strategy to replace the dissemination strategy in the rural areas were increasingly becoming evident. Since the Dutch – Sri Lanka bilateral Energy Programme which provided the major funding for the CEB rural stoves programme was ending and the CEB lost interest in continuing the stove programme since it is not within frame work of their major business of Electri city Generation and Distribution a vacuum was created. Despite the concerns of the evaluators of the USP with regard to the macro objectives of the project vis a vis the lack of evidence for reduction of deforestation and reduction of consumption of firewood for domestic cooking at the national level the establishment of infrastructure for commercial production and marketing of stoves was a success. The need to extend this experience to the rural areas to fill the gap created by phasing out the subsidy programme was recognised by those who were interested in continuing stove developments activities further. However since CEB was not interested there was no other organisation which had the willingness and capability to continue the momentum created . In the meantime, the Project Manager of the National Stove Programme with few other development experts created a NGO named Integrated Development Organisation (IDEA) to take over the responsibility to continue to extend the programme to the rural areas. The dream became a reality when the ITDG(UK) agreed to continue its support and commitment to IDEA by securing funding and technical assistance for a 4 year programme which commenced in 1991 which was successfully completed in 1996. During this period as in the USP the infrastructure for commercial production and marketing was established to cover 12 districts of the country. This is briefly the history and background of the commercialisation process in Sri Lanka

Although with the commercialisation large number of stoves was widely available in many areas, it was observed that the commercial channels servicing the demand for stoves were restricted to urban and semi urban areas and many rural poor do not have access to the distribution channels.

Accordingly IDEA with the support of Asia Region Cookstove Programme(ARECOP) and later supported by the UNDP/GEF initiated a project to address these concerns which commenced in the year 2000. With this exercise it was able to spread the benefits of commercialisation and scale up the technology further to cover a wider group and area. This phase is identified as the diversification and reaching the poor.

Diversification and Reaching the Poor (1996- 2005)

After the commercialisation process the need for further interventions in the stove development activities was identified for several reasons.
· To establish a network of to decentralise stove development activities and empower them to carry out stove dissemination activities on their own independent from IDEA
· To extend the stove activities to areas not covered by the previous projects and the commercial network.
· To diversify stove activities to cover larger cooking needs and rural industries using fire firewood.
· To integrate stoves with other development concerns and user needs not necessary confined to energy matters.
· The need to decentralize the stove technology expertise and responsibility at district level so that IDEA could focus on other rural energy matters
· The need to diversify stove technology to cover other rural energy needs such as in Brick making, bakeries etc.

Although with the commercialization large numbers of stoves were widely available in many areas, it was observed that the commercial channels servicing the demand for stoves were restricted to urban and semi urban areas and many rural poor do not have access to the distribution channels.

Accordingly IDEA with the support of Asia Region Cookstove Programme (ARECOP) and the UNDP/GEF initiated a project to address these concerns which commenced in the year 2000. With this exercise it was able to spread the benefits of commercialization and scale up the technology further to cover a wider group and area.

The ARECOP network had 15 members representing 15 districts. Although the main objective of these members is not stove dissemination, stoves and kitchen improvement were integrated into their programmes and stoves were an entry point for their work. These network members in turn supported other CBOs in their locality to introduce stoves into their activities. Many of these organisations after the initiation and empowerment provided by IDEA were able secure funds from various organisations for stove activities.

It is now observed that stoves have become and important activity in the agenda of many projects seeking funds from donor agencies and many have been successful. The network members were trained by IDEA to prepare project proposals based on the Logical Framework Analysis.

Artisans selected by the network members were also given one week training in the design and construction of large stoves and kitchen improvement to cater for commercial cooking such as preparing food and sweets for sale, making of juggery etc.

The Present Status

In 2006 a survey carried out to assess the production revealed an annual production of 300000 stoves. It was later observed that the production level was stagnant not particularly due to lack of demand but due to shortage of skilled potters. However the latest survey carried out that the production has increased by about 10% . The project activities were implemented through out the country except in the North and East provinces due to the terrorist activities prevailing in those areas. However now that the civil war is over and peace prevailing World Food Programme has provided funds to train producers and promote Anagi Stoves in the Northern Province.

