Behavioral Attitudes and Preferences in Cooking Practices with Traditional Open-Fire Stoves in Peru, Nepal, and Kenya: Implications for Improved Cookstove Interventions
Abstract: Global efforts are underway to develop and promote improved cookstoves which may reduce the negative health and environmental effects of burning solid fuels on health and the environment. Behavioral studies have considered cookstove user practices, needs and preferences in the design and implementation of cookstove projects; however, these studies have not examined the implications of the traditional stove use and design across multiple resource-poor settings in the implementation and promotion of improved cookstove projects that utilize a single, standardized stove design. We conducted in-depth interviews and direct observations of meal preparation and traditional, open-fire stove use of 137 women aged 20–49 years in Kenya, Peru and Nepal prior in the four-month period preceding installation of an improved cookstove as part of a field intervention trial. Despite general similarities in cooking practices across sites, we identified locally distinct practices and norms regarding traditional stove use and desired stove improvements. Traditional stoves are designed to accommodate specific cooking styles, types of fuel, and available resources for maintenance and renovation. The tailored stoves allow users to cook and repair their stoves easily. Women in each setting expressed their desire for a new stove, but they articulated distinct specific alterations that would meet their needs and preferences. Improved cookstove designs need to consider the diversity of values and needs held by potential users, presenting a significant challenge in identifying a “one size fits all” improved cookstove design. Our data show that a single stove design for use with locally available biomass fuels will not meet the cooking demands and resources available across the three sites. Moreover, locally produced or adapted improved cookstoves may be needed to meet the cooking needs of diverse populations while addressing health and environmental concerns of traditional stoves.