Commodities has two goals: to generate income for Nuru Kenya, and to support the work of the Health Program. The latter is more important than the former. The reason for this is the way in which our Health Program is structured, with the focus on teaching people to practice healthy behaviors. Commodities helps to make this happen by selling products that go hand-in-hand with the messaging.
For example, our Health team teaches people about the dangers of malaria and how to prevent getting infected. The team then sell mosquito nets. Similarly, our staff also teaches people about the dangers of water-borne diseases, then sell soaps and water purification products. By providing information, and then the products that will help people to become healthier, we believe that we can encourage and assist families to reduce incidences of illness, and even death.
This approach borrows from a methodology called variously as Targeted Health Communication, Tailored Health Communication, and Tailored Informational Intervention, all of which research has shown can be effective (though always) in helping people to change their health behaviors.
The products themselves are low-cost. Here is the list of some of the products, their uses, and unit prices (in US dollars) that we offer:
Soap Hand-washing $0.06
Moringa powder Nutritional supplement $0.90
WaterGuard Water purification $0.25
Mosquito net Malaria prevention $1.22
Sanitary pads Female hygiene $0.12
Our current sales strategy is to have Health and WatSan staff sell the products during their home-visits. This strategy aligns well with the objectives of these two programs. Financially, the strategy has a low operating cost, since salaries are already paid by the programs, and marketing is done via the health or water-sanitation messaging given by the sales teams.
These two financial factors are important, since Commodities is a low-volume, low-revenue business, particularly given that the rural population in the district where we work is about 70,000 people total. Although we are expanding annually to eventually cover the entire district, the fact remains that where we are the rural population size is relatively low compared to other parts of Kenya.
Finally, there has been some discussion about the future direction of Commodities – whether we should focus on selling only health and watsan-related products, or should we sell any type of household items that can generate more income for the organization. At the moment, we believe we should stick only to products that will aid our health and water-sanitation programs to reach their objectives.
That is all for this blog. In the next blog, I am thinking to talk more about the challenges of having a holistic social-enterprise, and what steps we are taking to try to reach financial sustainability. If you recall from the first blog, Nuru aims to eventually self-fund all its programs and other costs. That is not an easy thing to do.