Notes from the Field: Creating a Clean Cookstove Market in Port-au-Prince

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Jean Marie Gabriel holds a traditional Haitian charcoal bucket, which is very inefficient and expensive to cook with, costing families a considerable amount of money on fuel expenditures.

With more than 15 vendors recruited to sell the Zanmi Pye Bwa (ZPB) Cookstove at different points throughout the Port-au-Prince, Trees, Water & People’s Haiti Program Manager, Jean-Marie Gabriel, has taken to the TWP cookstove program like a fish to water.  This is only moderately surprising – he grew up in Port-au-Prince, and his 10 years in the U.S. have not allowed him to forget the ins and outs of this vast, urban labrynth.  His strategy is methodical: identify popular retailers of common goods in high-traffic sectors of the city, build a relationship, show them the product, and invite them to be trained at TWP’s Port-au-Prince office.

The Zanmi Pye Bwa cookstoves are sold throughout Port-au-Prince.

Most accept.  Once there, the group of vendors is shown an educational presentation about deforestation, the impact of excessive charcoal use on a family’s budget and the environment, and how the Zanmi Pye Bwa can help to alleviate these impacts.  Features and benefits of the stove are highlighted, and the vendors are prodded to come up with sales tactics – an innovative, interactive challenge that leads to role-play, laughter, and confidence that the ZPB cookstove has value that others do not.

The Zanmi Pye Bwa pays for itself in a matter of six weeks, and then saves users hundreds of dollars in its first year of use.  Apart from that, it provides a healthy profit margin and a new source of income to vendors who typically only make a few dollars a day.  The first batch of 10 stoves is given on consignment, but almost all have come back for more with a handful of cash – half to pay off the first batch, and half to purchase new stock.

Single-burner Zanmi Pye Bwa clean cookstoves are unloaded at a vendor location in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

To keep the venture as sustainable as possible, we focus on keeping retail prices high enough to cover materials costs of the stove, and fundraising to pay for the labor required to produce more.  This strategy leads us to work with only the most motivated vendors who are willing to learn, develop their sales skills, and stand behind a product that will cost their customers 5 times more than the less-efficient local alternative, but which will deliver previously unimaginable savings to families that depend on charcoal daily to feed their families.

Please join us in fueling this growing program, and creating a better future for the charcoal-dependent families of Haiti’s urban areas.

To learn more about Haiti Clean Cookstove Program and to make a donation please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org.

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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