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Status of improved stoves in the northern areas of Pakistan

Muhammad Saleem, Programme Monitoring Officer, The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, PO Box 506, Babar Road, Gilgit, Pakistan

Situation des foyers amiordans les rons du Nord Pakistan

Cet article souligne que le foyer traditionnellement utilisst un foyer tred mllique consommant environ 20 k/j de biomasse et dgeant beaucoup de fum Le Tandoori peut e consid comme un foyer amorour la cuissori des aliments et du pain. C'est un foyer clos fabriqu partir de l'argile. Les foyers bi-usages (cuisson et chauffage) sont des foyers miliques plus nomes en rgie (15 kg/j au lieu de 20 kg/j). Environ 15 000 de ces foyers ont introduits jusqu'resent. Le foyer amortilisxclusivement pour le chauffage est un foyer mllique produit artir de mataux de recuperation. Ce foyer est surtout rndu parmi les families relativement ais. Diffntes sortes de biomasse peuvent e utilis. Environ 1000 foyers sont fabriques quotidiennement par quelque 50 artisans. Du fait de la crise du bois de feu, les rgies dv des hydrocarbures commencent tre introduites notamment au sein des villages proches des grandes agglomtions


Rural communities at different altitudes in developing countries use various cooking and space heating devices, depending upon the socioeconomic conditions. A growing population and decreasing natural forests have put considerable pressure on the biomass fuel resources used by the rural communities. The situation calls for the development of devices which are most suited to specific socio-economic conditions.

The Northern Areas experience severe cold in winter with heating devices used from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for both cooking and heating purposes. In summer, these devices are used for two hours in the morning, two hours at noon and two hours in the evening for cooking and baking only. This paper attempts to highlight some of the traditional and improved cooking and space-heating devices used in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.

The Northern Areas

The Northern Areas of Pakistan consist of five administrative districts. The terrain, which is rugged, uneven and mountainous is spread over an area of 74 square kilometers. The Northern Areas experience two extreme temperatures; a maximum of 45 degC in summer and a minimum of 40 degC in winter. The rainfall varies from 100 mm to 500 mm in a year. Diamer district is rich in natural forests with a forest coverage of 30 per cent of the area. The other four districts have little natural forestry with less than 1 per cent coverage. In some areas, not even a single tree exists.

To meet the shortage of forestry products, the Village Organizations, under the umbrella of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), have planted 20 million trees on their irrigated land within a period of twelve years.

The estimated population of the Northern Areas is 10 million. The average household size is 8.33. The population lives at a minimum altitude of 1200 metres and at a maximum altitude of 3200 metres. Much of the area above 2000 metres remains under snow for four months in the winter season. Nearly 95 per cent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

The families in the Northern Areas prepare three main meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. In addition, morning tea at 10am and evening tea at 4pm are also prepared for the household members.

Cooking, heating and baking devices

Open hearth

The open hearth is a very old traditional device for cooking, heating and baking which is made from local materials such as stones and mud. It is very cheap and is easily built by the household members themselves. The design of the open hearth varies from area to area (see Figures 1-3). In this open hearth a three-legged iron frame supports the pots and tawa (a circular iron pan for baking bread). All types of biomass fuel, such as firewood, dung, bushes, sawdust, crop residues and mud-grass slices are used. The open hearth is built in an open place in the centre of the traditional house. The house itself comprises a single room which is used for many purposes; sitting, dining and sleeping for all the family members. However, this tradition is gradually decreasing as a result of the introduction of modem living standards for those with more money.

Open hearth common in Gilgit

Open hearth, common in Baltistan

Open hearth, common in Shigar (Baltistan)

The open hearth consumes a lot of biomass fuel. On average, 20 kg (costing Rs.100/40kg) of firewood is used in the open hearth a day (40Rs. = 1US$). Heat cannot be properly retained because a large open hole, with a diameter of 18 inches (450mm), is made in the centre of the roof to allow smoke to pass out of the house. Moreover, heat cannot easily be concentrated towards the pot and tawa for cooking and baking.

The house is filled with smoke which is emitted from the open hearth, which results in health and cleaning problems. The household members have to spend a sizeable amount of money on medicines and detergents.


The tandoor is considered to be an improved device for cooking and baking; it is not used for heating. The tandoor is a closed pot formed from clay (see Figures 4-5). Quite a large amount of fuel is required to heat up the tandoor properly. Once properly heated op. the tandoor is useful for cooking dishes and baking breads (chapattis) in large amounts and for a long time. The tandoor uses, on average, 80kg of firewood a day for baking 300 loaves. It is not used for cooking and baking by small families.

