Improved cookstoves make life easier for women

AgricultureGender equalityHealth

Notes to broadcasters

The presence of HIV/AIDS increases women’s work in many ways. If their husbands have died, women must take on additional farm work. Many women also take care of orphans or other family members who have been left homeless. They might also be caring for someone with the chronic illness at home. There are always funerals and community events to plan and attend – and all of these take time.

The following short spots show that if women replace their cooking fire or three-stone stove with a more efficient cookstove that burns less wood, they will not have to spend so much time each day collecting firewood. More efficient cookstoves mean less work for women.

There are different types of improved cookstoves. They can be made of clay, dried mud, or metal. They might burn firewood, dung, charcoal, or coal. In some African countries the cookstoves are made and sold by women’s collectives like Maendeleo ya Wanawake or by Jua Kali groups. Some common cookstove names are, “Anagi,” “Lorena” and “Magan Chulha.” In many African countries the “Kenya Ceramic Jiko,” “Kuni Mbili” and “Upesi” cookstoves are popular.

Before you play these spots you may want to find out which cookstove alternatives are available in your area, where they are sold, and the price. Then you can incorporate this information into each spot.


Spot #1: Improved cookstoves will help Wangari Maathai protect the environment

In October 2004, environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai of Kenya became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Maathai has worked hard alongside farmers and villagers to protect forests and plant millions of new trees in Kenya and all over Africa.

The open cooking fires in our area burn a lot of firewood just to cook the day’s meals. We are using our trees faster than they can grow up again, without thinking about the future.

But by replacing our cooking fires with new improved cookstoves that burn less wood, we can help Wangari Maathai protect the forests and conserve our fuelwood.

To learn more about these improved cookstoves, contact [Name and contact information of organization or individual].

– END –

Spot #2: Spend less time gathering wood with an improved cookstove



Teenage girl:
(timidly) Thank you for walking me home.

Teenage boy:
(timidly) No problem.


Do you want to come inside?

Isn’t your mother home?


Are you sure?

Yes. She’s always out collecting firewood this time of day.

(happily) Well… if you’re sure…

(happily) I’m sure… let’s go in…


(yelling from background) Chastity…is that you? Come and see this!

(nervously) Mama? What are you doing home?

(distracted and excited) What do you mean? I’m cooking your dinner of course!

But you’re never home at this hour.

Usually I’m out collecting firewood. But no more! I got a new cookstove that burns much less wood! Come and see! (Pause) Oh! And who is this?

(nervously) Mama, this is Simon. Simon…this is my mother.

Hello Ma’am.

Have you ever seen a stove like this before Simon?

No Ma’am.

With this stove…I don’t have to collect so much firewood. (A little sternly) So I’ll be here every day when you get home from school. (Pause) Do you understand?

(shyly) Yes Ma’am.

Good then. We understand each other! Now sit down you two, and let’s eat something hot off of my wonderful new cookstove!

To find out about new and improved cookstoves, contact [Name and contact information of organization or individual].

– END –

Spot #3: A healthier home with less smoke

1st Woman:
It’s the same every day at meal time. The smoke from the cooking fire fills my kitchen.

2nd Woman:
All that smoke is bad for your health.

1st Woman:
I know…it stings my eyes and makes my mother cough.

2nd Woman:
But that’s not all. If someone in your home is sick, those chemicals in the smoke can weaken their body even more.

1st Woman:
But I have to cook! I have to heat my house when the weather turns cold!

2nd Woman:
You can still cook! But it’s important to think about ways to reduce the smoke in your home. You can install a smoke hood above the stove. That will reduce the amount of smoke. Or improve the ventilation by making more spaces in the eaves above the cooker.

1st Woman:
What about an improved cookstove?

2nd Woman:
That will help too, by reducing the amount of wood needed for cooking. The important thing for your family’s health is to reduce the amount of smoke in your home.

1st Woman:
Where can I learn more about smoke hoods and improved cookstoves?

2nd Woman:
For more information about improved cookstoves and smoke hoods contact [Name and contact information of organization or individual].

– END –

Spot #4: More efficient cookstoves make less work for women


Host 1:
A woman’s work is never done.

Host 2:
Cooking meals, cleaning the house, working in the fields, taking care of children, gathering firewood…there is always more to do.

Host 1:
Double that if you are also looking after someone at home with the chronic illness.

Host 2:
But there is something you can do to make life easier. Replace your open cooking fire with an efficient new cookstove.

Host 1:
These cookstoves burn less wood to do the same job. With these stoves, your food will cook more quickly!

Host 2:
These different kinds of cookstoves have a special design that keeps the heat in the pot… instead of letting it escape into the air.

Host 1:
To learn more about improved cookstoves contact [Name and contact information of organization or individual].



– END –

Organizations with expertise in alternative energy sources, including improved cookstove technology

ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group) East Africa

PO Box 39493
00623 Parklands
Tel: 00 254 20 2719313
Fax: 00 254 20 2710083
Contact Daniel Theuri:

Energy Alternatives AFRICA

PO Box 76406
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 2 714623
Fax: +254 2 720909
Contact Mr. Stephen Mutimba: or Mark Hankins:

Megen Power Ltd

PO Box 20553
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 1 613395

Renewable Energy Development Center Ltd.

PO Box 994
Kampala, Uganda
Tel: +256 41 285679
Fax: +256 41 348897
Contact Arthur Mugyenzi:

Rural Technology Enterprises Ltd.

PO Box 28201
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 2 535 997/8
Fax: +254 2 540 447
Contact: Charles Gitundu:


  • Contributed by Quade Hermann, Toronto, Canada.
  • Reviewed by Dr. Alison Doig, Energy Campaigner, ITDG, UK.

Information sources

  • Bruce, N., R. Perez-Padilla, and R. Albalak. 2000. “Indoor air pollution in developing countries: a major environmental and public health challenge.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization: 78(9).
  • “Improved Solid Biomass Burning Cookstoves: A Development Manual.” Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia. Field Document No. 44, 1993.
  • Kammen, Daniel M. “Cookstoves for the Developing World.” First published in Scientific American, 1995. Reprinted by the Energy and Resources Group, University of California at Berkeley.
  • Khennas, Smail. “Stoves for Rural Livelihoods.” Technology for Sustainable Livelihoods (part of Intermediate Technology Development Group).
  • Lobe, Jim. “Rights: African Feminist and Enviro Champion Takes Peace Prize.” Terraviva Europe, IPS. 11 October 2004.
  • Mishra, V. “Gender aspects of indoor air pollution and health: an analysis of gender differentials in the effect of cooking smoke on acute respiratory infections in children.” Gender Analysis in Health, Claudia Garcia-Moreno and Rachel Snow (eds.). Geneva: World Health Organization.
  • Mishra, V., et al. “Indoor Air Pollution: The Quiet Killer.” Asia-Pacific Issue: 63, October 2002.
  • Smith, K.R. 2002. “Indoor air pollution in developing countries: recommendations for research.” Indoor Air 12: 1-7.