[Stoves] Stove types and poverty [Was Rogerio: Pro-publica article out]
pienergy2008 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 23 17:09:14 MDT 2018
I generally think that all statements about cookstoves are contextual and
it is not too difficult to find anecdotes on two or more sides of any
That said, I find it a general truism that stove advocates have
over-emphasized fuel savings and that this obsession - especially when
measured with unreliable test methods - has been the Achilles heel of many
"projects." (That the "projects" universe has certain damning restrictions
is another matter, efficiency being only one such.)
I saw rocket stoves production and use only once, and came away feeling it
must have some market somewhere, for grant givers if not users. I have seen
other examples of "fuel-saving" and "smokeless" biomass stoves; little
attention to fuels, meals, cooks. Money is a secondary problem from public
policy perspective; subsidies can be designed to accelerate the uptake of
stoves and fuels if they are going to be used, even with stacking.
As for "poor households", I wonder if there has ever been any systematic
study with stratified poverty and multiple fuels/stoves/meal types. In
"poverty" literature, it has long been accepted that survey data on
expenditures, while they help characterize income poverty, say nothing
about the processes of poverty and non-income dimensions of poverty. (See
UNDP/OPHI reports on Multi-dimensional Poverty Index.]
And it is next to impossible to get reports on relative price differences
across different populations of the poor, so it is impossible to tell just
how the markets for the poor are working. Take, for instance, a ratio of a
cheapest commercial meal (safe enough to eat and feed children) to average
day-labor wage rate, or a ratio of a kg of local bread to a liter of milk,
or the price of the most common mattress to the most common mobile phone.
You get the idea. Without such information it is impossible to distinguish
one customer group from another and design, test economical stoves
accordingly. The rich are alike everywhere, the poor are different from
place to place, time to time.
That is, if the objective is to serve the poor, we don't have the barest of
information to understand poverty, which keeps changing in different
I fully agree with you that "A really good biomass stove is expensive for
very poor households". But then the questions are,
i) What does a very poor household want in an improved stove - reliable
fuel efficiency or low smoke, or, often, nothing, because the head of the
household wants to fix a window or throw a party?;
ii) What is "good enough" in the sense of "marketable, usable" for
not-so-poor households and what all determine the overall economy of
cooking - not just costs of competing stoves and fuels but availability and
cost of water or food ingredients;
iii) Are there "cooking systems" options that actually help alleviate
poverty in terms of freeing up cash savings or time?
I have observed that "commercial cooking" does address this last question.
Some ten years ago, Anil Rajvanshi came up with the idea of rural
cafeterias for the working poor, which was the other side of the same coin
- outsource cooking.
Let me give two examples - injeras in Addis Ababa (which I visited often
between 1992 and 2007) and tortillas in Central America (which I haven't).
Why haven't "really good biomass stoves" made any dent in that market?
As I started telling colleagues some years back, "While you have made money
on writing books for poor people's cooking, they have chosen to get rich
enough to afford LPG and electricity." And "You are still thinking of yo'
mamas when you think of saving wood; think of yo' dottas." (Remember Kirk
Smith's epiphany watching young women in rural India swooning over Philips
stove, "It burns like gas!" )
Why has it been so difficult to develop and prove "Burns like gas" biomass
stoves? This was the headline of a 2012 paper by Kirk Smith and Karabi
Dutta. At the time, there was a lot of talk of Advanced Biomass Stoves, in
India and in Central America at least.
It is too easy to blame GACC. The illuminati at Lima and the Hague chose
how to spend EPA money - on New Source Performance Standards, applicable to
any country that chooses, just not the US. GACC was just an excuse to
commit and disburse monies so US Secretaries of State could boast and UN
Foundation could profit.
Saving the poor is as much of a delusion as saving the earth. Both are
inscrutable. But different religions offer salvation.
(US +1) 202 568 5831
On Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 8:55 AM, Rogerio carneiro de miranda <
carneirodemiranda at gmail.com> wrote:
> My 2 cents of contribution.....
> First cent: I agreed with Crispin that "Rocket Stove dimensionalism where
> ratios are held sacred, more than function" is part of the problem. Usually
> we see rocket powered stoves with fuel feeding entrance too small to
> produce enough energy to satisfy users. Saving fuels is preferred to
> practical use. Too mall fuel feed entrance frustrate users by not
> delivering enough energy, and by requiring more work in order to split wood
> into very thin pieces.
> Second cent: A really good biomass stoves is expensive for very poor
> households. To make a robust, clean (not leaking smoke indoors), efficient,
> and practical (cook, bake, warm space and heat water) internal combustion
> biomass stove, is much more expensive than mass produced external
> combustion LPG stove. Good biomass stoves in LDC is usually hand produced,
> and does not achieve low cost, as if mass scale produced.
