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.