The normal size of the tandoor is 2 feet (0.6m) high and it is 1 foot (0.3m) in diameter at its widest point. It is built in Rawalpindi by trained artisans and is transported to the Northern Areas. The price of average-size tandoor is Rs. 1000 and there is an additional installation cost of Rs.3000.

Traditional Tandoor common in Gojal

Improved Tandoor

Improved metal cooking and heating stove

Cooking and heating stoves are built by private builders who use either metal sheets or recycled sheets produced by cutting up oil barrels. These stoves are placed in the centre of the traditional house, in the room and in the kitchen. The normal size of the stove is 30" × 17" × 7" (800mm × 450mm × 180mm).

The stove has two holes on the top for two pots to be heated at the same time. It has a door at the front for putting in biomass fuel. The improved cooking and heating stove uses all kinds of biomass fuel. A long metal pipe is fixed at one end of the stove to let out exhaust smoke. A considerable amount of heat is retained in the house by using the stove. No open holes or ventilators are needed to let out smoke and fumes (see Figure 6).

These stoves are more fuel efficient than the open hearth, each one normally consuming about 15Kg of firewood a day. The stoves are built by private builders at the district headquarters. There are estimated to be 50 builders in the Northern Areas, who between them produce 200 stoves a day. The price of an average size stove is Rs.450. Most of the stoves are marketed in winter.

Improved metal cooking, baking & heating stove

The Aga Khan Housing Board (AKHB) Gilgit, took initiatives to introduce these stoves in the rural areas through village organizations in 1986. In 1994, AKHB Gilgit employed a trainer from GTZ Peshawar, Pakistan, to train twenty cooking and heating stove builders who were already working in this sector. AKHB Gilgit has, so far, introduced 15000 cooking and heating stoves in the rural areas of the Northern Areas.

Improved metal heating stove

The improved heating stove is built by using metal sheets or by recycling the sheets produced by cutting up oil barrels. The size of the stove is 16" × 13" (400mm × 330mm) with a door at the front and a long metal pipe on the top to vent smoke from the stove. It is mainly used for space heating. It is very common in rich and large families (more than 10 family members) and is used for heating isolated rooms (see Figures 7-8)

Improved metal heating stove

Improved metal heating stove, using saw dust

All kinds of biomass fuel, such as firewood, bushes, dung, sawdust and grass-mud slices are used. The stove in which sawdust is used has a slightly different design; it has a very small hole measuring 3" (75mm) at the front and a large 6" (150mm) hole on the top. The sawdust is put in through the top hole and pressed in such a way that an airway is formed between the bottom front and the top holes. On average, 20Kg of firewood is consumed by the stove in a day.

K. Oil heater

Nearly 1000 heating stoves are manufactured a day by an estimated 50 private builders at the district headquarters. They are sold for Rs. 400 per stove.

Kerosene oil and electric stoves/heaters

K. Oil stove - cum - heater

The price of firewood is increasing daily in the Northern Areas because of depleting natural forests and forest plantations on the irrigated land. Moreover, biomass fuel collection is a time-consuming activity. A single person can collect 40Kg of firewood from up in the high forests in a day. As a result, in cities and in villages very near to the cities, people have started replacing biomass fuel stoves with stoves and heaters fuelled by kerosene oil, LPG (known locally as faun gas) and electricity (see Figures 9-12).

Electric stove - cum - Heater

Electric heater


The communities in the Northern Areas use different devices for cooking, baking and heating, depending on their specific requirements. These devices are: open hearth, tandoor, metal cooking-cum-heating stoves, and stoves and heaters fuelled by kerosene oil, faun gas (a type of LPG) and electricity.

The communities in the Northern Areas are very concerned about the rising costs of biomass fuel and want to save fuel as much as they can. They need special attention from agencies involved in the development of appropriate technologies. Stoves should be designed in such a way that they save fuel, reduce smoke, save time and produce greater heat for corking and warming up houses and rooms.

Improved cooking and heating stoves are hygienic and environmentally friendly. Lung diseases and eye infections suffered by housewives have been considerably reduced by their introduction. A sizeable amount of money is saved from reduced use of detergents and medicines because of the house being free from smoke and fumes. The stove has also indirectly reduced the workload for women, who are responsible for cleaning and washing. Finally, the introduction of the metal stove has reduced pressure on natural forests as a result of savings in biomass fuel consumption.

Improved metal stoves used only for heating are also more biomass fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, but they only serve the purpose of heating the rooms. Therefore, these stoves are not considered economical for poor families.