N. Bruns, Sanford School of Public Policy Undergraduate Student. Duke University.
Efforts to provide households in the developing world with improved cook stoves have been discussed for over 30 years. While these efforts have brought minimal returns over this time, they have received a renewed emphasis following an increasing body of work identifying stoves as a potentially powerful tool for combating climate change. Stove efforts have taken various iterations as improvements in fuel behavior can provide a variety of benefits. These independent benefits may give stoves a renewed strength, invigorating their general development and adoption. Still, the creation of new stove initiatives requires favoring some goals over others in the final implementation strategy. This paper explores these dynamics through a review of the literature and a trip to the field. It begins with an examination of the literature in each benefit class, covering conservation, health, and then climate change. Then, the paper presents guidelines for designing the initiatives seeking to increase adoption of improved technologies, along with proposed explanations for fuel use and technology adoption behavior. Finally, it explores how efforts can differ depending on whether they are aimed at yielding climate or health benefits. I conclude that stoves and stove programs have the immediate potential for an incredible, and very likely impact on large-scale gains in public health; successful improvements in climate seem less likely. Structural reform of these stove initiatives, especially in creating a for-profit market for mass produced stoves, could create a new framework to better achieve both benefit classes. These reforms divert funding from present technologies that provide immediate improvements to household health, yet might provide unforeseen opportunity and resources through shaping initiatives that better capture climate benefits.