When the Student Becomes the Teacher, Part II February 20 2015

Sustainable User Uptake Program (SUUP), Part II

Story & Photos by Maureen Mumo

As a continuation to the series, "When the Student Becomes the Teacher," we continue to look at the impact EcoZoom is making in peoples' lives. SUUP is a program designed to ensure that once someone gets an improved cookstove they keep using it throughout its life to its maximum benefit. Part of this program is the monitoring and evaluation which entails customer follow up and impact assessment.

On this day, I headed out to meet customers from Kitui. Kitui is the capital and largest town in Kitui County (a county in the former Eastern province of Kenya). I mostly interacted with women who had purchased and are using a stove. Enthusiastic, keen, excited and jovial are some of the words I can use to describe them. They talked of the transformation in their lives with lots of delight. They described the emotion they had when they first used the stove as utter shock and disbelief. They were thrilled to confirm all the information they were told during the sales pitch as the truth. The majority of the women cook with the stove twice a day: morning and evening. Each of them put the stove on their own individualized test by cooking their favorite meals on them.

One such customer, Susan Kinyungu, was impressed with the stove especially because she could cook muthokoi (maize without husks; a dish among the Kamba community from the Eastern part of Kenya).  Another, Winrose Samuel, explained that she particularly enjoys cooking chapatis, her family's favorite. The stove had to pass the family's approval first. She said that the first meal she cooked on the stove was chapatis. The stove quickly became the crown jewel of her household. The women enumerated various other benefits they've minted from the stoves.

Customers & Sales Agents alike appreciate the benefits of the Zoom Jet stove

Other than the end users, I also got the opportunity to talk to sales agents. Carol Mutolo, runs a kiosk in Kitui (pictured botttom left). She explained the transformation in her life as follows: "My business has great visibility. I was looking to increase my income and EcoZoom gave me that opportunity. My customers both young and old are intrigued by my new offer. I was recently called by one of my customers to speak to a group of women about the benefits of the new stove. Men are also taken aback by the stove. Two of my last customers were men and the response from them was very positive. They are like my own personal ambassadors. They like the fact that their fuel expenditure has drastically reduced."

There was an interesting divide in the aspect of transformation that was most valued to the men and women. To the men, reduction on fuel expenditure was the most valued aspect, whereas women talked of an improvement in health and efficiency in cooking. Those differences aside, the general consensus among them was that the stoves were described as being the single greatest investment of their life this year.

We got very helpful feedback on how to improve our stove so as to better serve the end user. The end users were appreciative of the fact that they are getting value for every cent they spent on purchasing the stove. They were all pleased that they are enjoying the benefits of the stoves.