Promoting adoption and use of cleaner-burning cookstoves: TRAction project

Improved cookstoves (ICS) have the potential to deliver the triple dividends of household health and time savings, local environmental quality improvements, and reduced impacts on climate. However, despite clear scientific evidence on the potential efficacy of these innovations, these technologies have run into important translation challenges that have impeded their widespread diffusion and dissemination. Our original TRAction project – Designing and Evaluating Behavior Change Interventions to Improve the Adoption and Use of Improved Cookstoves – was developed in response to a refrain of calls for applied research to develop a more refined understanding of the nature of these challenges.

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cookstoveIMG_1057-1024x682-squareMain research collaborators:

  • Jessica Lewis; Subhrendu Pattanayak; Jie-Sheng Tan Soo (Duke)
  • Nina Brooks (NORC)
  • Laura Morrison (RTI International)
  • Abhishek Kar; Omkar Patange; Ibrahim Rehman (TERI)
  • Vasundhara Bhojvaid (Delhi School of Economics)
  • Veerabhadran Ramanathan (UCSD)
  • Nithya Ramanathan (Nexleaf)

Related Publications:

Pattanayak, S.K., M. Jeuland, J.J. Lewis, V. Bhojvaid, N. Brooks, A. Kar, L. Morrison, O. Patange, L. Philippone, N. Ramanathan, I.H. Rehman, R. Thadani, M. Vora, V. Ramanathan. (2014). “Cooking up change in the Himalayas: Evidence from mixing quasi-experiments with an experiment on cookstove promotion.” In preparation.

Jeuland, M.; J.S. Tan-Soo; S.K. Pattanayak (2015). “Preference heterogeneity and adoption of environmental health improvements: Evidence from a cookstove promotion experiment.” Working Paper.

Abstract: Household preferences should influence adoption of environmental health-improving technologies, but there has been limited empirical research to isolate their importance, perhaps due to challenges of measurement and attribution. This paper explores first the heterogeneity in household preferences for different features of improved cookstoves (ICS). Second, we assess the degree to which these preferences are associated with actual adoption of ICS (electric and biomass-burning) during a randomized stove promotion campaign in northern India. Analyzing data from a discrete choice experiment (DCE) conducted during baseline surveys with 1060 households, we identify three distinct preference types using latent class analysis (LCA). These can be characterized as 1) disinterested (54%); 2) low demand but primarily interested in reduced smoke emissions (27%); and 3) high demand with interest in most features of the ICS (20%). The ICS intervention, which was stratified according to communities’ prior history of interactions with the NGO marketing the stoves, was then randomized to 762 of these households. We find that households in the disinterested class are less likely to purchase an ICS; also, preference class is more strongly related to stove purchase than common sociodemographic drivers of technology adoption identified in the literature. Distaste for smoke emissions appears to be a particularly strong driver for adoption of an electric ICS, rather than an improved biomass one.  Interestingly, the effect of preference class changes over time, which may indicate that initially recalcitrant households were influenced by the adoption decisions taken by those around them. The effect of preferences on purchase also varies across institutional strata, suggesting in particular that prior interaction with a trusted promoting institution may help to overcome disinterest in unknown technologies such as ICS. Lastly, there is some limited evidence that preference class explains changes in downstream outcomes across households exposed to the intervention.

Brooks, N.; V. Bhojvaid; M. Jeuland; J. Lewis; O. Patange; S. Pattanayak (2015). “How much do clean cookstoves reduce biomass fuel consumption? Evidence from North IndiaResource and Energy Economics (Forthcoming).

Abstract: Despite widespread global efforts to promote clean cookstoves to achieve improvements in air and forest quality, and to reduce global climate change, surprisingly little is known about the degree to which these actually reduce biomass fuel consumption in real-world settings. Using data from in-house weighing of fuel conducted in rural India, we examine the impact of cleaner cookstoves – most of which are LPG stoves – on three key outcomes related to solid fuel use. Our results suggest that using a clean cookstove is associated with daily reductions of about 4.5 kg of biomass fuel, 160 fewer minutes cooking on traditional stoves, and 105 fewer minutes collecting biomass fuels. These findings of substantial savings are robust to the use of estimators with varying levels of control for selection, and to alternative data obtained from household self-reports. Our results support the idea that efforts to promote clean stoves among poor rural households can reduce solid fuel use and cooking time, and that rebound effects towards greater amounts of cooking on multiple stoves are not sufficient to eliminate these gains. We also find, however, that households who have greater wealth, fewer members, are in less marginalized groups, and practice other health-averting behaviors, are more likely to use these cleaner stoves, which suggests that socio-economic status plays an important role in determining who benefits from such technologies. Future efforts to capture social benefits must therefore consider how to promote the use of alternative technologies by poor households, given that these households are least likely to own clean stoves.

