Peru update: how replacing a simple household item is improving lives

By Dr Dean Thomson, Food Security and Natural Resources Team

The many costs of fuel wood stoves

In Peru and many countries around the world, people still use fuel wood stoves for cooking their food, and normally they are open fires in enclosed spaces. This seemingly small aspect of daily life takes a toll in four main ways: health, time, money and the environment.

In doing that there’s lots of smoke produced, and that smoke causes eye damage, causes damage to the lungs, so there’s quite a few health impacts. The World Health Organisation estimates about 4.3 million people a year die from wood smoke through cooking, every year. So it’s quite a problem.

Cooking with wood fuel means someone has got to actually collect the wood. That might mean going out to communal forest areas – which can be quite dangerous, and very time consuming. Or they purchase it which costs the family quite a bit of money. There’s an environmental impact as using wood is contributing to deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions.

A project based on partnerships and community involvement

World Vision is partnering with the Inter-America Development Bank, Gold Standard and Microsol to finance and implement a clean cook stoves project in Peru. We work with the federal government agency SENCICO who provides technical expertise around the design of the cook stove – making sure that the cook stove has been built to the required specifications.

Each family that participates essentially gets a cook stove – but we don’t just give them out. We like to have families get involved, so they participate by providing the labour and some local materials to construct the stove. World Vision provides some essentials that need to be sourced from outside local communities such as the capital city – the steel chimney and steel plates – but we try to ensure that resources like bricks are sourced from local providers as much as possible.

Local builders trained in the communities do the installation, which helps to build up a sustainable business model. After the stoves have been built – because they’re a construction inside the house – these people that have been trained in the construction can then go back and follow up, or provide any maintenance needed rather than needing to bring in the expertise from somewhere else which can be costly and unlikely to happen very often.

Seeing the benefits in the short and long term

Each stove costs about US$60. Despite the initial costs, families get the benefit from using less firewood. Based on our monitoring so far, we estimate about a 40 to 50 percent reduction in fuel wood used – which translates to money and time saved. Because it’s generally the women or the children collecting the wood, there’s a gender benefit in the reduction in time spent. For children, freeing up more time to study, for women maybe more time for some type of economic development activity or just even being there with the children and helping them with their studies.

These cook stoves have a chimney so all the smoke is expelled outside the house. I’ve been to houses with both kinds of stove and you certainly notice the difference. Anecdotally, families using the stoves are also saying that they’re feeling much better.

By existing estimates each stove probably reduces the carbon dioxide emissions by one and a half to two tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. As the project is looking to implement 6,000 stoves, we’re looking at reducing potentially up to 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. And that is equivalent to about 3,000–4,000 cars being taken off the roads a year in Australia.

This isn’t the first project of its kind – our original project was in Ethiopia and involved 52,000 households, and another in Kenya which has reached 5,000 households. There’s currently an Australian Government funded project in Myanmar that’s been going for about one year, and now Peru. So, across four countries so far, it’s great to imagine how much these clean cook stoves are improving the health, income, time resources and the environment for the families and communities we work with.