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close this bookBoiling Point No. 27 - April 1992 (ITDG - ITDG, 1992, 40 p.)
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View the documentWomen, Woodfuel, Work & Welfare
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View the documentImproved Stoves, Time, Fuel
View the documentLess Fuel for Food
View the documentThe Value of Women's Time
View the documentWomen in Stoves Programmes
View the documentThe Effect of Fuel Efficient Stoves
View the documentWe Have Never Felt It So Enjoyable To Cook
View the documentStoves, Forests and Women
View the documentReflecting on Women, Children & Stoves
View the documentLearning as We Teach: A Dialogue with Cooks
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We Have Never Felt It So Enjoyable To Cook

by Liu Hongpeng, Engineer, Project Officer, Bureau of Energy and Environmental Protection, Ministry of Agriculture, No. 11 Nong Zhan Guan Nan Li, Beijing 100026, CHINA

At the end of 1990, there were 210 million households, nearly 900 million people living in rural areas in China. Almost every rural household's daily meals were prepared by women using stoves with designs unchanged for thousands of years. Day after day, year in year out, women were in the kitchen working over their stoves; or foraging for firewood.

Over one third of rural households in China are short of firewood for two to three months every year. In these areas, women express their own feelings as "we do not worry about what is in our pots but what is under our pots". As firewood resources have become less and less the distance to go for firewood collection has become longer and longer so a lot of households spend more and more labour and time collecting firewood. Many children have to help their mothers to collect firewood, so that school attendance is affected. On the other hand, firewood in the traditional stoves is not burnt completely and causes heavy smoke to make the cooking environment awful. It is clear that there is a close relationship between the high incidence of eye diseases and respiratory tract infections and cooking smoke pollution in rural areas according to medical surveys.

Since 1980, on the basis of improving energy conservation, environmental protection and the well-being of women, as well as rural household living conditions, the Chinese government has launched the FSSTC (Firewood - Saving Stoves Trial County) project throughout the country. The steps of FSSTC implementation are as follows:

I The central government signs a contract with the county-level governments requiring that more than 90% of total rural households in the county have to use firewood-saving stoves with a heat-efficiency of over 20% within three years. The difference between the new stove type and old type of stove is that a chimney and grate are included in the new stove. Thus, the firewood can be burnt more completely and the heat efficiency is higher than the traditional one and the smoke of combustion can be dispelled through the chimney. These measures are taken to reduce the smoke which pollutes the kitchen and environment.

2. In the meantime the local governments stress that the improved stoves should be adapted to the local people's customs and made to be accepted easily and also operated conveniently. Production and extension systems are set up by the local governments in trial counties so that the stove's quality can be guaranteed and the users can get service quickly when they have problems with their stoves.

3. When the work of the trials is accomplished, the central government sends groups composed of extension and construction specialists to the counties to appraise the project in order to make sure that they complete the project on time and conduct it to a high standard.

According to the statistics, about 700 trial counties fulfilled the contract and 120 million rural households, in other words more than half were using high efficiency, clean and convenient stoves in China by the end of 1990. If the 4.76 million biogas stoves are included we could say that about 300 million women and children are being extricated from adverse cooking circumstances and strenuous manual labour. An investigation in 1990 in Hunan province, the southern part of China showed that:

1. Remarkable Benefits of Energy Conservation were achieved from Firewood-saving Stove Promotion. According to the kitchen process testing results and questionnaire of 60 rural households in 6 counties, 2,327 kg of firewood and 142 kg of coal were saved on average in each household per year.

2. Well-being of Women Is improved by Using Firewood-saving Stoves. In the 6 villages investigated by random sampling, the incidence of eye diseases in women decreased from 30.80X0 in 1985 when they were using traditional stoves to 13% in 1989 using firewood-saving stoves; respiratory tract infections decreased by 11.2%.

3. Labour Efficiency Is Raised and Cooking Time Is Reduced by Using Firewood-saving Stoves. It took more than I In hours to prepare a dinner when women used the traditional stoves. Nowadays, they just spend one hour to prepare a dinner due to the firewood-saving stoves' advantages: quickly raising temperature, higher heat-efficiency as well as being more convenient to use. Furthermore, it increases school attendance for children and they can spend less time on firewood collection and more time on their school work. The results of the investigation of 120 school children in 3 classes show that the number of pupils who failed to go up to the higher grade has fallen from 13 to 5 pupils per year since using firewood-saving stoves. Many women express their happiness: "we are free from heavy work and have never felt it so enjoyable to cook in the kitchen".

4. Stoves Promote the Development of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Grass and wheat straw and corncobs were saved by the improved stoves and used as fodder for raising livestock or as organic fertilizer for farm land. Consequently stoves promoted the improvement of food and livestock. Since using firewood-saving stoves for 3 years in the investigated areas, the average numbers of people raising pigs has been increased by two thirds per household. The yield of rice increased by 149 kg per mu (1 mu = 0.0667 hectares) and organic matter in soil also increased.

Table 1 - Fuelwood Forest (Ministry of Forest)

Afforested Areas ( 10000 Mu)

Rational fuelwood supply (10,000 tons/yr)

Conversion (10,000 tons of standard coal) equivalent




1 Mu = 0.0667 Hectares