The present commercial infrastructure for production and marketing spreads over a geographical area covering almost 14 districts. The Anagi Stove is a common product available for sale in many retail shops selling ceramic products in 14 districts. 79 wholesale distributors were identified during the survey. There can be many others.

The survey carried out to collect data for this report sponsored by ARECOP indicates a production of 300420 stoves annually. This figure is reasonably accurate when cross checking with the number of unskilled assemblers employed, the quantity of clay purchased, number of kiln loads fired and interviews with the wholesale dealers. The production details district wise and the respective number of potters trained and in production are given in the following table:

Number of Potters Trained and Stoves Produced - District wise

District No. of Potters Monthly Production
  Mp Mt
Fp Ft Tp  


Total 145 259 40 80 185 25035

Mp: Number of Male potters in production
Mt: No. of Male potters trained
Fp : No. of Female potters in production
Ft : No. of Female potters trained
Tp : Total No. of potters in production

It is difficult to monitor the production numbers of a large number of small scale producers spread all over the country but the data obtained with respect to the large scale production concentrated in the five main production villages namely Kumbukgete, Ambagaswewa, Lungamuwa, Katupotha and Krimetiyana is visible and could be verified to some degree of accuracy.

These five villages together account for nearly 20855 stoves which is 83.3% as given in the above table. In this table number of potters are classified according to their production level and the village they live.

The balance 16.7% of the production amounting to 4180 is produced by in 50 villages all over the country. Please see the maps 1 and 2 at the bottom of the page.

The production is carried out by 185 potter families in 55 villages. Since the inception of the programme in 1991, 339 potters have been trained. Please see table and map 3.
Out of the total number of 339 potters trained 76.4% are Males and 24.6% Females.
Out of the total of 339 trained 54.6% potters are actively involved in production.
Out of the 185 potters in production 78% are males and 22% females
Nearly 50% of the production is concentrated in one village and is produced by 16.7% of the potters in production.
85% of the stoves are produced by 65(35%) potters living in five villages

Issues of Concern

Although majority of the stoves are of the correct dimension and good quality, availability of substantial amount of Look Alike Stoves in the market is a major concern. These stoves look like the Anagi but are not made according to the specifications. These are produced by both trained and untrained potters and small scale and large scale producers. The shortcomings of the sub standard stoves which are produced by the trained potters are mainly due to the need to produce large numbers quickly thereby sacrificing the quality. The moulds and templates are often not used by experienced potters because to keep to the targets. The dealers purchase whatever produced irrespective of the quality because of the demand. The dealers too demand different sizes of stoves which are often met by the producers for fear of loosing the market.
Although only one size was introduced, as many as three sizes are are now seen in the market. These can be identified as Anagi Large, Anagi Standard and Anagi Buddy. Therefore there is no way to enforce a penalty for sub standard production. Several interventions were adopted by IDEA without much success. One is to locate and provide training to look alike producers. Another intervention was to train the producers to make their own plaster of Paris moulds since once the original moulds provided free of charge were worn out new mould are not used. However according to the feedback obtained from the users, the performance of many look alike stoves do not seem to be very different in comparison with the genuine Anagi as far as firewood savings are concerned. The major complaints are slow cooking on either of the pot holes and cracking of stoves . The water boiling tests carried out by IDEA too did not show significant changes. Nevertheless a few Look alike Anagis available in the market were completely different and their performance is questionable. Addressing the quality control aspects within a programme where a large number of producers and dealers are spread over the entire country is a challenging task indeed.

The second major issue of concern is the stagnation of production at the present level of 300000 stoves a year. The annual production has increased from 60000 in 1996 to almost 300000 in 2005. The major complain by the users, promoters and dealers is that there is not sufficient stoves to meet the demand. It appears that the IDEA strategy to train a large number of producers through out the island to increase the production has not met with success. Despite the small amounts produced by a majority of rural producers, this strategy has been able to create widespread awareness, transfer technology and reach isolated communities in rural areas where the stove commercial network is not in operation. Since the major bottle neck to increase the production is the lack of potters who has the skill to throw, IDEA tried to introduce a fibre mould to replace throwing process. This was experimented in Kumbukgete but was not successful because the potters were not very happy fearing that their skills will then not be necessary to produce the stoves which will then get to the hands of non skilled people. Another reason was potters could throw more stoves by throwing than with the mould. There is one potter who makes 100 stoves a day. Even a machine may not compete with him. In general a skilled potter can make about 50 stoves where as not more than 10 could be made with a mould. Even in the USP mechanisation did not succeed and it was realised mechanisation was not possible without changing the design which will then take the programme back to where it started namely the design phase.

