BioLite Special Field Report: the HomeStove's Introduction in Laos

August 01, 2014

As a first step for exploring new markets for the HomeStove, BioLite conducts rigorous social acceptability trials to ensure that our products are meeting the needs of future customers.

Working with in-country partner SNV Netherlands, a leading international development organization that shares BioLite’s commitment to establishing sustainable and culturally tailored market-based approaches to poverty alleviation, BioLite’s Emerging Markets Program Manager Nick Salmons headed to the Laos countryside to introduce the HomeStove to 25 Laotian families - watch the video below.

In Laos, more than 90 percent of households still rely on biomass fuel like firewood and charcoal for daily meal preparation.  According to the 2013 Global Burden of Disease Study, household air pollution caused by burning these smoky fuels is the single leading risk factor for premature death in the country; hence, BioLite's interest in supplying our product to this market.

While on the ground, Nick saw firsthand how well-suited the stove is for Lao cooking practices and needs, a good indicator for its commercial viability. As far as fuel sources go, firewood was neatly bundled and for sale in abundance, both in the city as well as along the roads leading to the villages. In terms of use, Lao cooks took to the HomeStove’s modern design immediately, and had an easy time lighting it.  And while many of the homes visited were connected to the electrical grid, frequent brown-outs lasting up to half a day and the high cost of electricity meant that users were particularly excited about the HomeStove’s ability to charge electronic devices. Families took great enjoyment in plugging in their mobile phones, while husbands and sons emerged from their homes with what seemed to be a nearly ubiquitous household appliance – a rechargeable headlamp used at night to assist in catching frogs in the rice paddies.

Nick was lucky enough to sample the result of this nighttime bounty for lunch the next day – helping himself to seconds of an aromatic and incredibly tasty mushroom soup made with local herbs and the key ingredient: grilled frog.

Stay tuned for more updates from the field from the Emerging Markets team.



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