| Boiling Point No. 07 - December 1984 |
by Waclaw Micuta - Director of the Bellerive Foundation Geneva
Pakistan is one of the least-privileged countries in the world as far as forest reserves are concerned. Only about 5% of the country's total land area is covered by forests.
The ecological damage has been particularly acute in the mountains and foothills situated in the North and West.
The already desperate situation in the North-West Frontier Province and Balutschistan has in recent months been aggravated by the influx of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan. In some regions the desert has already encroached and everywhere worsening deforestation has tended to fuel discontent between the local and refugee populations as they vie for firewood and grazing land. Around many refugee villages there are no trees left whatsoever and even shrubs and roots have disappeared.
Alarmed by these problems, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in co-operation with local agencies, has initiated a number of schemes to alleviate the situation, including projects to improve range land management and the distribution of kerosene as a replacement for some of the firewood presently being consumed. In addition, the UNHCR invited the Swiss-based Bellerive Foundation, founded and chaired by H.H. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, to introduce measures in refugee villages with a view to promoting fuelwood economies.
The foundation carried out this mandate from September 1983 to October 1984, when the project was entrusted to the German Agency for Technical Assistance (GTZ) for continuation. In one year of operation, the project conceived and supervised by the author led to the introduction of a complete, fuel-efficient system for cooking and baking. The elements of the package include two types of bread oven (one for village bakeries and one-for groups of families) and three stove models (the "Protected Open Fire", the "Crescent" and the "Pogbi") as well as standardized cooking utensils such as pots, frying pans, roasting grills and kettles. Considerable attention was given to the promotion of more economical cooking methods and the utilization of substitute fuels. In particular, it was possible to facilitate the use of kerosene through the introduction of a new design for a simple, but efficient, kerosene burner.
A summary of the main work undertaken is presented below. Technical descriptions and designs for the principal stoves, ovens, home-heating devices and cooking gear introduced (with the exception of the latest kerosene burners) will shortly be featured in a new edition of the author's book "Modern Stoves for All" to be published jointly by the Bellerive Foundation and Intermediate Technology Publications Limited.
By far the most important staple food of both the Pakistani and Afghan communities in the North-West Frontier Province is a kind of flat-bread known as "nan". The bulk of firewood consumed is used for baking this commodity. It was decided to encourage a move from the small traditional "tandoors", used by individual families, towards larger community or "group family" models based on those prevalent in European villages until fairly recent times. The principal advantage of such ovens is that, once they are brought to the correct temperature, only small additions of fuel are necessary to maintain the desired heat level over long periods. The ovens introduced to date, when operated correctly, have been found to permit economies in the region of 9/10 of the wood used previously to bake "nans" in traditional family tan doors. In addition, the larger ovens may, in order to eliminate the use of wood altogether, be fired by diesel oil (readily available near lorry routes) or bottled gas (of which Pakistan is a producer).
The new communal installations have been readily accepted by the local populations and, each day, families use the facilities installed in the refugee villages in Katcha Ghari, Nasir Bagh, Baderber and D.I. Khan.- The new bread ovens, besides reducing fuel consumption to a minimum, greatly facilitate the work of the bakers and produce "nans" and bread of excellent quality. Another advantage is that, once the baking of "nans" has been completed, the accumulated heat may be employed for baking loaves or for roasting meat. European-style "farmer's bread" is being promoted for the first time on the sub-continent and is already gaining in popularity.
The stove models were adapted to suit specific local conditions. All the stoves may be run off a variety of fuels including wood, wood-waste, bottled gas or kerosene. The cost of the stoves were kept to a minimum. With additional outlay they could be equipped with metal doors, outer casings and dampers. However, it should be noted that the considerable expense involved would not result in any significant increase in the fuel-efficiency rate of the stoves.
The Bellerive Foundation lays great stress on the fact that stove building must be treated as a profession and an art. This explains the Foundation's insistence on the organisation of vocational training in all its stove units, during which trainees learn not only how to construct efficient stoves and ovens but also how to install, repair and maintain them. This latter discipline includes such ancilliary duties as chimney sweeping, quality control and user back up.
a) Cooking pots:
One does not cook in a stove but in a pot. The significance of this seemingly banal statement has, however, too often been neglected. Indeed, properly designed cooking pots are of fundamental importance to the conservation of firewood. To achieve optimum fuel economies, pots should be designed to enter deep into the body of the stove (without touching the inside walls) and sit in the midst of the flames. Before the arrival of the Bellerive team, such pots were unknown to Afghan refugees. They are now being produced in Peshawar at the same price as traditional pots.
