[Stoves] Desires and drudgery (Re: Sujoy)
miata98 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 27 16:19:20 MDT 2016
Moderator: I changed the subject line.
What a delightful post, a reality check and a bold question - "What use is
a stove that has the best possible performance ratings but nobody wants to
buy it ."
I am afraid the answer is, "It is worth donors' attention, an excuse to
repeat decades-long errors and still complain that more efficient biomass
cooking, while saving trees, lives, and the climate, gets no respect from
Thank you, also, for uttering the D words - drudgery and desirability.
Desires have no place in science. Because there are yet no metrics and
measurement protocols.(Of course, they can be cooked up by expert
Scientists of biomass stoves - mostly men - have no interest in desires of
Or for that matter their own. All they care about is input-output
calculations. As do most economists, but they give a nod to "preferences",
Cooking is about tastes - in other words, desires and choices; not just
foods, also the company. Have nothing to do with fuel efficiency and
We have outsourced thinking to USEPA, whose obsession is with boiling
water. Heat and humidity are, after all, consequences of climate change.
Then there are bureaucrats and scholars, whose market is in poverty and
gender. Cooking lab test results and predictions of actual use,
computations of trees or lives saved.
The poor are preyed upon. Women are preyed upon. When it comes to biomass
cooking inside households, poor women are doubly preyed upon. There is a
high FGF - Feel Good Factor - in claiming to save the environment and poor
I don't know what you think of pictures of women and children in front of
their stoves, smokey or not. They are advertisements of poverty, but the
real poverty alleviated is that of consultants like me or researchers,
advocates, and speech-givers at multi-billion dollar contractors fronting
as charity foundations.
Built on a myth of a poor woman with children, sitting in front of an open
fire in a closed room. Poverty pornography. Instead of breasts, we now make
money off lungs.
Is home cooking by the poorest even a solvable problem, when, as you say,
"While there was a pattern in the type of fuel being scavenged, the problem
was with the quantity. Meals had to be planned on the type and quantity of
the fuel collected. These cooks needed a stove that could use multiple
fuels and be as clean as possible- a stove that rid them of the drudgery of
cooking. Obviously none of the cookstoves then matched upto the need of
cooks in the slums."?
Need? Cooks' need? What an outrageous idea!
Drudgery is not a property of a stove, but of the whole system of cooking.
We simplify, rubbish reality, reduce cooks to a survey item, ignore that
cooking is a system of food, fuel, stove, cook, at requisite times and in a
limited period, with least cost and drudgery. Why don't we have the
courage to admit a stove is not a pill, a stove is not an answer, without
taking into account the dwelling, the investment in fuel and food,
utensils, and above all, budget constraints and preferences for allocating
time and money?
What is wrong with us? I can't think of any other area of poor people's
lives - mobility, shelter, health - where a little cottage industry of
zealots has been sustained so long on the flimsiest justification.
Not that I have given up all hope. The drudgery is still there, and
I think "sufficiently efficient" has always been recognized, now in the
form of assigning Tiers."Sufficiently clean" is also recognized, just that
under this ridiculous equation of emission rates to loads, concentrations,
exposures, and health damage, we are pretending to have the knowledge to
determine "how clean".
But convenience, control, preferences, choices are ignored. We play fiddle
while fires burn on. If the cooks find the fuel, that is. We have a vested
interest in prolonging the drudgery of the cook, so long as we satisfy
scientists and donors who fund them. Desires don't matter.
On Sun, Aug 21, 2016 at 12:51 PM, Sujoy Chaudhury <sujoy.chaudhury at gmail.com
> Dear Nikhil and others in the list.
> Although late in the discussion and most must have stopped following this
> chain, I would still like to put my "two paisa" worth of thinking down. The
> issue for me is why have improved cookstoves not been accepted by the
> average poor and is current stove research focussing on this issue
> What does the rural and urban poor cook want? The rural and urban poor
> wants primarily a reliable and cheap source of fuel to cook the family's
> meal and to cook it with the least amount of drudgery. Every woman that
> sits down to cook has aspirations of being able to cook with the least
> amount of fuss- enough fuel, enough heat and the proposed meals cooked in
> the least amount of time and without messing up the cooking space and these
> are obviously the criteria that designers use to design cookstoves. This
> could have been a simple problem to crack, however in the real world most
> poor cooks have to deal with a number of problems before they can finally
> produce their desired meals. The primary issue is the type of fuel and the
> quality of the fuel. In a project with urban poor women in Kolkata (
> improving the health of mothers and children through reduced exposure to
> Indoor air pollution caused by inefficient cookstoves and aggravated by bad
> shelter architecture) , it was found that the cooks had to depend on a
> number of fuel types. Kerosene purchase had to be made in cash and was thus
> limited. A large part of the fuel used for cooking had to be scavenged (
> mostly biomass, packing materials, construction wastes, discarded furniture
> etc.). While there was a pattern in the type of fuel being scavenged, the
> problem was with the quantity. Meals had to be planned on the type and
> quantity of the fuel collected. These cooks needed a stove that could use
> multiple fuels and be as clean as possible- a stove that rid them of the
> drudgery of cooking. Obviously none of the cookstoves then matched upto the
> need of cooks in the slums.
> I thought then and still think now that the problem with cookstoves were
> that inspite of decades of promotion, designers have missed the design
> functions around which cookstoves could be made desirable first and
> sufficiently efficient. The designers are focused on efficieny wheres they
> should have focussed on desirability, making the cookstove an object of
> aspiration and able to impact on the drudgery of cooking and then worked on
> increasing efficiency.
> What use is a stove that has the best possible performance ratings but
> nobody wants to buy it .
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