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close this book Boiling Point No. 23 - December 1990
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View the document Monitoring & Evaluation?
View the document Bringing Stoves to the People
View the document Why use Technology Assessment when Implementing Technological Change?
View the document Two Stove Programme Alternatives
View the document Product Quality Monitoring
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View the document Stove Programmes in Sri Lanka: Reflections on the First Decade
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Two Stove Programme Alternatives

By Pete Young, ITDG Stove Programme Manager, from experiences in Nepal, Sri Lanka and India

A - Subsidised or Commercial dissemination?

B - Chimney versus chimneyless stoves


A. Experiences of Subsidised and Commercial Approaches to Stove Dissemination

All manner of methods have been used to develop and disseminate improved stoves and after more than 10 years of development it is now possible to make informative comparisons. In this respect arguments for and against subsidies are beginning to emerge and to provide some very important lessons.

Institutions and projects do require subsidies to support research and development activities. However, subsidies have also been used to cover material, labour and installation costs incurred in dissemination. In all examples of this the justification and aims are closely associated with achieving short term impact. Elsewhere and in Nepal there is little evidence to show that any impact has been made and the concept of directly subsidising the dissemination of stoves in this manner is now being reviewed very critically.

Previous experiences show that direct subsidies:

• have unintentionally disguised poor design and performance

• inhibit genuine user feedback

• made installers and producers become dependent upon projects

• generate little respect by the user for the stove and so maintenance and repair become overlooked

• do not foster local initiatives.

In general, subsidies lead to project-led activities and do not promote effective interaction between user and maker.

Some projects have been able to progress away from subsidies by using more commercial approaches.

T a b I e The Cost of Chimneys in Sri Lanka


Stove Costs Rps

Additional Cost of Chimney

Total Cost

Cast iron tops




Chimney caps




































Estate Labour








TOTAL(excluding transport for materials)




1. Tea Estates allocated 400 Rps per Household for chimneys

2. Savings @ 10-20% give pay back periods of one year, (determined in controlled cooking tests).

At such high costs, the stove is beyond levels of affordability by households and it was proposed that the stove be installed as part of a housing improvement scheme requiring an additional 3-8% finance.

These experiences indicate that market forces and the need to make small profits have a far reaching effect on the responsiveness of projects. In this way projects:

• build upon existing stove design, traditions and methods of cooking

• encourage small businesses

• design more cost effective stoves that are affordable

• achieve real benefit but initially at a lower level

• develop self-sufficiency and sustainability.

A commercial approach is by no means a guarantee of success. It is slow to initiate, requires special conditions and a market economy and often leads to stoves which are less than ideal in terms of fuel savings and social benefits. With regard to the market economy, even in the poorest communities some system of exchange of goods exists and there are traditional networks that can be explored to promote stoves. A commercial approach can also create demand led conditions which are self regulating. If stove designs achieve desirable benefits, demand will increase. Also rising fuelwood prices and shortages lead to greater demand. This demand can often be met by producers expanding their businesses and will not necessarily require projects to expand proportionately.

One of the important results of this approach is that the purchaser is often forced to make a value judgment. For example: 'is the extra cost of removing smoke worth it?' In many cases, householders may decide that stoves which are ideal in a technical sense are too expensive .

Some General Principles

• do not use subsidies to promote untested designs

• encourage households which can afford stoves, to buy them

• only use subsidies to help households which cannot pay.

Table 2 - The Cost of Stoves in India & Sri Lanka


Sl Rupees

SL Rupees




Magan Chulah



Anagi II



Kerosene -


Wick Burner

38 - 150 (95)


Pressure Burner






Sl Tea Estate


Chimney Stove



These general principles should lead to two main programmes:

1. urban based - commercial

2. rural based - subsidies leading to commercial

B. Chimney Versus Chimneyless Stoves

This is an extremely difficult issue to evaluate and one that few projects have resolved adequately. It is an issue that is particularly important in Nepal where the levels of acute respiratory infection are perhaps the highest in any country in the world. Experiences are related from 3 countries - Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India. Nepal Having chimneys fitted to a stove is an effective way to remove smoke. However, previous experience in other countries has shown that chimneys are very problematic and so there are few successes to report.

Chimneys can also lead to:

• high cost (extra material and labour can increase the costs by as much as two or three times)

• difficulties of installation, performance deterioration and roofs leaking

• lower fuel savings than chimneyless stoves (up to 20%)

• slower cooking

• high maintenance

• reduction in space heating

It is also worth noting that chimney stoves at best reduce smoke by only 80% - 90%, as compared to open fires. It should not be assumed that chimneys remove all the smoke because leaks around the pot inevitably occur and down draught from winds blowing into the chimney disrupt the normal chimney draw. As soon as the pots are removed smoke escapes into the room. Smoke can also be excessive during the light up phase, until the chimney becomes heated. On the other hand, chimneyless stoves offer many benefits. They:

• are cheap to install or even portable

• are easy to market

• save more fuel

• cook quicker

• require less maintenance and are closer in use to traditional stoves

• depend less on efficient use

Chimneyless stoves can also reduce smoke exposure levels because less fuel is burnt and the time required to cook is often less, although some poor designs may actually increase the level of emissions.

Some General Principles

• Offer a range of designs to households including chimney and chimneyless stoves.

• Where smoke removal is the highest priority, kerosene, LPG and electric stoves are probably a cheaper option. They achieve total smoke reduction and replace fuelwood entirely.

Sri Lanka

In practice, developing and disseminating commercially acceptable stoves is a very difficult process and Sri Lanka is a good example, showing why chimney stoves were abandoned.

In 1979 an evaluation showed the following:

• many kitchens separated from living quarters had thatched roofs which allowed smoke to escape easily, kitchens with tiles were fitted with large vents

• chimneys reduced fuel savings as compared to chimneyless stoves

• time taken to cook longer

• initial light up time slower

• costs substantial higher

These problems with chimney stoves could not be overcome and in 1980 stove designers concentrated upon developing high efficiency, low cost chimneyless stoves.

In 1987 Sarvodaya developed another chimney stove design specifically for tea estate housing with emphasis upon smoke removal and fuel savings. The itemised details on costs show that removing smoke doubles the cost of installation (see Table 1).


In India similar problems with chimneys were identified.

Problems with Chimneys, "Improved Chulha Programme: Boom or Disaster Madhu Sarin" (1986). (BP11- Dec 1986):

• many stoves increased fuel consumption

• many chimneys do not go above the roof thereby releasing smoke into the house

• thin metal chimneys burnt out in 6 months

• too large/too small diameters affect performance

• if no chimney cowl is fitted rain enters, housing roof catches fire

• villagers prefered chimneys made from 10ft asbestos pipes which they could later sell

• families concerned roofs could catch fire

• rich households generally pleased with smoke removal and prepared to pay extra fuel costs, poor people forced to pay extra costs and many frightened to break up stoves.

• villages in some areas removed chimney in case roof catches fire

• in some areas only 3% of users enjoyed benefit of smoke removal.


Table 2 shows comparative stove prices for south India/Sri Lanka.

The high costs of chimney stoves and low savings as compared to low cost kerosene stoves mean stoves such as the Magan Chulah are unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. In Sri Lanka the significant savings given by Anagi II and the high cost of kerosene stoves mean there is little effective competition to the Anagi and partly contribute to the high demand for Anagi stoves which is likely to be sustainable.