This project takes a market-based approach to introducing efficient cook stoves in a country where they are currently unavailable. Stoves for Myanmar involves selling imported, high-quality, efficient cook stoves to smallholder farmers affected by climate change. The project will alleviate pressures of extracting wood from forests, while saving rural Myanmarese farmer’s money, and leaving kitchens cleaner and healthier.
Most families in Myanmar’s rural communities cook by burning wood on open fires. As a result, Myanmar has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Forest loss is causing climate change that is affecting smallholder farmers. Likewise harmful fumes from cooking on open fires precipitate premature deaths among women and children.
There are multiple barriers to large-scale distribution of efficient cook stoves in Myanmar. With most cook stove distribution programs that have failed in the past, stoves were given away for free, leaving no incentive to develop a supply chain and market for these products. A lack of skills and poor quality standards is another barrier, as locally produced cook stoves tend to break easily. Local production can also only be done on a small scale.
The Stoves for Myanmar project brings clean and efficient cook stoves to the people of Myanmar. Cook stoves are being imported from the trusted Envirofit brand to assure quality. They will be sold under flexible payment plans adapted to local needs and farming seasons, which addresses the finance barrier. The distribution strategy includes a trial period and a return policy to guarantee customer satisfaction. Since villagers will have to pay for the stoves, they will feel more empowered to use and take care of them.
The initiative also includes a component where carbon credits will be sold. This allows for the subsidized distribution of the cook stove, training of local vendors, awareness-raising, and below-the-line marketing activities.
Helping the planet
The project started as a pilot in Pyawbwe Township in the heart of Myanmar. This is a particularly ecologically sensitive area known as the “dry zone,” which recently experienced a devastating dry spell when rains arrived late. Arid habitats are far more sensitive to extractive pressures, and overutilization of natural resources in such zones can lead to a vicious cycle of environmental degradation and desertification.
Preventing tree-cutting here will allow the ecosystem to rejuvenate, stopping this cycle and assuring future existence of these resources. Leaving trees standing also prevents further emission of greenhouse gases, averting further climate change.
Another important target zone for implementation would be the delta region, where 80 per cent of mangrove swamp has been lost due to charcoal production and wood-cutting. Cyclones have become more destructive without these mangrove forests, which serve as wind- and wave-breakers. Halting their further loss will also prevent environmental damage associated with heavy storms.
Using the new cook stoves will reduce respiratory diseases caused by household air pollution – which has become the top cause of premature death in South Asia. Families will also save money and time. Energy access is increased, while preserving the micro-climate on which smallholder farmers depend, boosts food security. Coastal Myanmarese residents would benefit from reducing the amount of potential property damage and loss of life caused by cyclones.
Designing the project so that it can generate income attracts private finance, including for startup capital. Achieving market success will attract further capital, allowing the project to grow. With about 9 million rural households and a significant proportion of the urban population also relying on wood or charcoal for cooking, there is considerable opportunity for growth. The institutional sector – with its monasteries, schools, tea houses, and restaurants as well as street vendors – also represents a large potential market for efficient cook stoves.
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