Surveying the Village (photos)

We spent two days “in the field” surveying households last week. 

These rural villages aren’t far from urban centers or highways, and in many ways can resemble the city slums, but (in my experience) are more spread out. 

We have been visiting a selection of houses with biogas plants (and stoves that burn the gas), traditional cookstoves (or chulhas), and improved cookstoves (kerosene, LPG, electric, or “rocket stoves”). 

Here is a traditional chulha (no chimney) in an enclosed brick kitchen – the window nearby at least offers some escape for the smoke. 


I’ll give a primer on biogas plants in my next post.  Here, a woman uses a stove running with the methane produced by her biogas plant.  What clean energy!


This man was a bit better off.  Here is his biogas plant – in the background is a chicken farm he runs. [aside: the chicken farm building had wire mesh walls, so at least the chickens had some air, and plenty of room to run around inside]


To be surveyed (for about 3 hours), he brought out two chairs and a table from his house. 


Here’s where the dung is added to a biogas plant, and presumably stirred with this stick.


This woman shows me her stove that runs on biogas.


This man showed me to a well – functioning biogas plant, and I asked to take his photo in front of it.  After the photo he started laughing and I learned that it wasn’t his plant but belonged to his neighbors – here it is nonetheless.


Another biogas stove:


My favorite photo- this woman has a kerosene stove (pictured) although she generally uses her chulha.  She didn’t feel comfortable having me take a photo of her kitchen, so we settled on her doorstep.  Her husband stands to the left.


One of our star surveyors, hard at work in the foreground below.  Since the survey takes so long, people can get quite bored and want to get back to their work.  The best story of a dedicated surveyor is S., who was surveying a farmer.  After 40 minutes, the farmer said he needed to return to the rice paddy.  Undettered, S. accompanied him and stood in the paddy asking questions for an additional 1.5-2 hours while the farmer worked.  If it were appropriate, I would have bought S. a drink. Instead, I congratulated him enthusiastically and said “5 stars work!”


Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Report

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves just released a great report summarizing the challenges to adoption. In particular, this is a good graphic that summarizes many of the problems I alluded to here.


As it mentions, many factors are aligned (or in the case of the above- many text bubbles) to make efforts to develop, distribute, and encourage adoption possible. You can read the whole report here. If you’re interested in cookstoves, this is a good primer (and the pictures are excellent, though heartbreaking).

The report calls for more of just the type of research we are undertaking – studies evaluating cookstove distribution programs, and better understanding of the barriers to adoption. Looking forward to getting to the field in about a week to do my part to add to our body of knowledge…