My family and I are supporters of the Jacob’s Oven Project, which is a charity to help mothers and families in Africa become more self-reliant. It’s a very cool project and my wife and I are helping. We’ve donated an Oven and have called it “Preston”, the name of our adopted child. Also, any proceeds made on shmula.com go to support the Jacob’s Oven Project. Oh, and my wife will be going to Africa to train the the women on how to use the Ovens — pretty exciting.
Lean Enterprise in the Third World
There are some Lean concepts at play in this project. For example, when the African women purchase their ingredients, they often purchase in large batches to minimize on travel costs and to also take advantage of the volume discounts available with large-batch purchasing – somewhat of an innate Economic-Order-Quantity Model (EOQ). I wonder if there is a way around that, by purchasing more frequently, but in smaller batches; doing that might mean working closer with suppliers, geographically moving procurement closer to where the ingredients will be transformed into sale-able goods. I don’t know for sure, but I believe that there is spoilage that occurs with inventory that isn’t sold, which is wasteful. Couple all of this with cultural and political sensitivities. This is an exciting project that helps really people gain more self-reliance, and it’s an opportunity to test Lean concepts at the ground level.
I plan on learning more about the actual procurement, cooking, and selling process – basically, what it takes to get inventory to the selling stage. But, I believe that there’s an opportunity here to apply Lean in a way that can help a village and African Mothers become more self-reliant.
Below is some explanation on the Jacob’s Oven Project:
About Jacob’s Oven
Rebecca Bingham is the Director of Special Projects for Families Saving Orphans. Here is her account of how she first came to organize the Jacob’s Ovens Project which Families Saving Orphans is sponsoring and how it is benefiting mothers and families in Kenya:
The “oven project” was the idea of my good friend, Justus Suchi Obidah. He is the Kenyan country director of Reach the Children in Nairobi. He is also the religious leader of a congregation in Nairobi and he wanted to provide a way for women in his area to be able to earn a sustainable income to help their families.
The goal was to provide a charcoal burning oven for the women of the area (not just his church members) to use to make baked goods that they could then sell in the market. We discussed this project when I was in Nairobi in the summer of 2006 and I funded this first oven.
The women provide their own fuel and batter and the oven is housed in the church building where it can be locked up and protected. Many of them don’t have homes large enough to accommodate such a piece of equipment or the means to keep it safe even if they could afford to buy it. I love the fact that this project not only helps them become more self-sufficient, but more efficient when they do it. All any woman in the community has to do is sign up for a time to use the oven.
Suchi reports that it is in high demand and it has been running day and night since we got it installed. I call this the “Jacob’s Oven Project” because I bought the first one and named it in honor of my son, Jacob. This oven we put in Suchi’s church building is the prototype for how this project works in other places.
We want to build more. The total cost of the oven (including having it transported and set up) is $350 and if you buy one you can also “name” it if you want. The LDS Church has agreed to install the ovens in their permanent and secured church buildings. All the women of the area, not just members of the LDS congregation, will have access to it during the week, provided that they sign up for a time slot. We are also working on agreements with other organizations that can keep them secure and make them readily accessible.
This has proven to be a very successful and simple way to provide sustainable income opportunities for these women, and has had huge positive benefits for their families. Considering the benefits, these ovens are a great investment in providing self help opportunities.
We will provide a follow up report at least once a year to let sponsors know how this project is developing and who is using the oven.
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