How many stoves do you have?

In the developed world, we “stack” technologies. How many devices do you have that have overlapping purposes?  My phone, computer, ipod, stereo, and now kindle can all play music, although all in slightly different ways. When I get a new piece of technology that can play music (for example, my droid), it didn’t make me stop using my ipod.

In India and other developing countries, stoves technologies are “stacked”. In rural areas, everyone has a chulha, or traditional stove.  Everyone.



But some people also have stoves that burn more cleanly, such as kerosene, electric, biogas, or LPG.


However, they don’t stop using their chulhas just because they have a cleaner and more efficient stove, and there are a lot of reasons for this.    Here, a woman shows me her biogas stove (you can see the hose connecting it to the biogas plant).  It is next to an impressive stack of wood that fuels the chulha in the other corner of the kitchen. 


And here it is.  Cooking technology and fuel stacking – a working biogas stove and a chulha.  One burns clean gas, and the other has stained the walls black with soot (just imagine her lungs!). 


Wood is a lot cheaper than gas or kerosene or electricity, especially since the time it takes to gather and prepare the wood is not generally considered as a “cost” to the family. We’re asking questions about  every stove that they have, how often they use them, fuels, kitchen construction, etc.  Using a chulha will turn your pots black, but some say that it gives a better taste to the food.

Of course, we’ll see what the data from all 500 households shows, but my reaction from spending a week in the field is that stove “stacking” is prevalent.  Improved stoves do not replace their dirtier counterparts entirely.  This is certainly what we expected, and it’s at the heart of the improved cookstove conundrum.  It’s stilly to compare my stacking music player technologies with use of multiple cookstoves, because of course, my ipod isn’t killing me.  Our goal in this research project is not to encourage people to use their cleaner stoves, but rather to better understand who is using what, and why. 

5 thoughts on “How many stoves do you have?

  1. Looking at these women and their stoves, and kitchens….we have such an easy life. I suppose there is no ‘refrigeration’ because it does not look like there is any electricity. Our ‘basic necessities’ are a completely different list.
    The women are ‘all dressed up’! Bangle bracelets.

    • Agreed. Such a different experience from ours, there is so much that we take for granted as ‘needed’ in order to accomplish something as basic as making something to eat.

    • A lot of these houses have electricity – but not sufficient for an (expensive) electric stove. In one sense we have an “easy” life – but in another sense, we have a very complicated life. It certainly is much simpler to cut your vegetables sitting on the ground and not worry about refrigeration or what we consider sanitation.

    • Lets just say its less damaging than inhaling smoke, shall we? Indoor air pollution causes 2 million deaths per year – as far as this blogger is aware, no one has proved any deaths due to ipod usage.

      But thanks for commenting 😉


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