> Em sex, 13 de jul de 2018 às 08:43, Crispin Pemberton-Pigott <
> crispinpigott at outlook.com> escreveu:
>> Dear Xavier
>> Good to hear from you as always.
>> Your summation on global failure (compared with hoped-for results) can be
>> repeated by looking from another angle:
>> My view is that the main influencers, be they individuals or
>> institutions, display monomaniacalism resulting in not only the failure to
>> achieve their touted goals, but also causing others to fail where they
>> might have succeeded.
>> Monomania means fanatically going after one thing.
>> We see:
>> - TLUD as a method of burning promoted because it burns that way
>> - Char making for non-cooking purposes, i.e. to save the planet
>> - Rocket Stove dimensionalism where ratios are held sacred, more than
>> - Numerous, spurious health claims, vague attributions and
>> unbelievable causal assertions (ameliorism)
>> - Fuel efficiency preferred over function (thermalism)
>> - LP Gas promotion in a sector dominated by carbon-neutral fuels
>> - Speculative fund-raising by imputing health benefits based on wonky
>> methods and models (shamanism)
>> - Unapologetic insistence on the use of the WBT, an unpublished,
>> unreviewed test method known to have numerous problems with no skill in
>> forecasting performance in use (desperately trying not to have been wrong
>> or careless)
>> - Using a single fuel with a single moisture content as the
>> ‘standard’ with which to rate absolute or comparative performance
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to deforestation
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to general air pollution
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to family health problems
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to IAP
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to sexual violence in refugee
>> - Selling cooking stoves as a solution to drudgery and time
>> One begins to ask, “Is there *anything* a cooking stove cannot solve?”
>> An observer might legitimately ask, “If improved cooking stoves are
>> capable of solving so many problems, why don’t we see more people buying
>> and using them?”
>> Looking at Darfur, we can learn a thing or two because they have had the
>> most interventions. Some homes have been given no less than 10 “improved
>> stoves” by competing agencies (I refer, of course, to the Stoves Wars of
>> Darfur.) So what gets used? What do women and cooks prefer if you watch
>> them, interview and ask?
>> Two stoves are popular: One is the all-mud stove developed locally by
>> Practical Action, because it holds the pot properly and cooks using a
>> variety of available biomass materials. The other is the Darfur stove from
>> Berkeley, which when turned upside down makes a good platform for cooking
>> the main type of pancake, which the mud stove does not. Turned the right
>> way up, the all-metal Darfur stove makes a passable charcoal burner though
>> it is not very fuel-efficient as it was designed to burn wood. Charcoal is
>> a preferred fuel because, according to the cooks, “It is cheaper to buy
>> than wood.” Cecil Cook found the same thing in the suburbs of Maputo.
>> Thermal energy from wood was not a good offer, and Shangalane, the hard,
>> expensive charcoal, was by far the best deal in terms of energy delivered
>> per $.
>> What are the cooks monomaniacally interested in? How well do the
>> proffered “solutions” match the preferences and inclinations of the cooks?
>> At a minimum, we can say there seems to be a mismatch between what cooks
>> want and do, and how stoves are imagined and manufactured.
>> Knowing how to burn is not the same as knowing how to cook. (In my case
>> it is the same thing – burning.) Cecil the Cook attended the blowtorch
>> school of cuisine. That requires a skillset I don’t have. When it comes to
>> deep-fried dinner, I will support my local diner.
>> Dear Paul,
>> Thanks for sharing this very good paper.
>> It brings a good reflection upon all those years. Yet it still didn’t
>> answer the question: why didn’t it work?
>> Because the improved cookstoves were not adopted. But why?
>> The stoves were not adopted because they were not good enough. The
>> problem is not a problem of adoption, of customers. The stoves were, and
>> still are the problem. If the first Iphone was 3000 USD, with an autonomy
>> of 20 minutes, and very slow when navigating, no one would have bought it
>> -> back to the R&D and engineering department, try again and better.
>> For the improved cookstove sector:
>> - A lot of investment in combustion and stove R&D was needed: it
>> never happened
>> - The GACC needed to address the problem of the WBT as soon as there
>> were concerns with it. The GACC never did. Even now, July 2018, the first
>> testing protocol on the GACC website is still the WBT. Results: the WBT
>> kept testers and manufacturers into a swamp of under-performing stoves with
>> over-performing results.
>> - Poor products were developed, tested, distributed in villages, and
>> ended-up like Cummins stoves.
>> One needs to admit his/her mistake, before being able to correct them and
>> move forward. This never happened.
>> There’s little mystery behind that global failure.
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