What Makes People Cook with Improved Biomass Stoves? A Comparative International Review of Stove Programs

This report summarizes a large-scale evaluation of improved-stove programs funded by the United Nations Development Programme, managed by the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), and conducted by East-West Center and ESMAP staff. ESMAP will issue a report accompanied by case studies in the near future.

This comprehensive review of the successes and failures of stove programs provides a case in point: no matter how efficient or cheap the stove, individual households have proved reluctant to adopt it if it is difficult to install and maintain or less convenient and less adaptable to local preferences than its traditional counterpart. On the other hand, households have been most receptive when the dissemination process takes full account of the capacities and needs of local stove producers and consumers. The review thus adds weight to a conclusion we have made repeatedly in our work: technical improvements in efficiency must be complemented by appropriate project design and implementation, perceptibly superior services, and proper institutional support, if they are truly to take root.

The review also shows that the best stove programs yield economic as well as environmental and social benefits. For example, in urban areas, where most people purchase woodfuels, the payback time of an improved stove in fuel savings for consumers is sometimes only a few months; because the stoves last considerably longer, cash flow is improved for people even if they cannot not yet make the transition to modern fuels. Likewise, in rural areas, more efficient stoves can reduce the time spent collecting fuel for cooking, freeing time for child care and income-producing activities. Of course, biomass stove programs are not the only answer to energy efficiency problems in developing countries: benefits of other energy efficiency programs will be treated in later technical papers.

Douglas F. Barnes
Keith Openshaw
Kirk R. Smith
Robert van der Plas
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