Lewis, J.; V. Bhojvaid; N. Brooks; I. Das; M. Jeuland; O. Patange, S.K. Pattanayak (2014). “Piloting improved cookstoves in India.” Journal of Health Communication (Accepted).

Abstract: Solid biomass fuel use impacts household health, local forests, and global climate. Despite their promise to reduce these environmental health impacts, adoption and use of improved cookstoves (ICS) remains low. Social marketing – with its focus on the marketing mix of promotion, product, price, and place – offers a potentially useful framework for understanding and designing campaigns to change biomass fuel use behaviors. We report on a series of pilots across three Indian states that used different combinations of the marketing mix. We find variation in sales ranging from 0 to 60%. Behavior change promotion that engaged households through door-to-door personalized demonstrations and used pamphlets was effective, especially when combined. Critically, households clearly appreciate having a choice amongst products, strongly preferring an electric stove over improved biomass-burning options. Among different stove attributes, the adopters were most interested in reducing cooking time. Households clearly identified price as a significant barrier, and discounts (e.g., rebates) and installment payments boosted demand. Place-based factors such as remoteness and NGO capital significantly affected the ability to supply and convince households to buy and use ICS. Collectively, these pilots point to the importance of continued and extensive testing of different messages, pricing models, and responses to different stove types prior to scale-up. Thus, we caution that a one-size-fits-all approach will not boost ICS adoption.

Jeuland, M.; V Bhojvaid; A Kar; J. Lewis; O. Patange; S. Pattanayak; N Ramanathan; I. Rehman; J. Tan Soo; V. Ramanathan (2015) “Preferences for improved cookstoves: Evidence from rural villages in north IndiaEnergy Economics (Forthcoming).

Abstract: Because emissions from solid fuel burning in traditional stoves impacts global climate change, there is today a real policy fascination with improved cook stoves (ICS). ICS can potentially also impact regional environment and household health. Nonetheless, surprisingly little is known about what households like about these energy products. We report on preferences for ICS attributes, and on ownership and use of ICS, obtained from a sample of 2,120 rural households in two states of north India. To understand preferences, we adapted discrete choice elicitation methods drawn from the marketing literature through which respondents indicated which combinations of stove features most appealed to them. Analysis of survey responses shows that ICS (mostly LPG) are owned by about 20% of households, who have greater wealth, education and smaller families compared to non-owners. Analysis of the discrete choice data reveals that households have a strong preference for traditional stoves, but that they are on average willing to pay (WTP) about $10 and $5 for realistic reductions in smoke emissions and fuel needs, respectively. These amounts equal about 10 and 5% of average household monthly expenditure in this low income population, and half (or one quarter) of the price of less expensive ICS available in India. Still,  references for stove attributes are highly varied, and are partly explained by household characteristics (e.g. expenditures, gender of household head, patience and risk preferences). Taken together, these results suggest that although households exhibit cautious interest in the promise of ICS, there remain significant barriers to achieving their widespread diffusion. This implies that the policy community must work towards a reinvigorated supply chain that (a) experiments with product attributes such as price, emissions, and fuel needs, and (b) segments the market based on characteristics such as education, experience, wealth and location, if objectives to quickly scale up ICS are to be met. Only then will ICS allow for improvement of household health and regional environmental outcomes, and the capture of short-term global climate gains.

Bhojvaid, V.; M. Jeuland, A. Kar; J. Lewis; S. Pattanayak; N. Ramanathan; V. Ramanathan; I. Rehman (2014). “How do people in rural India perceive improved stoves and clean fuel? Evidence from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11(2), 1341-1358.

Abstract: Improved cook stoves (ICS) have been widely touted for their potential to deliver the triple benefits of improved household health and time savings, reduced deforestation and local environmental degradation, and reduced emissions of black carbon, a significant short-term contributor to global climate change. Yet diffusion of ICS technologies among potential users in many low-income settings, including India, remains slow, despite decades of promotion. This paper explores the variation in perceptions of and preferences for ICS in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as revealed through a series of semi-structured focus groups and interviews from 11 rural villages or hamlets. We find cautious interest in new ICS technologies, and observe that preferences for ICS are positively related to perceptions of health and time savings. Other respondent and community characteristics, e.g., gender, education, prior experience with clean stoves and institutions promoting similar technologies, and social norms as perceived through the actions of neighbours, also appear important. Though they cannot be considered representative, our results suggest that efforts to increase adoption and use of ICS in rural India will likely require a combination of supply-chain improvements and carefully designed social marketing and promotion campaigns, and possibly incentives, to reduce the up-front cost of stoves.