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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

Chapter six - Cooking fuels: toward more sustainable supply and use


As incomes rise, rural and urban households gradually from using dung, crop wastes, and wood for cooking to modern fuels. such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene Households in rural areas and lower-income urban households rarely use electricity for cooking Given that people will be using biofuels for many years to come, policies need to focus on (a) improving the efficiency with which biofuels are used. (b) promoting more sustainable ways to supply biofuels, and (c) facilitating the transition to the use of modern fuels for cooking


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).


Grid Extension and Solar PV Switchover Values Outside Java Grid 3 Kilometer Medium-Voltage Extension


• 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.


Improving charcoal efficiency


For many families. an intermediate-level fuel between wood-fuels and kerosene and LPG is charcoal Not only is it relatively inexpensive. but it generates much employment. Like fuelwood. charcoal can be purchased in preferred quantities; but unlike fuelwood, it burns without smoke. does not create dangerous flames around cooking vessels, and requires a simple stove whose heat output is relatively easy to control However. dispersed local charcoal industries often use inefficient charcoaling kilns that use more wood resources than necessary

The potential for increasing biomass efficiency with improved charcoal kilns has been recognized since the early 1980s Kiln models based on traditional designs, but with higher heat-transfer efficiencies, have been developed in Rwanda, Senegal. and Tanzania in collaboration with end-users However. this has shown that such technical innovations should be complemented by easily enforced standards. systematic training. and demonstrations to convince traditional charcoalers to adopt the improvements. Such programs, particularly in wood-scarce areas work best when complemented by natural forest management efforts that have raised the price of wood stocks. thereby creating an incentive for charcoalers to use more efficient technologies Recent experience in East Africa has demonstrated that a comprehensive approach to introducing new kiln technologies to the small-scale charcoaling industry can succeed More efficient charcoal production is beginning to result in the use of fewer wood resources in peri-urban areas and is bringing down the cost of the fuel


Developing more sustainable ways to supply biomass


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, biefuels development tended to focus on plantations and community or private woodlots. Such programs proved expensive and had limited success. as discussed in chapter 2. During the past ten years or so, the possibilities for increasing biomass production through agro-forestry and farm forestry have become more widely recognized, as have more sustainable forms of forest management involving local participation Agro-forestry. farms forestry. and natural forest management projects yield a host of benefits in addition to an increase in fuelwood production - including fodder, medicines, fruits. and poles for construction


Agro-forestry and farm forestry


Agro-forestry entails planting trees, shrubs (and sometimes grasses, such as vetiver grasses), on farmlands in alternating patterns with more traditional crops. In addition to enhancing agricultural production by providing shade and complementary use of soils, agro-forestry plays an important role in alleviating fuelwood shortages and resource custody. Such intercropping reflects old and once well-known practices that have been neglected in recent years because of persistent poverty. population pressures. and failure to address tenurial or property rights. However, interest has been rekindled. Small farmers often practice agro-forestry and term forestry independently in response to economic needs and ecological problems. The spread of farm forestry in Kenya is an often-cited example of relatively autonomous development of effective practices. but many others can be found in China. India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

In the Philippines. the island of Cebu lost most of its forests in the early part of this century The resulting fuelwood scarcity and rising prices caused farmers to begin planting trees to supply fuelwood to urban markets, which has helped ameliorate at least some of the environmental damage caused by the earlier deforestation (see box 6 2) In India. the first social forestry programs were aimed at establishing community wood lots, but few communities would engage in tree planting for urban markets. However, private farmers did respond to the incentives and began planting trees on their marginal lands. Recent programs in West Bengal have granted landless laborers tenure to manage trees on public wastelands.

Agro-forestry and term forestry can be encouraged through farmer education and extension programs and supported through agricultural and forestry research. Such efforts are both environmentally desirable and economically beneficial for the following reasons:

• Farmers outnumber foresters by several thousand to one. so involving fanners in planting trees and shrubs can dramatically accelerate afforestation.

