LivelyHoods changing lives with BURN’s lifesaving cookstoves

LivelyHoods changing lives with BURN’s lifesaving cookstoves

By Nimo Nyambura

Urbanization, rising crime rates, and the rise of gated homes – communities in Kenya are no longer as close knit as they were in the 90s where being neigbourly, and welcoming the stranger knocking on your door was the norm.

But LivelyHoods, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Kenya, believes in ‘door to door’ marketing as a way of opening up homes to clean energy products through its sales agent who are mainly drawn from Kenyan slums.

In fact, since partnering with BURN in 2013, LivelyHoods has in the last three years alone sold over 9,600 jikokoa cookstoves earning their ‘door to door’ sales agents more than $57,600 in wages, said Claire Baker, LivelyHoods Director of Development.

However, the dynamics of the Kenyan society make it difficult for this type of door to door marketing strategy. So how is LivelyHoods able to convince Kenyans to open the doors to their homes?

“Our induction is a continuous program that involves training our sales agents on presentation, pitching, identifying prospects, and engaging in polite and friendly conversation in order to first establish a relationship with the customer and make them feel at ease enough to open the door of their home,” explained Ms. Baker.

“The ‘door-to-door’ model represents how LivelyHoods sales agents bring products directly to the customer, to their home, their work, or the street where they walk in between their work and their home” – a strategy they have embraced fully said Ms. Baker.

But it’s not just ‘door to door’ marketing. LivelyHoods also targets busy markets, institutions, schools, savings and table banking groups (chamas), and even bus stops where people congregate where it tries to introduce cleaner and better ways of cooking food on a jiko.

One of the reasons why LivelyHoods has been so successful is because it draws its pool of sales agents from young people in Kenyan slums – who make up a majority of unemployed youth in Kenya where current unemployment rates are at an all-time high. “By targeting the youth, LivelyHoods seeks to leverage their sales skills – learnt by selling everything from mangoes to soap in the slums – coupled with ambition and knowledge of their community to offer them a life of financial independence and personal success by selling environmentally friendly and socially transformative products in their communities, “said Ms. Baker. These youths are well placed to sell in an informal settlement, as they know the area well and can identify and easily empathize with the people.

Investing in young people and women is the driving force behind LivelyHoods goal of providing employment opportunities and life-changing products to communities. This investment in young people and women also brings benefits directly back to the members of that local community.

New sales agents each get a consignment of life-changing clean energy products, which they then market door-to-door in the 10 communities across Nairobi, Kiambu and Mombasa County that LivelyHoods targets, making a commission from each sale.

“The partnership with BURN has seen LivelyHoods impact the lives of approximately 42,240 people across Kenya, saving them a total of well over $5,520,000 in fuel costs, and preventing harmful emissions that cause health issues, especially amongst women and children,” said Ms. Baker.

Indeed, the World Health Organization 2012 report, states that about 4.3 million people die each year from exposure to indoor air pollution caused by cooking on open fires or rudimentary stoves in poorly ventilated rooms, with women and girls most affected as they are tasked with household cooking.

For LivelyHoods, investing in women has paid off. Most of their top sellers are women who are better able to understand the position of women in their community, and provide targeted advice and information around clean cooking

Over the next few years, LivelyHoods plans to make sustainable, life-changing products available to every low-income household in every informal settlement across Kenya. It will do this by expanding training and distribution centers across the country, and employing thousands more youth and women as sales agents.

This year LivelyHoods  is set to launch an innovative installment payment plan system that allows low-income consumers to purchase a clean cookstove in small, manageable installments through mobile money.

The future is bright for LivelyHoods and we at BURN are fully committed to helping them to reach their long-term goals to provide access to life saving stoves in these low income communities.

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