Afghans and; Pathans prepare food twice a day. However, they surpass even the British in their love of tea which they drink at every opportunity. Whenever a visitor enters a household he is offered a cup of tea as a sign of hospitality and refugees would prefer to burn their clothes for fuel rather than fail to respect this - ancient custom. Consequently, efficient kettles are of even more importance than cooking pots in the fuel saving package designed for the North-West Frontier Province.
c) Frying pans ("tawas"):
Afghans as well as Pakistanis use simple frying pans or "tawas" which they place over open fires. The traditional tawa was not quite suitable for making "nan" as it was difficult to heat the metal plate evenly over its entire surface. This problem was solved by adapting the tawas to fit into the Bellerive stoves by welding several metal projections to the base. The projections recuperate a maximum of heat and distribute it evenly over the surface of the pan. The new tawas, which are now being produced in the stove units, are also equipped with lids to reduce heat losses even further.
d) Roasting grills:
Local communities greatly appreciate meat kebabs, corn on the cob and other food barbecued over embers or an open fire. To meet this taste, special grills were designed to fit inside the Bellerive stoves. The food is placed on the grill and the stove is covered with a taws in order to cut heat loss and, at the same time, ensure that the food is heated on all sides.
e) Substitute fuels:
In Afghan refugee camps, the fuel needed for cooking is as expensive as the food itself. In view of its scarcity, wood is among the most expensive fuels on the market place. It is now cheaper for refugees to cook on kerosene - especially as large quantities of the fuel are being distributed - free of charge by UNHCR. Before the arrival of the Bellerive team, however, kerosene was not popular among the refugees as, used with the wick stoves then available, it tended to produce fumes which affected the flavour of the food being cooked. More efficient equipment for burning the fuel, such as primus stoves, were regrettably beyond the means and servicing capacity of the refugees. In addition, the units tended to be used incorrectly causing accidents. In response to this problem, the Bellerive team, after extensive research and testing, designed a series of simple burners to fit inside all their stoves. All the necessary components may be purchased in Pakistan and assembled in the stove-making units, which brings the price to less than half that of a primus purchased on a local bazaar. The latest models in the series eliminate the need for pumps and pressure-proofed fuel reservoirs, which further reduces the price. Research is being continued to develop a new type of burner unit which could be produced within the refugee camps and thereby totally eliminate reliance on the procurement of ready-made components from outside. The first prototypes of this new model perform well.
f) Cooking methods:
The final element of the package was the introduction of teams of women instructors to visit households daily and advise on the proper use of the stoves. The teams also provide instruction in more economical cooking methods including, for example, the use of hay-boxes. Another method of promoting the correct use of the stoves as well as more efficient cooking methods involved the introduction of a mobile team of one cook and two stove craftsmen. The team travelled around the villages with a donkey cart on which two stoves had been installed. The cook prepared food on the stoves in public and demonstrated the techniques involved. The two craftsmen carried a supply of clay and materials for the routine maintenance, where necessary, of stoves already distributed.
The experience gained to date may be summarised as follows:
1. In order to economise firewood and other fuels, any stoves introduced should record a fuel-efficiency rate of at least 30% measured according to the Eindhoven formula.
2. Stoves showing an efficiency of less than 20%, according to the same formula, should not be promoted as the same figure may be obtained on a well-managed open fire.
If the stoves promoted are efficient, offer a good level of user comfort and are adapted to traditional cocking methods and preferences, winning the acceptance of local communities presents no difficulties. As may be evidenced by the popularity in developing countries of such commodities as sewing machines and bicycles, people will generally accept new technologies if they are useful, accessible and, most importantly' provide solutions preferable to those existing already.
4. The technical design of stoves and ovens is no longer a major problem. It now remains, in each set of circumstances, to identify the optimum comprimise between efficiency and cost. Models which cost practically nothing are invariably less than 20% fuel efficient and tend not to last very long. On the other hand, stoves capable of making a real impact on efforts to curb deforestation are beyond the means of the poorest rural populations which are the greatest consumers of firewood. If the safeguard of ecologically critical zones is to be our overriding priority, subsidies in one form or another are essential to introduce truly-efficient stoves where they are most needed.
5. Whilst self-sustaining stove building and promotion programmes must be the ultimate aim, this ideal situation is still regrettably a long way off and, in view of the very low purchasing power of rural communities, considerable financial and organisational efforts will be needed, both nationally and internationally, before this goal is attained.
6. Finally, the construction of fuel-efficient stoves is only one part of the problem. There remains the even more difficult task of teaching communities how to use, maintain and repair them properly. Major educational efforts will be needed to ensure that the stoves are used correctly.
The project instigated by the Bellerive Foundation around Peshawar has now been taken over by the German Agency for Technical Assistance (GTZ) for the next phase of activities, which will involve the promotion on an ever-increasing scale of the stoves and ovens introduced. We shall all follow progress with great interest and extend to GTZ our very best wishes for the successful continuation of activities.