• By their nature, agro-forestry and farm forestry investments are more closely related to farmers' needs, as they supply fodder, building materials, green mulch, fruit. and other by-products that are sometimes more valuable than the firewood itself (technically also a by-product)



Cebu, the island province in the south central Philippines, is one of the worst cases of environmental degradation in Southeast Asia. With virtually no forest cover, but with steep terrain, population densities of 520 people per square kilometer, and widespread cultivation of annual crops like corn throughout its rugged interior, environmentalists consider Cebu to be on the brink of ecological collapse.

Despite increased use of kerosene and LPG, most of the island's 2.7 million inhabitants continue to depend on wood, particularly households and businesses in the metropolis of Cebu City. This heavy dependence on wood-fuel is often cited as a major cause of the province's environmental woes. As a result, many government and NGO officials believe that wood-fuel use should be discouraged in urban areas and that commercial trade in wood-fuel should be more tightly regulated, if not altogether banned.

A recent study found, however. that commercial markets for fuelwood and charcoal in Cebu City may actually be inducing more intensive tree planting and management activities among rural farmers and landowners. Most commercially traded wood-fuels originate from intensively managed agricultural lands and consist mainly of fast-growing, multipurpose tree species like Gliricidia and Leucaena. The growing, harvesting, and trading of wood-fuels is a substantial source of income and employment. Wood-fuels meet significant urban energy demands and represent a renewable and locally produced energy source that annually saves the economy millions of dollars in foreign exchange.

Rather than promoting the cultivation of tree species that require extensive inputs. which require more labor, capital, and time to harvest, rural development programs should also recognize the benefits of the low-input alternatives that Cebuano farmers have practiced for nearly a century. They should view commercial wood-fuel markets as an opportunity to promote more widespread tree planting and management practices throughout rural areas of the province rather than as a problem to be controlled by restrictive legislation.

Source: Bensel (1994).


• Agro-forestry and farm forestry practices reduce run-off, coil erosion, and surface evaporation and improve micro-climates and soil water retention. Farmers can use the foliage of the trees they grow to provide nitrogen-rich manure or mulch for their fields and to improve soil structure Such attributes contribute to sustainable farming systems by raising the productivity of farm soils (Gregerson. Draper, and Elz 1989)

Field studies of agro-forestry practices in developing countries over the past twenty-five years have consistently found that agro-forestry has favorable effects on farm yields and incomes, just as similar studies have found in the high-income countries for the last century (Doolette and Magrath 1990: Gregersen. Draper, and Elz 1989) This is encouraging. because it demonstrates that biofuels can be supplied in ways that will not only help make agricultural practices sustainable but will also improve agricultural productivity and incomes

A recent study of twenty-ode agro-forestry projects in six Central American countries (Current. Lutz. and Scherr 1995) found that agro-forestry practicies were profitable under a inroad range of conditions (table 6 1 summarizes the results) These findings echo those of several other studies An earlier survey of field results (Doolette and Magath 1990) of more than a dozen studies in Brazil, Colombia, India. Indonesia. Malawi. Niger, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea. and Sudan did not find a single case in which the returns were less than 15 percent.

Table 6.1 Returns to Agro-Forestry Practices in Six Central American Countries

Agro-forestry system

Number of system studied

Benefit-cost ratio at 20% discounta

Payback period (years)

Trees with crops




Alley cropping




Contour planting




Perennials with trees




Home garden











9. a.

a. The high discount rate is used to give a measure of the financial returns to the farmers not of the opportunity cost of capital.

b. A system in which new forest plantations are established together with food and cash crops which continue to be intercropped until shaded out by the maturing plantation.

