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The Social and Environmental Impact of Fuel-Efficient Stoves

Efficient cookstoves can address indoor air pollution and deforestation while improving the livelihood of rural communities in Honduras.

We talked with Anibal Osorto Pinel, Executive Director of the Honduran Association for Development (AHDESA). AHDESA has been a strategic partner of EcoLogic's fuel-efficient stove program in Honduras since 2018. Anibal explains why more efficient cookstoves are a gamechanger for many rural households.

Can you give us a summary of your experience in the design of fuel-efficient wood stoves?

My experience with stoves began in 1999 when I was a university student. Dr. Larry Winiarski and his collaborators from the Aprovecho Research Center came to Honduras to conduct workshops on wood stoves with rocket combustion chambers and the first improved version of the wood-saving "Justa" stove model was developed. Once I graduated, I started working for the Honduran Association for Development (AHDESA) on the first projects in the country to improve Justa-type stoves. Over the years, my team and I have made several changes to enhance the efficiency of these models, from changing the dimensions of the “plancha” or griddle to the design of the combustion chamber to the internal direction of the flame to improve heat distribution. We are currently working on the third model of Justa, the "Justa 3D".

Why did you decide to design the new 3D stove model? What are the objectives of offering this new model?

All technologies have limitations. One observation from users about the Justa 16x24 is that it can heat up unevenly, more towards the front of the griddle. In addition, our users need stoves that heat up quickly in the morning so that food can be swiftly prepared for people going to work or their daily activities. This is the first issue we wanted to address. Another objective was to reduce the consumption of firewood. The Justa 16x24 model already has an average firewood reduction of 50%. Our goal was to achieve an even greater reduction and have the stove classified under category A of the national regulations of Honduras. Our overall goal was to create a stove that could help reduce firewood consumption, deforestation, waste of time and money, and emissions emitted into the atmosphere from burning firewood. Another important point is to always improve adoption rates and user satisfaction.

What kind of changes can an efficient cookstove bring to the life of a rural family - particularly women?

The high dependence on firewood in Honduras is linked to the high rate of poverty and limited access to cleaner and more efficient technologies. While in other countries perhaps the consumption of firewood is seen as something “romantic” or that dates back to the past, in Honduras the use of firewood is a necessity.

Having the population stop using firewood for cooking is not achievable in the short or medium term.

Having the population stop using firewood for cooking is not achievable in the short or medium term. For this reason, we have to bet on technologies that make use of fuel that is realistic and accessible to the majority of the population, but that use those resources more efficiently and sustainably.

I will share a personal story. In 2002, the doctors did an x-ray on my grandmother's lungs since she was about to have a surgical procedure. After looking at the x-ray, the first thing the doctor asked me was if my grandmother smoked. I had never seen my grandmother with a cigarette in her hands. His second question was: "Does your grandmother cook with firewood?" My answer was affirmative. "That's why she has smoker's lungs" was the doctor's reply.

Consequently, we decided to build an improved stove for my grandmother. My grandmother learned to use it in no time. She had three trees trimmed once a year in her yard, and the firewood from the pruning lasted three months with her Justa improved stove.

Thanks to the stove, my grandmother lived many more years without the risk of more serious diseases in her lungs due to indoor air pollution from cooking in the house.

Thanks to the stove, my grandmother lived many more years without the risk of more serious diseases in her lungs due to indoor air pollution from cooking in the house. This story motivated me, even more, to carry on our project and work to reduce firewood consumption and eliminate dangerous smoke from the homes of Latin America.

What is the role of the Master Stovebuilders?

The Maestros Fogoneros (master stovebuilders) are individuals who have undergone a training process in the construction and sale of stoves in areas close to their residence. The objective is to support their economic income through this training so that they can offer their specialized services to households and local institutions. At the same time, having trained personnel distributed throughout a large part of Honduras provides a reliable source of information from the field and an efficient way to provide technical assistance to our local users.

What have been the most important considerations you have had to take into account to design the new model?

We use scientific information to validate the proposed changes. We carried out research, laboratory evaluations, and field evaluations with actual users thanks to the support of the academy (EAP Zamorano) and donors (TW&P), before making the Justa 3D available to our national and international partners

Can you explain the difference between stove categories in Honduras?

Based on Honduras National Regulation, we can categorize stoves according to criteria such as safety, household emissions, energy efficiency, and firewood consumption.

A stove is classified as NON-IMPROVED (Category C) when it consumes more than 1.5 kg of firewood in the Water Boiling Test (WBT). When it consumes between 1.5 and 1 kg of firewood in the WBT test, the stove is classified as IMPROVED (Category B). Category A is the highest IMPROVED stove ranking-- in this case, the stove consumes less than 1kg of firewood in the WBT test.

In laboratory tests carried out by the Zamorano University Improved Stove Certification Center, the Justa 3D stove consumed less than 1 kg of firewood, placing us in the higher A category.

What expectations does AHDESA have for the Justa 3D model in 2022 and the future?

The goal is to begin the construction of the new model in the second half of 2022. 1,500 units of Justa 3D will be financed with donations. We also plan to obtain other sources of financing through the carbon credit market with our Category A Justa 3D stove and increase the number of models produced year after year at the national level.

EcoLogic and AHDESA expect to pilot 10 Justa 3D model stoves this year. We will keep you posted!

Anibal Osorto Pinel has two decades of experience in the research, development, and implementation of improved stove projects in the Central American region. He advises national and international cooperation organizations in the region. Thanks to his work, the Justa 16x24 stove model has been spread nationwide in Honduras.


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