The grant will provide vital support to a number of high potential cookstove businesses in relation to technical capacity building, better product design and manufacturing practices and establish a seed fund for producers to invest in necessary expansion activities.

The Spark Fund is an initiative of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as part of their strategy to strengthen supply and enhance demand in the cookstove and fuels sector through innovation and tailored entrepreneurial capacity development.

According to the sponsor: “A global market for clean cooking solutions is necessary because 3 billion people still rely on solid fuels to cook each day that, when burned, cause a range of diseases, injuries, and ailments that claim 4 million lives annually. Household air pollution from cookstoves smoke is the fourth greatest health risk in the world.”
“The five winners have a strong track record of results in their respective countries and markets, and have demonstrated that they can leverage the Spark Fund to attract new partners and investors to advance their ongoing efforts to save and improve lives, enhance livelihoods, and protect the environment through clean cooking solutions,” said Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

The Spark Fund grant is co-funding a larger project, (CARE2) Capital Access for Renewable Energy Enterprises, funded by SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency). The aim is to scale up the production level of a number of small businesses and medium businesses (SMEs), from 7,500 improved cookstoves /year and 1000 kg of briquettes/month to at least 25,000 stoves/year and 6 tonnes of briquettes/month, by the end of 32 months.

One such entrepreneur to benefit from the grant is Joseph Muriuki, a producer of energy efficient cookstoves from Kiria, in rural Kenya. Joseph’s business has been supported by GVEP’s coaching and advisory services over the past five years. His business has especially benefited from participating market development events organised by GVEP, in which entrepreneurs and other stakeholders are invited to a local marketplace to engage in promotional activities and selling products. These events allow entrepreneurs to increase their sales, help find new customers and realise the potential of their marketing efforts. As a result, Joseph has experienced steady growth in sales with his cookstove enterprise, going from an average of US $ 491 per month in December 2011 to an average of US $1147 per month in December 2012.Joseph feels that his business has contributed to the community both economically and environmentally. “People spend on average 800 Kenyan Shillings (US $9) every three to four weeks on firewood to cook on the traditional the three stones. But they can cut the cost down to 300 Shillings every four to five weeks if they adopt an improved stove. “This is how I explain its efficiency to my customers”, says Joseph Muriuki.

As well as high potential SMEs, GVEP will also work with suppliers and retailers. “From experience we believe local producers can play a major role in supplying better performing stoves into the market at affordable prices. Currently the local industry is highly fragmented making it difficult to control quality and build a market for products which offer superior performance”, points out James Wakaba, GVEP’s Regional manager for Africa.