Source: Lutz Current and Scherr (1995)


Participatory to forest management


Experience also suggests that effective management of existing forest resources depends on local people taking responsibility In such participatory programs, small farmers sell all the wood extracted from local woodlands; however; to obtain the revenue from the trees. the farmers must participate in a resource management program mutually agreed upon with the forestry department In such an environment. foresters are no longer enforcers of protective rules, but advisors to farmers on technical issues and on resource planting and management problems

Successful programs using this approach include the Niger Household Energy Project (see box 6 .3) Its initial results suggest that transferring responsibility for forest areas directly to rural communities and introducing taxes or user charges designed to ensure that the market value of fuelwood reflects its real economic costs should lead to more sustainable approaches to resource management Another such project is in the Nazinon region of Burkina Faso In operation since the late 1 980s, it enlists the participation of the rural population in supporting natural forest management and involves the creation of a forest fund from a sales tax on fuelwood that helps to recover costs (RPTES 1995)

To sum up, approaches to improving biofuel supplies have evolved considerably in recent decades. with the participation of farmers-and of rural communities mole generally - in policymaking and the recognition that biofuel supplies are part of the wider problem of resource custody in rural areas being central features of this evolution Many countries are now encouraging the practices discussed here through rural extension and education programs, seedling distribution. and agricultural and forestry research


Improving access to kerosene and gas


When people can afford kerosene and gas (mainly LPG) they prefer these fuels to fuelwood and dung for cooking As figure 2 1 showed' kerosene and LPG are five to ten times more efficient, far less damaging to the users' hearth and to their environment. and easier to cook with. They also greatly reduce the time women and children spend gathering fuelwood At the same time however. these fuels are more expensive than wood: the poorest people thus rarely use them In Africa, in particular. poor infrastructure. dispersed populations, and poor delivery also hinder access to such fuels


Subsidies versus price liberalization


Several countries have subsidized kerosene anti LPG in an effort to increase their use. A cross-country study (Barnes and others 1994b) found that house hold fuel subsidies do influence rate of substitution For example. in Indonesia the government subsidizes kerosene to make it available nationshide The result is that most people use kerosene for cooking In China, coal is heavily subsidized, which helps explain why coal accounts for a significant proportion of total household energy use in most parts of China In Senegal, the government subsidizes LPG as a cooking fuel. which has led to the substitution of charcoal by high-income and middle-income urban residents.



Before the Niger Household Energy Project was implemented in 1989, indiscriminate mining of fuelwood had severely depleted the natural forest and had degraded soils. The situation was most serious around urban areas, because neither the land on which the wood was grown nor the wood itself belonged to those who cut it. Moreover, the economic value of the wood could not be easily recovered from the woodcutters.

Through an integrated program of taxation and land tenure reform, responsibility for managing forest areas is being transferred to rural communities, and local people now have the right to manage wood resources on their own land. The project's national and local-level information campaigns are helping educate rural people about their rights to harvest forest resources and about setting up rural markets. These are established at the request of villagers, who decide on the local management structure and negotiate annual fuelwood harvesting and sales quotas based on the sustainable production capacity of the village's natural forest.

A typical village plan (see figure) calls for sustainable harvesting and replanting on a twelve-year cycle (impending harvest plots are P1, P2, and P3). Villagers sell the fuelwood they harvest to commercial transporters at prices the villagers determine. The taxes villagers collect from local transporters ensure that the full economic value of fuelwood is reflected in its price.

Source: Floor (1995).


Typical Village Plan for Sustainable Planting



In 1980, only the upper 10 percent of households in Hyderabad used LPG, most of the middle class used kerosene, and the poor mainly used fuelwood

In 1994, however, the India Urban Energy Project found that a transition from fuelwood to LPG had transpired in Hyderabad. Fuelwood had virtually disappeared from the city center, except for small industrial and ceremonial uses. and, overall, 20 percent less fuelwood was coming into the city - a major drop, given that Hydera-bad's population had doubled since 1980.

A major cause of this dramatic transition was a change in government policy that increased access to LPG, liberalized fuel markets, and eased access barriers. As a result, the middle class can now get LPG, which in turn has allowed the poor to shift from fuelwood to kerosene.

Today, kerosene, and LPG are the dominant fuels in Hyderabad's households. The decisions households make concerning which fuels to use are strongly correlated with income levels. Households in the city slums earn about Rs 1,500 per month, and their monthly housing expenses are Rs 400 to Rs 600. These households generally spend about Rs 50 to Rs 60 per month on kerosene for cooking, and about the same on electricity for lighting, television, and perhaps a fan. When asked why they no longer use fuelwood for cooking, the householders replied that it is both expensive and inconvenient (see table below).

