Skip to content

Unilever and Acumen announce investment to bring cleaner, more affordable cook stoves to smallholder farmers and plantation workers in East Africa


Average read time: 5 minutes

BURN Manufacturing to receive USD $800,000 as the first recipient of the Enhancing Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII) partnership to support smallholder farmers and plantation workers

Unilever logo building

December 16, 2015 (New York, NY) – Acumen and Unilever announced today they will invest nearly US$800,000 to enable BURN Manufacturing to bring their new low-cost, energy efficient wood-burning cook stove, the Kuniokoa™, to smallholder and plantation workers in tea estates in Kenya and Tanzania.

This is the first investment of the Enhancing Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII), a partnership between Unilever, Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP) which aims to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The investment will allow BURN Manufacturing to provide cleaner and more efficient wood-burning stoves to rural communities. The project will initially focus on Kenya and work with Unilever and its supply chain partners to identify and support smallholder and plantation workers in Unilever tea estates.

  • More than 2.6 billion people around the globe do not have access to clean cooking facilities to meet their daily needs.
  • Ninety percent of smallholder famers cook in open wood-burning fires (e.g. the “three-stone fire”), leading to serious health and environmental problems.
  • Farmers can spend five to ten hours per week collecting firewood and up to a third of their income purchasing fuel.
  • 50 percent of the destruction of Africa's forests is due to collection of firewood or wood for charcoal production. Efficiently designed cook stoves require up to 60 percent less fuel and emit less CO2 into the air.
  • BURN’s collaboration with the ELII partnership aims to improve health and wellbeing of smallholder farmers by providing a wood-burning cook stove that’s both clean and affordable.

Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen said; “Our vision for this partnership has always been to show how global corporations, social enterprises, investors and farmers can be part of a shared effort to make markets more sustainable, more just, and better for people. We are proud that the first investment under the ELII will have such a tremendous impact for smallholder farmers and the environment.”

Peter Scott, CEO of BURN, said; “Expanding into other product lines has always been part of our strategic plan, but doing so now in partnership with Unilever will allow us to reach a critical market of smallholder farmers and plantation workers that can truly benefit from this product innovation.”

Acumen previously invested in BURN in February 2015 to support the expansion of their production of charcoal-burning cook stoves. BURN now has sales of more than 10,000 stoves per month, making the company’s current Jikokoa™ cook stove the top selling cook stove in Kenya. The Jikokoa reduces fuel consumption by 56 percent, fuel costs by $100-200/year and emissions by 60 to 65 percent, making it the first commercially successful “Tier 4” cook stove project in the world. These stoves will also help combat deforestation and pave the way for further innovations in fuel efficiency for low-income communities.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever said; “By 2020 Unilever wants to have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people across our entire supply chain. This first investment into BURN´s newly developed wood burning stove contributes to this target, helping to improve the livelihoods of smallholders, particularly women. This innovative stove reduces women´s exposure to cooking smoke and helps them to save time and money on fuel collection. Considering that women reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families this will have a ripple effect creating a brighter future for entire farmer communities.”

About ELII

In February 2015, Unilever, Acumen, and CGEP launched the Enhancing Livelihoods Investment Initiative (ELII) with a three-year, minimum commitment of USD $10M to improve as many as 300,000 smallholder farmers and their communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. ELII seeks to catalyze economic growth and alleviate poverty amongst low-income communities in the developing world, while creating more inclusive and sustainable value chains. The program’s objective is to dramatically increase the depth and breadth of positive social impacts on livelihoods of low-income communities by scaling sustainable businesses and linking agricultural enterprises to global supply chains.

About Acumen

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives.

Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $88 million in 82 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills and determination to create a more inclusive world. This year, Acumen was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Companies. Learn more at and on Twitter @Acumen.

About Burn Manufacturing Co.

BURN designs and manufactures cook stoves in order to save lives and forests in the developing world. Under the leadership of Peter Scott, BURN is a leader in the cook stove industry and was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010, the company has grown to become the leading clean cook stove manufacturing and distributing company in Kenya.

BURN has established sub-Saharan Africa’s first and only modern cook stove manufacturing facility, employing more than 100 Kenyans, to produce its stoves locally in Nairobi and catalyze Kenya’s economy. In addition to Acumen’s investment, BURN is the first cook stove company to receive investments from Acumen, the United States government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and General Electric (GE). BURN conducts R&D from its and headquarters in Washington State and conducts manufacturing sales and marketing in Kenya and East Africa. Learn more at

Sabrina Dupré, Acumen
Tel: +1 (646) 747-3964

Peter Scott, BURN Manufacturing
Tel: + 1 (435) 513 2408

Back to top