By : Emily Eckert – Team Lead
It’s Week 3 and we’ve finished all of our interviews, videos, and product research. Now comes the best part . . . data entry and analysis! (To everyone who remembers DA classes at Thunderbird – no worries. No SPSS or Digital Tools was involved.) Even though we’ve just started the data entry process, we can already see some common trends among the responses.
Every evening, when we returned from long day in the villages, we would meet and compare notes. There is a very nice, little, glass room in the hotel restaurant that we take over for these meetings – and we are very grateful that the restaurant is open 24/7. During these debriefs, we go over the highlights of the interviews of that day and start bouncing ideas around about the analysis. Some of the information is quite number-driven, so that data will be processed later when we have time and a calculator that isn’t on our cell phones. But the more qualitative data is showing us that there is definite room for improvement.
To start, here’s a little background information on the technology. There are two products: water filters (Bening Sato) and biomass stoves (kompor biomass). The water filters are very similar to what I used in Madagascar during Peace Corps. Basically, it is made of two buckets, one on top of the other. In the top bucket is a ceramic “candle” which attaches to a small hole between the two buckets. You pour dirty water in the top, and several hours later you have clean water in the bottom. The demonstration of this process was quite impactful when using brown river water. The end product is crystal clear and clean water!
The biomass stove comes in two versions: square or round. The main difference between the two different shapes is that the round stove has a small opening to add more fuel as needed. Otherwise, they are the same size and work the same way. The neat thing about these stoves is that they are up to 80% fuel efficient, so you will use less fuel to cook the same amount of food than when using a traditional stove . In addition to wood, which is free for most people in the seven villages we are considering, you can also use coconut or palm shells and corn cobs. All of these fuel sources are usually free and easy to find. The stove also emits less smoke, so there is a health benefit as well.
So now that you have an idea of the technology, here are some of our very preliminary findings – i.e. things we observed during interviews but haven’t actually analyzed.
Overall, everyone likes the water filter. It’s easy to use and has a very visible impact on the water. Some small issues associated with the filter include not assembling correctly so that the dirty water leaked into the clean water. This is easily remedied by tightening the actual filter. Another issue was that the first time you use the filter you have to throw the water away – the first batch tastes horrible because it is meant to set the filter. This fact got slightly lost during the initial instructions and people were frequently drinking the dirty water. The biggest problem that we found was one of aesthetics. People think it looks cheap or like a food container. They want something more colorful and maybe made of glass instead of plastic, so basically no functional complaints.
The stove, unfortunately, has faced some harsher feedback. That one small difference between the square and round stove makes a huge difference to the users (this can sometimes be a training issue, but yet to be analyzed and more on that in a later blog). Most of the women do not like the fact that they can’t add more wood without taking the pot or pan off the stove and interrupting the cooking process. Also, the wood has to be chopped up into a smaller size to fit in the stove. This adds extra preparation time to cooking or adds a daily chore for the husband or children to keep a stockpile of chopped wood. But overall, the women have noticed that they are using less fuel and there is less smoke compared to their traditional stoves.
The one piece of feedback that is common to both products is size. And this is a never-ending debate. For large families and women who use the filter or stove in a business, they want them to be larger for more capacity. For smaller families who don’t use the product in a business, they argue that the size is perfect. On my last day of interviews, the last two women I met with represented each of these opposing sides. At the last house, the wife took us to her kitchen to show us her stove and stockpile of chopped wood. In comes the husband from an earlier interview and within moments a friendly debate had started about the best size for the stove.
On a more positive note, thanks to some number crunching and these interviews, there have definitely been savings in energy, time, and money thanks to both these technology products. The degree is yet to be seen, but it is promising to see the local community so invested in this new technology and eager to provide feedback!