Source: Alam (forthcoming).


Urban Consumer Prices of Cooking Fuels. 1994 (rupees)

Energy type

Price per unit

Price per megajoule

Cooking efficiency

Price per useful energy

LPG (kg)







Pressure (1)





Wick (1)





Wood (kg)







0 311



However; as already noted. subsidies are often counterproductive: they limit use to the amount that governments can afford to subsidize, their fiscal costs can become prohibitive at high levels of consumption, and they lead to energy inefficiency In Senegal. for instance, LPG subsidies rose from US$2 million to USE 10 million per year between 1990 and 1994 As some observers pointed out at the time this increase could have paid for the salaries of several thousand teachers at a time the country was seeking to expand its education system. Studies in Hyderabad, India, before prices were liberalized. Indonesia, and Senegal also found that such subsidies mostly benefit higher-income people already using the fuels They do help the poor, but the higher-income groups get a "free ride " Lastly, the subsidized fuels are often diverted for other purposes Smoky. diesel-fueled cars and fishing boats are prevalent in Indonesia and Senegal. while kerosene and LPC are exported to neighboring countries. as happened with LPG in Ecuador (Barnes and others 1994).

In contrast, price and market liberalization can be effective in accelerating the transition toward more efficient modern fuels. A recent study of fuel use in Hyderabad (Alam forthcoming) shows how intiuential such policies can be Fifteen years ago, only 10 percent of the city's households used LPG because the Indian government had restricted production and imports Since then. the government has liberalized policies, and today more than 60 percent of households use LPG for cooking (box 6 4)

Cape Verde's experience is also relevant In 1984. 50 percent of the population used biomass for cooking; 42 percent used kerosene; and 8 percent used LPG, which was in limited supply. Five years later, following market liberalization. 42 percent of households were using LPG and 8 percent were using kerosene, showing how quickly people will change fuels once they can Note, however, that 50 percent still depended on biofuels, which demonstrates the importance of not focusing policies on the modern energy sector alone.

Subsidizing cooking fuels is not, therefore, a good policy from any standpoint encouraging equity. protecting the environment. or even promoting greater use of these fuels Liberalizing prices is a much mot-e promising alternative.


Distortionary effects of high taxes on cooking fuels


Taxes on petroleum products are an economically attractive way to raise public revenues, and many developing countries favor such taxes The price elasticities of demand. at least for vehicle fuels. are relatively low, which means that the deadweight losses are also relatively low: the fuels are mostly used by upper income groups. so the taxes are progressive: and they ate relatively easy to administer Such classical arguments for taxes are generally valid Taxes on cooking fuels, however. are an exception in developing countries Such taxes impair the substitution from biofuels to fuels such as LPG and are in effect regressive for low-income people. Furthermore. such taxes may drive up the prices of traditional fuels such as chat coal, as happened in Haiti (box 6.5).

While subsidizing cooking fuels is not good policy, therefore, developing countries also need to avoid high taxes on them. At the same thee. the case for taxing petroleum fuels for vehicle use especially remains sound. Depending on circumstances. moderate rates of taxation on LPG. kerosene, and diesel fuels will often be the best option Such tax policies are, of course, fully consistent with the goals of price liberalization.



Haiti has among the highest LPG prices in the Caribbean, if not the world, largely because of high taxes. Although few poor people in Haiti use LPG or kerosene, prices for fuels have historically been related (see figure). Hence, when LPG and kerosene prices are raised via taxes, demand for other fuels increases. Massive deforestation during the past twenty five years has depleted the country's wood supplies, so the poor use commercial charcoal, whose prices have risen with demand and along with those of the other commercial fuels. The taxes on kerosene and LPG thus have meant higher prices for the fuel used mostly by the poor.


Energy Prices in Haiti, 1970-90