Towards an independent and stronger improved-cookstove industry association

Sun swears that her life has changed since joining the Improved Cookstove Producers and Distributors Association of Cambodia (ICoProDAC) in 2004, just a year after the business association was established. Traditionally a farmer, Sun joined the improved cookstove business as a Neang Kongrey stove (NKS) producer, and has been producing some 500 to 600 stoves since to cater to a high demand among the rural population.

She gives credit to GERES’ business development assistance and efforts to market and promote improved cookstoves for the initial success of her business, while acknowledging that the quality of the product itself was what has sustained it.

 

Sun, a Neang Kongrey stove producer from Kampong Chhnang province, is pleased that her and her family’s quality of life has been so much better since joining the business in 2004.

And as member of the Quality Control Committee of ICoProDAC, it is this quality that she hopes could be maintained by all the business association’s existing 316 rural entrepreneur members,and as well as its future members.

To help the ICoProDAC maintain the quality that consumers demand, GERES designed a cost-effective and simplified quality control process for ICoProDAC to be able to monitor quality using a streamlined, virtual and cloud-based platform, which is intended to lower monitoring costs for ICoProDAC in the long term, as well as minimize the risk of human error.

This and other recommendations were arrived at by GERES after conducting a business and economic analysis of ICoProDAC with support from the blue moon fund in 2014. Aiming to guide ICoProDAC towards increased capacity, independence and sustainability, the set of recommendations aims to sustain and grow the improved cookstove industry which has so far contributed over USD11 million added value to the Cambodian economy, and more than 500 jobs among the rural population, since 2003.

“From a quality of life that rated, perhaps, from 0-1 before I started producing NKS, I can say that the quality of my and my family’s life is now at 7-8,” Sun says, obviously very pleased about how her life has turned around since becoming an improved cookstove entrepreneur.

Sun is one of the 232 women producer/production worker/retailer that currently take part in this business which many consider to be a viable home-based job/community-based enterprise. Between Sun and the rest of the 113 improved cookstove producers and 203 distributors or wholesalers, an average of 60,000 New Lao and Neang Kongrey stoves per month (as of December 2014) are sold in the market.

The improved cookstove sector has so far contributed more than USD11million added value, and over 500 jobs, to the Cambodia economy.

Take a look at GERES’ recommendations to support ICoProDAC’s sustainability, and get in touch with us if you find yourself or your organization to be willing and able to contribute towards making these recommendations a reality.

Since its founding in 2009, the ICoProDAC’s Economic Pillar has been helping improved cookstove businesses by providing loans to ICoProDAC members at very affordable rates. A credit union, separate from the ICoProDAC, is envisioned to respond to members’ financing needs in a tailored and more convenient manner.
  • Access to affordable finance through the creation of the ICoProDAC Credit Union (ICU). The ICU will incorporate the research findings regarding the business models of producers and distributors and the highlighted needs for credit facilities for their respective businesses to establish innovative, affordable and tailored credit facilities for these members.
  • Mobile money and micro-insurance partnerships, for example, with existing mobile money providers (e.g. Wing Cambodia). Through this platform, operational costs for ICU will be reduced while members will have immediate access to their funds in a secured and transparent manner. The ICU will extend health, funeral and life micro-insurance services to the employees of micro-entrepreneurs to ensure that high-performing employees are incentivized and rewarded for their efforts, allowing micro-enterprises to improve labor retention rates and save costs therein. Successful launch of these partnerships marks the first of their kind in the improved cookstove supply chain in Cambodia.
  • Provision of services to members by acting as wholesale buyer/supplier of ICS inputs, e.g. aluminum sheeting required to form the metal bucket component of the stove. By doing so, ICoProDAC will help lower production costs for producers, and will create an income-generating activity for the association.
  • Operationalize a simplified quality control and monitoring system which GERES had designed to enable ICoProDAC to perform quality monitoring involving a streamlined, virtual, cloud-based platform.
  • Strengthen ICoProDAC’s governance, branding image and fundraising capacity. Within Cambodia and regionally, it is envisioned that ICoProDAC, once successfully spun-off from GERES, will become a relevant, major player in the ICS sector representing the entire ICS supply chain, and serving as a paradigm for other associations both locally and regionally. In order to do so effectively, ICoProDAC’s executive leadership will need to put in place a strong governance structure to guide the interactions among existing and newly entering actors in the ICS supply chain. ICoProDAC will also need to establish a brand image that portrays the association as a business-minded actor with capacity to advocate on behalf of members’ needs, interact with external stakeholders and solicit funding.
A streamlined, cloud platform-based monitoring system will make quality control easier for ICoProDAC.

Read more: Facilitating and promoting sustainable cooking practices in Cambodia (GERES)