During the period from 1991 – 2005 IDEA has trained 339 potters of whom 24% are women. Out of the trained potters 47% do not produce any stoves. The reasons attributed for not producing are many.
· It is difficult to make Anagi compared to other products.
· Profit margin is less.
· Other products have a better demand.
· Stoves need to be stocked for a longer periods.
· Breakages in production are high.
· Needs more space.
· Lack of skilled potters as the young generation of the potter families are no longer interested in pottery making due to caste problems.
· Wholesale buyers do not visit production areas
· Shortage of suitable clay

Looking objectively at the present infrastructure for stove production it is observed that 50% of the production is in one village called Kumbukgete . The efforts to train more potters in other areas spread over 12 districts have not been effective in increasing the production substantially.

However despite the small amounts of stoves produced it is still necessary to train more rural potters to spread the benefits of production and using the stoves to isolated areas not serviced by the commercial network. This has to be for reasons of equity and not really focussed on increasing the production level. But the major question faced by IDEA now is how to increase the production ?. The following reasons are identified as reasons for the inability to increase production further.

Other rural producers cannot compete with Kumbukgete due to the low cost of production at Kumbukgete. Kumbukgete has many advantages over the small producers elsewhere such as low cost of raw material, linkages with a large number of wholesale dealers, regular market, economies of scale, skills acquired due to long years of experience in stove production, above all the confidence and enthusiasm built with the success of stove business. With the failure of training a large number of small scale producers to increase production, as an alternative it was thought that increasing the production within Kumbukgete as a better solution. But this too was not successful due to the limited availability of skilled potters within the village. The entire production process revolves around the potter who basically has not only to throw the clay parts but also has to get involved in securing and preparation of raw material , managing the business and perform other skilled functions such as firing, drying etc. This imposes a limit in the number of stoves thrown by a potter. In most of the medium and small scale producers all the skilled and unskilled labour is secured within the family without the assistance of hired labour. Therefore there is very little financial gain if the family has to hire labour to increase the production beyond the capacity of the family.

The maximum monthly production of a family cannot exceed 300 if hired labour is not used. Therefore it is seen that there is little incentive to motivate the producer to produce more since profit margin is low if labour has to be hired to increase production. Another factor which restricts production to about 300 is the lack of space available for air drying and stocking of stoves. At present the space in the house and the compound is fully utilised and it is common to see stoves stocked even in the kitchen and bedroom as well. It is also a common site to see potters working till late in the night. These are factors which indicate the enthusiasm of the potters and that their time and resources are fully stretched to the maximum. However there are seven producers who produce from 500 – 1000 stoves/month who use hired labour to varying degrees. Although their income per/stove is comparatively less they make up for it by distributing the stoves on their own to outside wholesale dealers thus selling the stoves around Rs 80. They have their own lorries to transport the stoves. These producers do not sell their stoves to wholesale dealers visiting Kumbukgete and also act as middlemen to purchase at Kumbukgete and sell outside. This explanation indicate that there is no turn back for the potters and the production will sustain but have they reached the end? If so what is the strategy to increase the demand. Has the stove market reached saturation?.

Out of the 300000 stoves sold every year It is difficult to estimate how many stoves are reaching new households and how many are used for replacements because the durability differs according to whether the stove is used as it is (Urban Household) or insulated with a mud covering (Rural Household).

Penetration Level

No studies have been done to find out the percentage of the households using the Anagi Stoves. However it observed that Anagi Stoves are available for sale in the remotest parts of Sri Lanka which indicate the existence of commercial channels through out the country.
A study carried out in 2001 by the Energy Conservation Fund , the results of which is given in following Table includes some information with regard to the type of stoves used in the three provinces.



Uva Province

Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban
Types of







NCP: North Central Province
NWP: North Western Province

Although no country wise study has been done to assess the penetration level of the Anagi stoves, this information and Annexed maps of production and distribution links provide some information with respect to the penetration level. However the author’s view is that at least 20% of the household are using Anagi stoves at present.

