Hey there! I am a past intern at ECHO and would love to provide some insight on this topic.
I spent three months in 2017 working with Care of Creation Kenya researching the use and adoption of fireless cookers in 6 communities surrounding the small town of Kijabe, Kenya. We interviewed about 100 women concerning the use and adoption of fireless cookers. Some of the women had already been using the cookers, while others had not yet adopted them and were interested in learning how to both construct and use them.
"Seeing is believing" was a prominent theme throughout my research. The women greatly appreciated demonstrations of how to cook with the new technology. We took measures to cook traditional foods (rice, stew, ugali) in front of the women so they could see (and taste) for themselves the successful results.
Another obstacle we faced in promoting the fireless cooker was a lack of awareness of the inefficiency of their traditional fuel sources/cooking practices. In a participatory ranking exercise with a large group of the women, we prompted the women to discuss and estimate the overall costs of using firewood, charcoal, an LPG gas tank, and a fireless cooker for a typical Kenyan family during a particular season of the year. We facilitated a discussion in which the women were free to argue, discuss, and come to their own consensus on the various fuel costs using their own criteria and specific cultural context. To the women’s surprise, their own calculations portrayed that LPG gas tanks are actually cheaper than firewood. (Most women initially thought firewood was cheapest). Furthermore, they were able to see how using the fireless cooker alongside the gas tank (and the other cook-stoves) would cut their cooking expenditures drastically. Overall, this exercise was effective for revealing to us the importance of addressing common misperceptions surrounding cooking fuel costs to allow women to see for themselves the money they could save in the long-run by investing in a fireless cooker.
This brings me to another important barrier to adoption–the idea that the adopters must completely give up their traditional ways of cooking in order to adopt this new technology. While complete replacement of inefficient fuel sources may be the long-term goal, it is helpful to present this new technology as a cooking method they can “stack” with their traditional fuel sources, not replace altogether. Therefore, it would be helpful to present and design this new technology in a way that compliments and can be used alongside the traditional method (even if just for a little while before they feel confident enough to completely replace their inefficient methods). Taking small steps towards success is key.
With respect to point #7, A delight to use, we did find that the women were more likely to both construct and adopt fireless cookers that were aesthetically pleasing. This posed some issues with cost, seeing as how the more aesthetically pleasing baskets were more expensive to make. While we demonstrated that even a plastic basket, one often used for laundry in their context, could be transformed into a fireless cooker, the women preferred not to use it because of the associations a plastic basket had with dirty clothes. Therefore, creativity in “beautifying” the technology may be necessary for successful adoption.
If anyone is interested in reading the equivalent of a thesis that I wrote on this research, presenting the fireless cooker as a holistic poverty alleviation tool, please reach out to me. My email is email@example.com. My paper also includes relevant discussions on the social, economic, health, safety, environmental, and spiritual factors related to adopting cookstove technology.
Attached is a poster I presented at two of ECHO’s conferences, one in Thailand and the other in Fort Myers. Fireless Cooker Poster.pdf (937.6 KB)