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close this bookGATE - 2/84 - Cookstoves (GTZ GATE, 1984, 56 p.)
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Cookstove Programmes in the Caribbean

by Ruth Erlbeck

After the oil crisis of 1973, when oil prices - and consequently the prices of most petroleum derivatives - rose sharply, the Caribbean countries (St. Lucia, Montserrat, Antigua, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica), which were already using gas and kerosene, began to start using the traditional fuel charcoal again.
The charcoal-burning business began to flourish once more. On the Caribbean islands it became a very lucrative source of income, especially on the islands of St. Lucia, Antigua, Montserrat and Jamaica. However, the charcoal kilns used, mostly earth pits, are in general very inefficient. Considering the weak ecological balance of these islands additional deforestation could have catastrophic consequences in the long term.


On Montserrat, one of the smallest Caribbean islands, which is still a British colony, a one-year stove and kiln project was carried out from 1982 to 1983. It was financed by the USAID and implemented by the Energy Department of the Montserrat Ministry of Agriculture together with an expert from VITA. In a workshop of the Ministry of Agriculture, various stove models (metal stove, solid and portable mud stoves) were developed, some of which burned wood, some charcoal. It was subsequently decided to promote three portable stove models (made of metal and cement) for charcoal, and to give these to 20 households to try out for two months on a rota basis. During the test period the families were to complete a questionnaire covering charcoal consumption, the duration of cooking etc. It was very difficult to analyze the completed questionnaire since - according to the Energy Officer - most of the information actually supplied was unusable.
In September 1983 an internal workshop was held under the title "Lorenergy" (Local Renewable Energy) on Montserrat, which was attended by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and a further 23 participants from neighbouring islands. The discussions covered both the necessity of introducing improved wood and charcoal stoves as well as kiln technology. As a part of the USAID project in Montserrat various kilns (metal kilns, New Hampshire kilns, retorts and earth pits) were tested with regard to their efficiency. The results were not unequivocal, but the trend is towards metal kilns, as the wood burns faster in them than in earth pits. However, two problems associated with the metal kiln are its durability and production costs. Possible improvements to the earth pit were also discussed, e.g., the installation of four chimneys to regulate the combustion processes better. Surprisingly, no good results were obtained with the retort. At the end of the West Indies International Workshop on Montserrat, at which the problems of renewable forms of energy were discussed intensively for the first time, the VITA expert had to leave the stove and kiln project, his stay having been limited to one year.
After an interval of two months, work on the project has been taken up again by the local Energy Officer and an assistant, with the financial support of the CDB. The aim is to promote the stoves on a massive scale, and a publicity campaign is currently being planned for radio and schools. In addition, the charcoal-burners, each of whom have been given a metal kiln, are to start series production of charcoal. The intention is to sell the charcoal in sacks in Montserrat supermarkets, for barbecues.
In the families which used one of the charcoal-burning stoves which had been distributed, it was one of several (including gas and kerosene stoves) used for preparing jelly, vegetables or semi-solid food for children.

St. Lucia

Charcoal is also a traditional fuel on St. Lucia, one of the Caribbean islands which is much poorer than Montserrat, and which has much more serious deforestation problems. There is a town called Choisseul on the island, where pottery is a flourishing traditional trade. It is here that earthenware pots, jugs, and the famous cookstoves which are on sale everywhere, are made. The women of Choisseul make an earthenware stove in about 20 minutes. They can make up to 24 of them a day. Once a week the stoves and pots are fired in earth kilns.
The women sell their pots and stoves themselves, at the markets, in particular in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia. A stove costs 5 $ EC (East Caribbean Dollars)*, a pot 8 $ EC (by way of comparison a sturdy, medium sized metal pot costs 65 $ EC).
The women potters of Choisseul belong to the lowest income groups. It is said that Choisseul is a pottery centre because the right type of clay is only found there.


On Dominica, another Caribbean island, a stove project run by the Caribbean Conference of Churches has been continuing for three years now. According to information supplied by the CDB, between 45 and 55 Lorena stoves (solid mud stoves) have been sold there in three years.