Unilever and Acumen Announce Investment to Bring Cleaner, More Affordable Cook Stoves to Smallholder Farmers and Plantation Workers in East Africa

Monday, December 21, 2015

Acumen and Unilever announced today they will invest nearly $800,000 to enable BURN Manufacturing to bring its new low-cost, energy-efficient, wood-burning cook stove, the Kuniokoa, to smallholder and plantation workers in tea estates in Kenya and Tanzania.

This is the first investment of theEnhancing Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII), a partnership between Unilever, Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP) that aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The investment will allow BURN Manufacturing to provide cleaner and more efficient wood-burning stoves to rural communities. The project will initially focus on Kenya and work with Unilever and its supply chain partners to identify and support smallholder and plantation workers in Unilever tea estates.

  • More than 2.6 billion people around the globe do not have access to clean cooking facilities to meet their daily needs.
  • Ninety percent of smallholder famers cook in open wood-burning fires (e.g. the “three-stone fire”), leading to serious health and environmental problems.
  • Farmers can spend five to ten hours per week collecting firewood and up to a third of their income purchasing fuel.
  • 50 percent of the destruction of Africa’s forests is due to collection of firewood or wood for charcoal production. Efficiently designed cook stoves require up to 60 percent less fuel and emit less CO2 into the air.
  • BURN’s collaboration with the ELII partnership aims to improve health and wellbeing of smallholder farmers by providing a wood-burning cook stove that is both clean and affordable.

Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen, said, “Our vision for this partnership has always been to show how global corporations, social enterprises, investors and farmers can be part of a shared effort to make markets more sustainable, more just, and better for people. We are proud that the first investment under the ELII will have such a tremendous impact for smallholder farmers and the environment.”

Peter Scott, CEO of BURN, said, “Expanding into other product lines has always been part of our strategic plan, but doing so now in partnership with Unilever will allow us to reach a critical market of smallholder farmers and plantation workers that can truly benefit from this product innovation.”

Acumen previously invested in BURN in February 2015 to support the expansion of its production of charcoal-burning cook stoves. BURN now has sales of more than 10,000 stoves per month, making the company’s current Jikokoa cook stove the top selling cook stove in Kenya. The Jikokoa reduces fuel consumption by 56 percent, fuel costs by $100-200/year and emissions by 60 to 65 percent, making it the first commercially successful “Tier 4” cook stove project in the world. These stoves will also help combat deforestation and pave the way for further innovations in fuel efficiency for low-income communities.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said, “By 2020 Unilever wants to have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people across our entire supply chain. This first investment into BURN´s newly developed wood burning stove contributes to this target, helping to improve the livelihoods of smallholders, particularly women. This innovative stove reduces women´s exposure to cooking smoke and helps them to save time and money on fuel collection. Considering that women reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families this will have a ripple effect creating a brighter future for entire farmer communities.”

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)

clean cooking, smallholder farmers, social enterprise