Contribution towards Achieving MDGs

Poverty Alleviation

The contribution of project to poverty alleviation is very evident by the high level of living standards achieved by a substantial number potters producing Anagi Stoves. The fact that the living conditions of the potter families have improved tremendously is evident from the data given in the following charts. This data was collected for a study sponsored by the ARECOP in 2005. The data refers to the Kumbukgete village, which is the main production centre and the scaling up is well documented. The quality of life of the producers by now is further improved with higher production levels and selling price. For complete report please see the article “Quest for sustainability” on the web site Not only the potters a large number of youths mainly females are earning an substantial income by participating in providing unskilled labour associated with the production process.

Housing Condition 1986 Before Production 2005

(b)GI Sheets


(b)Cow dung














Acquisition of Domestic Equipment:

Equipment 1986 Before Production 2005

Colour TV
Tape Recorders
Sewing Machines
Rice Cookers
Gas Cookers
Motor Cycles
Hand Tractors
Land Phones
Mobile Phones




Climate Change

It has been widely established that cooking with biomass entails health hazards and contribute towards generating greenhouse gases. In this respect it has been revealed by several international studies that use of ICS helps to mitigate some of these adverse effects to some degree. The following observations are made in a study done in six countries by the University of Surrey, Centre for Environmental Strategy and IT ( Initial Evaluation of CDM type projects in developing countries bt Dr K.G. Bregg et al –March 2000)

Considering different scenarios the unit emission reduction and incremental cost of 8 CDM type projects based on several factors unique to the particular country of reference are estimated as follows:

The Project Range of emission reduction
Unit Incremental
Cost- US$/t CO2
· Anagi Stoves (Sri Lanka)
· Micro Hydro- Umangedera (Sri Lanka)
· Micro Hydro -Ketepola (Sri Lanka)
· KCJ Stoves ( Kenya)
· Maendeleo Stoves (Kenya)
· Micro Hydro- Barpak (Nepal)
· Solar Home Systems (Zimbabwe)
· Bio Gas (Nepal)
111 – 266

64 – 107

79 – 131
164 – 279

433 – 833

19 - 58

30 - 57
310 - 527
-45 to -50

-58 to -118

-53 to -58
-158 to -190
-50 to – 56

-67 to -78

-9 to + 54
+7 to 14

According to this estimate an Anagi stoves has the potential to save about 1 ton of CO2 annually. Assuming 20% households (900000 households) using Anagi at any time it can estimated that 900000 tons of CO2 are saved every year.

Health Impact of Anagi Stoves

Among the many other benefits of using improved stoves, WHO has announced the potential benefits of using improved stoves to reduce morbidity and mortality risks due to indoor air pollution as a result of cooking with biomass. WHO estimates that indoor smoke from solid fuels causes about 35.7% of lower respiratory infections, 22.0% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 1.5% of trachea, bronchus and lung cancer. In total, 2.7% of disability adjusted life years lost (DALYs) worldwide are attributable to indoor smoke, 2.5% in males and 2.8% in females. The report also mentions that indoor air pollution is the 8th highest risk factor globally and 4th highest in the developing countries. Acute respiratory infections in children under five years of age are the largest single category of deaths (64%) and DALYs (81%) from indoor air pollution, apparently being responsible globally for about 1.2 million premature deaths annually in the early 1990s. The annual burden of disease attribulatable to solid fuel use in developing countries estimated by the WHO indicates 1.8 million deaths and 53 million DALYs lost. WHO also announces that improved stoves could play a major role in alleviating this situation through the reduction of suspended particulate matter in the smoke.

Research carried out by the University of Moratuwa and Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has revealed that the Anagi stove save 41% of wood and 30% of cooking time in addition to a significant reduction of Carbon Dioxide and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) level thus facilitating improved health and the drudgery experienced by housewives.

Lessons Learnt

Commercialisation of stoves unlike in commercialisation of other consumer goods need a mix of strategies to accommodate a host of socio- economic, cultural, equity factors and aspirations of a traditional society as well as modern marketing strategies.

The stoves programme had the involvement of several organisations. Despite the different objectives and strategies adopted by multiple actors , Sri Lanka has been able to learn from each others experience. Each phase of development was initiated from where the others left and the programme moved forward within a wider set of objectives and a broadvision, accommodating diversity of ideas and approaches . As a result, there was continuity without much repetition or stagnation.

