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close this book Development in practice - Rural energy and development
close this folder Chapter six - Cooking fuels: toward more sustainable supply and use
View the document Improving end-use efficiency with biomass stoves
View the document Improving charcoal efficiency
View the document Developing more sustainable ways to supply biomass
View the document Agro-forestry and farm forestry
View the document Participatory to forest management
View the document Improving access to kerosene and gas
View the document Subsidies versus price liberalization
View the document Distortionary effects of high taxes on cooking fuels

Improving end-use efficiency with biomass stoves


The modern biomass stove is an important development for the millions of people who have ready access to low-cost biomass. but who cannot afford more expensive modern fuels. The fuel savings. often as much as 30 percent, reduce cash outlays: diminish the time spent collecting fuelwood; decrease smoke by improving combustion and the use of flues, thereby reducing the worst health effects of biofuel use (see the figures on Brazil in table 2.1): and reduce pressures on scarce wood resources.

Developing-country governments donors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supported programs implemented in the late 1970s and early 1980s. and commonly assumed that their benefits were self-evident. They believed that people would adopt the improved stoves quickly, and that the initial promotional programs would lead rapidly to self-sustainity markets in the new products Hence. most early efforts focused only on dissemination. and were oblivious to local customs, the economic setting. and the availability and prices of local biofuels. Based on laboratory experiments. early programs anticipated three- to fourfold increases in energy efficiency and a 75 percent decrease in wood consumption With hindsight, we can see that many stoves did not perform as well as anticipated in the field. and the experiments both overestimated the energy efficiency of improved stoves and underestimated the energy efficiency of traditional stoves. Today, a 25 percent reduction in wood consumption is considered more realistic

However: development practitioners have reamed a great deal from these early efforts, and the notions that improved stoves could improve energy efficiency substantially. albeit less than originally thought. and reduce the damage to health caused by smoke. are still valid A recent evaluation (Barnes and others 1994a) of the programs found that the best of them had the following features:

• Identification of appropriate markets Through local inquiry. the best programs first identified the families most likely to adopt and benefit from the improved stoves These were always low-income households (but generally not the poorest) who usually had some cash income, a large portion of which they spent on food and cooking fuel.

• Participation in stove design and market testing The best programs involved much interaction between designers, producers, and users anti included stove testing by representative households. This process kept producers and designers focused on meeting the needs of prospective users, which increased the likelihood that more people would purchase the stoves

• Provision of public funding. The stoves were not heavily subsidized. Public funds were used to support marketing. design. and extension

• Standardization of stove parts and techniques facilitated widespread manufacture and reduced costs

Properly managed, Improved stove programs. such as the one in China (see box 6.1). can result in significant adoption rates. Successful programs have focused on the user groups most likely to benefit from improved stoves, including those paying significant amounts for fuel or those who must walk long distances to collect fuelwood. Subsidies have not proven particularly effective in promoting stoves because they create an artificial demand that hinges on the subsidy that is not sustainable when the subsidy is withdrawn. However, external grant support can be valuable if used for such activities as laboratory testing. carrying out field work. obtaining users' views on alternative approaches. and demonstrating the stoves

An examination of successful stove projects in Africa leads to similar conclusions. A project in Madagascar financed by the International Development Association promoted improved charcoal stoves (Government of Madagascar 1994). After two years of preparatory activities (identifying potential users. testing stoves, selecting appropriate stove models. obtaining feedback from users and producers, and testing marketing channels). an active commercialization phase consisting of promotional activities resulted in the use of 45,000 improved stoves in the capital. Antananarivo. which amounts to about 20 percent of all stoves in use. More than ten different models of improved stoves are available (all metal, all clay, and mixed models). and several different types of production units exist. both in the informal and in the formal sectors. The private sector carried out all production. marketing. and sales Today. the support for the project has been eliminated. but activities continue. and estimates indicate that more than 100.000 improved stoves ate in use. The government intends to extend the activities to all urban areas where charcoal is the major fuel



The two largest stove programs in the world are the Chinese National Improved Stove Program, which has installed 120 million stoves in rural households, and the Indian National Programme on Improved Chulhas, which has provided 8 million stoves.

Chinese stoves are mainly biomass types for cooking. but include dualuse stoves for cooking and heating in the northern states, where winter temperatures are low. Improved stoves are affordable (about US$9), with government contributions averaging only US$0.84 per stove.

Indian stoves have a minimum 50 percent government subsidy (about US$4.30 per stove) While dissemination has been impressive, follow up surveys indicate that only half the improved stoves are still in use India has since revised much of its program to use existing commercial distribution and marketing channels

Source: Barnes and others (1994a); Ramakrishna (1991); Smith and others (1993).


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• Program concentrated on areas with greatest fuelwood shortages.

• Direct contacts between government and counties bypass much bureaucracy.

• Stove adopters pay the full cost of materials and labor.

• Government supports producers with training in stove building and promotion.


• Program disperses efforts including areas with no fuelwood shortages.

• Cumbersome, top-down administration dilutes the program's effectiveness.

• Government pays producers half the cost of every stove sold.

• Government support is mainly financial.

Another project funded by the International Development Association in Tanzania had a similar outcome. The four-year project (1988-92) established a production capacity. mostly among private sector artisans, of 5.000 improved stoves per month Distribution and sales are through a network of private sector retail outlets By the end of the project. more than 60,000 improved stoves had been sold, while production and sales of improved stoves have continued on a self-sustained market-driven basis since (Government of Tanzania 1992)

The social, economic. and environmental benefits of improved stoves can be large. and the successes have demonstrated the utility of well-managed programs The economic returns of successful programs are good In urban areas, where most people purchase wood-fuels rather than gather wood-fuel themselves, the pay back; time is sometimes as little as a few months In rural areas of resource scarcity, the savings in terms of the time and energy people spend gathering fuelwood are significant.