What you need to know:
About 90 percent of Ugandans rely on wood fuel for cooking with hundreds of trees cut down every day for firewood and charcoal. Rose Twine is providing a sustainable and economical solution through manufacturing eco stoves. Unlike charcoal, the eco stove rocks do not turn into ash. After cooking, you can use the same rocks to cook for two years
After high school, Rose Twine went to the United Kingdom for her university studies at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, where she graduated in Nursing and Midwifery.
Having worked as a nurse, she then decided to embark on a career in teaching because she felt work in the hospital wards had become monotonous. She would later upgrade and become a lecturer in the same field.
Another passion came calling. Along the way, she was inspired to come up Eco Stoves.
“I have always wanted to do things that are of great impact to people,” she says. “I never want to do one thing that serves one person. It is for the same reason, that I was in the medical profession - to add value to people. When I returned to Uganda in 2009, I wanted to do something that can greatly contribute to the community.”
Starting the business
Every entrepreneurial idea is birthed from the need to solve a problem. Twine was seeking to provide a solution to three major challenges. First, she wanted to create a more convenient cooking fuel for women in rural areas.
She shares that growing up in Rukungiri District, they used fire food for cooking and that in as much as it was not a bad thing, finding the firewood to cook, was problematic.
“In our village, trees were always cut down and land was cleared was for cultivation. We trekked long distances to collect firewood for cooking. Of course, we did not think much of it back then. That is all we knew,” she says.
Much later, she says, when you have something better to compare to, you realise how tedious and time-consuming of a task it was to cook.
“Secondly, I was also trying to look for a cost-friendly option. There is a woman here in Kampala, who makes about Shs10,000 per day, from their small business selling food stuffs, but must spend about Shs5,000 each day on charcoal, which is straining to the business,” she adds.
Having lived in the UK for a while, she became more aware of climate change. “Developed countries are very strict when it comes to protecting and conserving the environment. There is information on how many years a tree has been standing, how much carbon it absorbs and how much carbon you would end up emitting into the environment, if you cut down the tree,” Twine explains.
These are the reasons that pushed Twine to actualise the eco stoves idea.
Twine together with her partners and engineers in the UK, spent about three years doing research, before they could even think of fabricating their first stove.
“I was going into a totally new field and there was so much I did not know. From 2008 to 2010, we were doing research. I also enrolled for a course in renewable energy to find out what sustainable options were available,” she explains.
She says the team found out some options such as coal, but they zeroed in on rocks, because they were readily available, smoke- free and provided clean fuel.
Twine says the other two options required licenses to mine them. Yet rocks are already on the surface, in the rift valley in western Uganda. Also her choice of using rocks would not degrade the environment, as it would have been, with mining coal.
Once Twine felt she had the bare minimum of what it took to start, she started Eco Group, the manufacturers of Eco Rock Stove, here in Uganda.
She says that unlike charcoal, the eco stoves rocks do not turn into ash. After cooking, you can use the same rocks to cook the next day, for a period two years.
“Most of the research was done in Uganda, of course, because the product was meant to benefit Ugandans. We started small and my workshop was behind my home and for about five years we could not secure a loan from any bank,” she says.
Over years, the business has grown. Twine now has a factory sitting on four acres of land, with automated machinery. She has also moved from solely fabricating household stoves, to making a variety of commercial stoves.
“We have clients from government agencies to schools, households, restaurants and hotels,” Twine explains, adding that their biggest marketing tool has been network marketing; they use their clients to market their products.
She also uses social media corporate marketing and transit advertising, where they use vans exterior, as they move around Eco stoves.
How Eco stoves work
To light an Eco Stove, rocks are into the Sigiri, together with a few small pieces of charcoal Olusengente. Then using lighting sticks as you would with a normal charcoal stove, light up the charcoal which will burn and the heat is transferred to the stones.
The stove is supported by a solar-powered air system, that pushes air into the rocks, to drive combustion and keep them burning.
Once the stones are burning hot, there is no need to add any charcoal. The stoves have a heat regulator, which helps the user increase and decrease the heat based on their preferences.
Are Eco Stoves a better bargain?
One of the challenges Twine faces daily is getting people to believe that Eco Stoves are actually a cheaper option compared to traditional stoves.
While the initial upfront payment is considerably expensive, when you compare with charcoal stoves that have a running cost, you realise that Eco Stoves are a cheaper option in the long run.
For instance, a woman who spends about Shs3,000 on charcoal per day, ultimately spends Shs1,095,000 in a year. In two years, the amount she would spend on charcoal is equivalent to Shs2,190,000.
Yet, if she decides to part away with Shs450,000 to get a three -in-one Eco stove, with two year reusable rocks, she will no longer spend on charcoal daily.
Reason? The same rocks are used for cooking every day for two years. After two years, she will buy another pack of rocks for Shs70,000, which will be used for two more years.
“So that is about Shs600,000 in two years, even after factoring in tiny pieces of olusengente used in the lighting process. With an Eco stove, she will be saving a million, which she can invest in other lucrative ventures,” she says.
Her biggest challenge is that the more the business expands, the more capital she needs to it keep it going.
Twine hopes to expand the business. “I want to see every household with an eco-stove in Uganda. Every non-clean cooking kitchen should have an eco-stove,” she says.
She also wants to make the energy more user-friendly and affordable. She plans to negotiate with government to have some taxes reduced in order to lessen the cost of production.