Facilitation of access to international funding and experience, sharing of experiences and transfer of technology were important factors for the success of the programme in Sri Lanka. This is the role played by ITDG, FAO/RWEDP and ARECOP in the Sri Lankan programme.

While the involvement of the government, non government and the private sector was necessary at various stages of programme development, the participation of non government organisations in the team was particularly important during its implementation phase, for reasons of the need to focus, guide and facilitate on equity concerns. The government or the private sector may not be much interested as the stove is very much related to several micro concerns which fall outside the government policy and private sector interests. The strategies adopted in the rural marketing programme to reach the poor women who are the primary users of the stoves and to empower potter community and the community based organisations are examples of the contribution made by the non government organisations.. Sri Lanka programme has also demonstrated that the social equity concerns can be accommodated in a market based programme despite its commercial bias.

The design of a suitable stove is fundamental and represents the most important stage in a stove programme. It needs considerable time and resources because it has to suit the needs of not only the user but the producer and the distributor as well. Several stoves have been designed by the IDB, NERD, CISIR and Sarvodaya but apart from the Sarvodaya the others were not popular. This experience indicates that the stoves designed for technical perfection alone may be not the stove the user wants. Its design must incorporate a range of other user needs. The efforts and the methodological approach adopted by Sarvodaya to understand the user needs and perspectives and their incorporation in the design paved the way for its popularity of the Sarvodaya design.

This design was later modified to suit a commercial market. In a commercial programme the stove has to be simple and low cost so that the user will find it easy to use and purchase, the producer will find it easy to produce and the dealer will find it easy to transport, store and deliver. The Anagi 1 stove promoted in the USP was not popular as it had three pieces making its use, production and transport difficult which reduced the demand for it. Apart from the established benefits, the popularity of the Anagi 2 was also due to the flexibility of its use. It can be used as it is, mostly preferred by urban users for short cooking or as a liner preferred by the rural users for long periods of cooking. It can use a wide variety of biomass and can also be self installed or installed by a skilled artisan if the user is aesthetically minded. .

Although equity is the main concern of NGOs implementing stove programmes, in general providing a subsidy at the initial stages to facilitate popularisation or commercialision of ICS will not realise in a sustainable programme as shown in the Sri Lankan Dissemination programme. Therefore low income users should not be the initial targets of a stove commercialisation programme. However strategies to reach the poor must be accommodated outside the commercial network through empowering CBOs to provide credit, establish revolving funds and introducing stoves as an entry point to other health and social concerns.

The subsidised dissemination programme of the CEB prior to the commercialisation programme established the atmosphere to create awareness of the stakeholders namely the users, government and non government organisations, private sector and donors of the need for their involvement and participation in stove development activities which created the platform for the commercialisation programme. Therefore the provision of subsidies for R & D and pilot dissemination prior to commercialisation is desirable.

Sufficient funding is also required for incentives that have to be given to producers and distributors to promote the production and stocking of stoves and cover certain risks such as breakages in the initial stages. Although subsidies are a negative intervention in a commercial strategy, incentives to users, producers and dealers are favourable interventions in a promotion campaign. Sell four get one free, providing moulds free of charge, establishing revolving funds are such examples. In the USP and RSMP the funds allocated provided as much as 10% of the total budget for promotion and providing incentives.

Although controlling the price of a product is not a favourable strategy, establishing a pricing policy is necessary to discourage setting a high price at the beginning of a project.

The success of the USP in terms of meeting targets, which was carefully developed and implemented with a text book approach for commercialisation, did not sustain after some time despite the project activities being carried out well and the infrastructure for production and marketing being established and the project target of marketing 60,000 stoves being met.

The success was really due to the project push which created the momentum which later gradually disappeared with the phasing out of the project. The reasons for this situation can be attributed to the following;
(a) There was no mechanism or provision to monitor the activities after the completion of
the project. The continuity of the success was taken for granted..
(b) The failure was not due to the lack of demand but to the gradual decline in production of stoves. The potters employed for production did not like to work within a rigid factory environment. By nature traditional potters enjoy their independence. This indicates that there can be conflicts of interest in efforts to integrate the formal and the informal sector. At present the two new tile factories producing stoves have overcome this problem by making the potters partners in production not employees. This has been done by facilitating the potters to work within their own village environment by delivering the prepared clay to the village and buying the unfired stove to be fired in the factory kiln.
(c) Tile producers have a lucrative business in selling tiles. The stove production brought
only a marginal return compared to tiles which is why the tile factories did not
bother to waste their time to solve problems related to stove production after the
project push was over.

