Friday, September 24, 2010

A New Kitchen Gadget or a LifeSaver?

It needs to get as much input as possible from the people who will actually use the stoves. The stoves will need to be as much like existing stoves as possible, to minimize the change in cooking style required to use them. In particular, women need to be able to cook traditional foods that are appealing to their families. Listening to the women who’ll cook on them is the best way to do that.
That is from a nice guest post by Alanna Shaikh, commenting on Hilary Clinton's recent speech at the UN promoting improved cookstoves. Many people are unaware that breathing poorly ventilated cookstove fumes kills an estimated two million people a year.

Improved stoves can reduce the fumes problem while also reducing fuel costs.  But as any of us who have bought a fancy new gadget for our cooking spouses can attest, "great" ideas aren't always appreciated - much less used - if they don't meet the needs of the user. 

Alanna points out the needs for careful consumer research - and even broad consumer marketing, which is rare in the aid and development field.  Even with both of those, it is no guarantee the cookstove initiative will succeed.  In fact as I have written before, it takes an average of 58 ideas for each initiative that succeeds.  But while improved cookstoves are not a silver bullet, they are well worth promoting.

Read the whole post here; it is very good.