Haiti has 2% of forest left. One explanation, is the use of wood charcoal as main cooking energy. Despite the problems (burden for women, deforestation, health problems), households can't afford to purchase a propane kit to quit charcoal. SWITCH provides them with innovative financing mechanisms and uses the Diaspora remittances to convert them.
More than 2 million households, and small businesses in Haiti, still rely on wood charcoal to cook. The socioeconomic cost is enormous: exposure to indoor air pollution causes premature deaths of children and respiratory diseases among women forced to cook indoor. It also entails a waste of productive time and energy and, the use of charcoal has a direct and negative impact on the environment, IT ALSO COSTS MORE. Demand for biomass encourages deforestation (30 Million trees cut per year). Most studies have proven that for now, switching to LPG may be the single best solution to reverse, or at least slow down, this environmental disaster. Many barriers impede the conversion to LPG: Purchasing power (76% living with less than dollars 2 a day), No credit mechanism to purchase stove and tank, Availability (a complete kit , was never offered), Weak distribution network to exchange bottles . SWITCH put together a Manufacture to assemble the stoves in country and offers a completes kit to reduce costs (LPG tank included). Our project is divided is 4 segments, 1) the conversion of food street vendors through a credit mechanism and training. 2) The conversion of schools kitchens in partnership with World Central Kitchen. 3)The Diaspora program, which allows, through our platform, a diaspora member to send through a targeted remittance a propane kit to a family member in Haiti and finally 4) the corporate backed lending program, allowing workers to pay their kit with 12 installments.
The beneficiaries are the 759 food street vendors already converted, and the potential 2000 to be converted. The students of the 27 converted schools (potential 500), the potential 100,000 households targeted in the first phase. For households, the switch to LPG represents 175$ savings per year.
In the past 9 months, we visited 3,600 street vendors, 725 converted to LPG. They received their kits and training. The corporate backed lending will be launched in March and will target 10,000 workers for the first phase. A MOU has already been signed with the national bank to provide the credit portfolio.Through a program with USAID, 750 households have been converted to LPG, another 900, in poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, they all received training. Most of these families do not earn more than 2$/day, hence the 15 gdes saving per day, will make a significant difference in their lives and allow them to allocate that money differently (MDG 1). Studies have shown that 30 millions trees are cut every year for an average of 15 trees per household. By allowing these households to change their cooking energy there is an impact on the environment (MDG 7). Another impact is on the respiratory diseases causes by indoor smoke that cause thousand of children's deaths every year (MDG 4).
We have partnerships, with a Canadian LPG company, WLPGA, WCK and USAID. Transfer of technology from partners should strengthen our skills to carry out the operations. Financially, LPG penetration in Haiti is less than 5%, and with the environmental pressure, the conversion has to happen. The market is 2 millions households. Aside from the kit’s sales we have ensure a wholesale price with petroleum companies for the refills done through our diaspora platform, which guarantees recurrent revenues.
We have learnt that guaranteeing credit, managing our stock, and ensure availability nationwide are our main challenges. Most of the 3600 street vendors wanted to switch, they just couldn't because of lack of credit. It is the same for households who see the conversion as positive and as a move up the social ladder. We have learned that recurrent training is necessary so that security measures are respected in POS. The Diaspora component although the most promising has been the most difficult to put in place due to the necessity of having an important stock in place before the campaign is launched. We've learned that for the first phase, assembly is better than manufacturing from scratch.
Our model is the result of long research. The stove was conceived to meet Haitian cultural requirements. The integration of the Diaspora for financing financing but also to sensitize their family has never been experimented outside of the individual realm. In the countries where the government can’t subsidize the conversion, innovative solutions have to be found. The school conversions implemented with World Central kitchen coupled with hygiene courses can be replicated nationwide. Our project is a set of integrated and complementary operations forming a system: marketing and advertising, motivational campaign, extensive network, assembly of kits, strategic partnerships. Actors can join the network delivery and distribution, the maintenance, repair and filling. The awareness will create pressure on the demand. There is an opportunity for other manufacturers to open their doors to meet the demand for stoves. The SWITCH model can serve for countries facing similar problems.
Gender empowerment is one of the pillar of our model. Most street vendors are women and have been able to extend their business through that conversion. Women cooking at home are also able to free some time for other income generating activities. The manufacture component, added several months after the launch of the project, allows us to create jobs while contributing to the preservation of the environment, the empowerment of women and the improvement of the living conditions of haitian households. We currently have three commercial models (for street vendors) one, tow and three burners, as well as two models for households, one imported and one conceived and assembled by us. We have 100, 50, 20 and 13 pounds propane tanks to fit all needs.
We also received a grant from USAID for the manufacture
SWITCH SA (Private sector)