In contrast to the USP the success of producing and marketing stoves in the RSMP has been continuing for the last 10 years without any outside interventions. The involvement of the informal sector and facilitating their involvement within their own working environment are major reasons for this success.

Introducing modern production techniques may not be a success if the informal sector is involved in production as experienced in both the urban and rural programmes. Moreover for reasons of equity if introducing modern methods would replace pottery skills it would be in conflict with the project objective of increasing earning capacity of the potter producers. However mechanisation to facilitate increase in production and reduce drudgery in production without replacing pottery skills such as in using clay mixing machines and motorised pottery wheels are favourable interventions which need to be promoted.

In contrast to the formal sector tile factory involvement where stove production provided only a small profit compared to tiles, in the case of potters, stoves are either the main income or a sizable proportion of the family income which provides motivation and above all makes stove production a matter of survival. This has ensured the sustainability of production.

The objectives of the stove development activities were changed to suit the social realities and the social needs. It first addressed the energy and environmental issues but later were expanded to cover health, gender, income generation for the poor, and social aspects. Thus the stove programmes was able to attract many stakeholders and donors creating a wider interest which was necessary for the continuity of stove programmes.

It is the decentralised production strategy which has led to the success of producing a large number of stoves amounting to about 25000 stoves a month. Creating a single or a few producers to cater for such a big market would not have been possible as experienced in the USP. The original intention of the USP was to train one tile factory to produce 5000 stoves a month but later eight factories had to be trained which too was not successful.

Efforts must be made to encourage individual producers at subsistence level to produce to cater to their own market outside the commercial network as sustainability can also take place within small scale units outside the commercial network. It also helps to penetrate a larger geographical area.

The success in the marketing of stoves was due to using existing channels of wholesale dealers without attempting to create a new network. Thus all what the project did was to facilitate linkages with the existing pottery traders and making stoves an item in their mix of pottery items.
The role of IDEA as an organisation fully committed to stove promotion activities and its continuous involvement and the dedication of its project staff in carrying out project actitvities have being identified as major factors that contributed to the success.

Provision of credit for improved stove producers to be paid back by stoves is observed to be a novel and effective credit program. It is effective as they are forced to produce certain number of stoves for the repayment and encourages the producers to get engaged in ICS production. Also the repayment can be made in time as they need not wait till they sell the produce to repay by cash and in turn it ensures that the loan is effectively utilised for the given purpose.

In the absence of a national policy and a responsible organisation to take the responsibility and institutionalise stove development activities, the continuous involvement of a committed person or an organisation is necessary to play the role of the project developer, coordinate and link the different phases of the programme until its conclusion. In the case of Sri Lankan Programme continuous involvement of an individual who was able to influence and coordinate the linking up of the different phases without allowing the momentum to fade is observed to be a significant factor for the success in Sri Lanka.

MAPS (pdf file) showing:

More information:

INFORSE’s Manual’s Stove section: “Sustainable Energy Solutions to Reduce Poverty in South Asia”


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Solutions to provide energy access for all


· East Africa: Scaling up Access to Modern Energy Services

  · Kenya: Decentralizing Power Policy
  · Kenya: Afforestation for Charcoal
  · Mali: Jatropha Biofuel for Rural Electrification

· Mali: Productive Use of Energy

  · Mali: Solar Lighting Kits for Rural Areas
  · Uganda: Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy
  · India: Solar Dryer
  · India: Solar Lantern Charging Station
  · India: Household Biogas Plant
  · India: Micro-Agroecological Village Development Model
  · Nepal: Improved Water Mills
  · Nepal: Charging Centre for Solar Lamps
  · Sri Lanka: Commercialization of Improved Cookstoves
  · Sri Lanka: Standard Code for Domestic Biogas Systems
The cases were collected in the framework of the "Southern Voices on Climate Change" Project. Link: