|GATE - 2/84 - Cookstoves (GTZ GATE, 1984, 56 p.)|
by Cornelia Sepp
The German-lndian Dhauladhar Project is an integrated regional development project whose elm is to stabilize ecologic conditions in the project area (primarily combatting erosion) and to improve the socio-economic status of the inhabitants of the region. In addition, it is planned to develop an integrated afforestation model, which could be applied to similar problems in comparable regions.
The project area is a mountainous region at the foot of the
Himalayas, covering about 225 km²; it is seriously endangered by erosion.
Most of the activities, however, are restricted to 102 villages with a total of
30,000 inhabitants in an area covering 150 km². The remaining area
comprises uninhabited highlands, where only forestry work is being done as a
part of the project.
The principal project activities are in the fields of forestry, soil and water conservation, alternative energy, agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture and self-employment. An autonomous society was founded to implement these activities. The Indo-German Media Service, which is also supported by the GTZ, produces publicity for the project, although operating as an independent organization.
Within the framework of the overall concept of the project the stove dissemination programme is primarily intended to reduce wood consumption, in order to put a stop to the increasing deforestation.
Principal General Conditions
The majority of the inhabitants of the project area are
small-scale and marginal farmers. As a result of the traditional law of
inheritance - the land is divided among the sons in equal portions - individual
farms are becoming ever smaller, so that now each family has on average only
1.58 acres. Almost 40 per cent of the farmers have to rent at least a part of
their land, and many of the young men look for work outside the region. Land
ownership - like the general socio-economic status of individual families -
depends mainly on the caste the family belongs to.
Wood is by far the most important source of energy for households in the project area. About one-half of the families own a kerosene stove as well, but it is almost always used in addition to the wood-burning stove, usually for making tea. The traditional cooking stove in this area, as in many regions in India, is a closed mud stove with one to three pot-holes and no chimney, the chula. It is homemade by the women.
Firewood consumption is between 100 and 140 kg per family and week, depending on the season. In 89 per cent of the families the wood is gathered, usually (though not exclusively) by the women. On average 2.8 hours a day are spent gathering wood. The market price for firewood is about 55 rupees for 100 kg.
In the last 50 years the natural vegetation of the Himalayas has been reduced by 40 per cent; today 18 per cent of Himachal Pradesh is covered by forests.
In the project area cooking is always done in the house, in a fully enclosed kitchen which is often on the first floor. The room is a living room-cum-kitchen where the family comes together - usually around the stove. Great importance is attached to cleanliness and tidiness. In many families a fresh covering of clay and cow dung is spread over the kitchen floor and the stove every day: it is said to be a disinfectant. There are many taboos in the kitchen, e.g., entering it with shoes on; if these taboos are not respected the housewife may declare the food unfit to eat and throw it away.
Most households have many cookpots of all shapes and sizes, made of earthenware, brass or aluminium.
The staple diet is rice and flat round loaves, eaten with peas and beans and/or vegetable curries.
Choice of Stove Model
In the course of the project the Dhauladhar chula was developed
on the basis of the traditional chula. It has three pot-holes, arranged either
in a row or a triangle, a chimney and a front and chimney damper. It is made of
a mixture of clay and straw; the chimney and dampers are made of
Unfortunately, hardly any data are available so far concerning the efficiency and/or fuel economy of this stove. While it is true that a fuel saving of 50 per cent has been mentioned, it seems more likely that this is a result of the excellent work done in generating awareness. The figure quoted above is essentially based on a survey conducted among housewives. Only one comparative wood consumption test covering two families has been carried out so far. However, considering the many factors whose influence it ii impossible to estimate (pots, type of meal cooked, cook, wood etc.) a single test of this kind cannot even be used as a rough guide.
From a purely technical standpoint only a very slight saving can be anticipated, if there is any saving at all. A comparison of the Dhauladhar chula with the traditional stove shows the following important differences: The chimney causes a strong draught to develop, which makes correct use of the dampers essential to avoid losing most of the heat through the chimney. A preliminary evaluation indicated that the dampers are not always properly used. Since the pots have to seal the pot-holes completely to prevent smoke from escaping, less of the pot base surface is exposed to the hot gases. Other important parameters, such as the shape and size of the combustion chamber, the material from which the stove is made, or the mass of the stove, are so similar in the two stove models that no significant saving in wood is to be expected. These theoretical considerations were confirmed by a few waterboiling tests carried out during the mission; these tests likewise failed to demonstrate any significant fuel saving with the Dhauladhar chula. Even with three standard meal tests, in which the same meal was cooked simultaneously and under conditions which were as nearly identical as possible on a traditional and an improved stove, there was no significant difference in wood consumption.
Since, apart from technology, kitchen organization is also an important factor influencing wood consumption, and since many women seemed convinced that their new stoves did bring a saving, cooking patterns on the two stoves were compared. It was found that some of the women with the new stove made a fire once less often per day, the reason for this being that some women prepare the mid-day meal in the morning and warm it up again later. With the traditional stove the fire has to be re-lit for this, while the improved stove keeps the food warm until mid-day. The extent to which this reduces wood consumption is not yet known and ought to be investigated.
In order to determine the efficiency of the Dhauladhar chula, and the effective saving in wood as compared to the traditional stove, a test program was worked out; it includes both a water-boiling and a standard meal test as well as comparative wood consumption measurements in the households.
At present 16 stove builders are employed to make stoves for the
project. It is assumed that each stove builder can make 10 stoves a month. The
standard wage is based on this number and is reduced or increased according to
the actual number of stoves built.
The existing transport structure of the project is also utilized for transporting the dampers and chimneys.
It is estimated that the costs of material and labour amount to 150 rupees. The selling price depends on the socio-economic group (one of three) the customer belongs to - this is determined by an official agency. Members of the lowest caste receive the stove free, while those of the highest pay 20 rupees. The materials for the stoves are provided by the customer.
The village motivators play a key role in generating awareness.
Each village motivator looks after three villages; the motivators are usually
young girls from one of the three villages in question. It is their job to
create a link between the population and the project, and they are responsible
for all project-related activities carried out. The motivators are instructed
accordingly. For the construction of simple stoves they receive a four-day
practical and theoretical training. There is no fixed plan for the work involved
in generating awareness. Instead the topic in question is discussed whenever the
occasion arises, either individually or in groups. When the stove program was
first introduced, men were more often approached because it was assumed that
they would decide whether or not a stove should be bought. This was soon found
not to be the case, and now the publicity is aimed principally at the
The Indian-German Media Service has produced a whole series of aids, including posters, leaflets, calendars, comics, radio programmes and series of photos and slides.
Dissemination and Acceptance
Since December 1981 1200 stoves have been built. As a result, about one-fiffh of all families have a stove. Almost all of them are used regularly. The advantages mentioned in particular by their owners are the elimination of smoke and the fuel consumption, which they believe to be lower. In general the women seemed very satisfied. The new stove was only rejected by some families living in upland areas because it did not heat the kitchen enough in the extremely cold winters.
Assessment and Outlook
Since mountainous regions in general are among the most
endangered ecosystems, and since erosion is already noticeable in the project
area and is likely to get worse in future, it makes sense to put a stop to
progressive deforestation by reducing wood consumption. As yet, however, only
the inhabitants of a very few parts of the project area are noticing a wood
shortage; although it is becoming more difficult and time-consuming for families
to find wood, so far only a few have to buy it. The idea of saving wood will
therefore probably only motivate a few families to make what is a fairly big
investment. On the other hand, one very important factor as regards the
motivation of the women to buy seems to be that the new stove enables the
kitchen to be kept smoke-free and thus easier to clean.
As advice and assistance are intensive, the prices are heavily subsidized and the entire stove-building organization is based on the project structure, it would not be possible to transfer this approach to a larger area - with a view of making the programme self-supporting - without further development.
At any rate, before the programme is expanded the actual amount of wood saved as a result of using the selected stove model must be determined. If the model is changed, or a range of different stoves is offered, the smoke problem should certainly be taken into consideration.