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7. Stove dissemination programme, Sri Lanka: an overview and assessment

7. Stove dissemination programme, Sri Lanka: an overview and assessment

R.M. Amerasekera

7.1. progress of stove programmes in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries where significant and consistent progress is seen in woodstove development activities. In general this has been in the direction of sustainability or commercialisation.

One of the reasons for the success of the stove dissemination programme may be that the programme has been able reorient its objectives and implementation strategies to attract the interest of several actors with different perspectives to actively support and participate in the programme activities. In keeping with this trend the implementation organisation too has changed along with the organisations providing infrastructural support. Because of this flexibility it has been able to secure resource inputs and the technical assistance required from local as well as foreign organisations at various stages of development to sustain the momentum and continuity of the programme. Looking at the entire process of stove development activities this is a fact that can be clearly observed.

Moreover, the manner in which the stove models, development objectives, implementation strategies and implementers changed at various stages of development to facilitate the progress towards achieving commercialisation and sustainability can also be clearly observed.

Depending on the implementation organisation, specific and narrow objectives have been spelled out in the initial stove programmes in Sri Lanka related to such issues as energy or environmental conservation, deforestation etc which have been necessary when centralised implementation of activities were carried out at the initial stages.

In the National Fuelwood Conservation Programme document prepared in 1984 by the Senior Energy Advisor To H.E. the President it is stated that:

"Since the potential savings from the national economic viewpoint are about Rs 2000/= - 3000/= per family for 3 years, or Rs 5000/= to 8000 million for all households, popularising the use of woodstove must be given the highest priority even if it has to be given at a nominal cost (e.g. R 25/=)."

Although this was later realised to be a wrong conception it was the most significant event in the stove development activities in Sri Lanka which gave the programme considerable impetus and brought in very influential actors into the stove scene.

As the implementation process continued, there was a move, towards wider participation leading to a more decentralised and participatory implementation strategy. Thus the activities were planned to have a certain amount of flexibility to accommodate changes or to fit into an integrated development framework where a broad range of development issues are addressed at the micro level.

7.2. History of stove activities

There is historical evidence to show that improved stoves were used in Sri Lanka as far back as the 1 0th century. Pieces of clay stoves have been discovered in recent excavations carried out in the North Central Province in Sri Lanka.

Clay stoves resembling U Chula are believed to have been used in the Central Province in the 17 and 18th centuries. A few of these are exhibited at the museum in Kandy. However, it may be that these were used only by aristocratic families and not by ordinary people.

In the recent past, around 1953, some initial efforts were taken by social workers to introduce the Herl Chula which was popular in South India. However, widespread use or sustained efforts to popularise it are not evident.

The period after 1970 saw some remarkable interests being generated in stove activities. This was the crucial period when oil prices escalated and within a short period of two decades rapid deforestation took place mainly due to various development schemes launched by the government. During this period Sarvodaya Institute, Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) and the Industrial Development Board (IDB) took a leading role in carrying out R&D work to develop suitable designs.

Stove programme continuity (1950-1995)

This pioneering work paved the way for large scale dissemination efforts after 1984 and the major involvement and commitment of the Ministry of Power & Energy (MPE) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). Despite the focus on narrow objectives, which of course was not very evident or realised at the beginning, this gave a tremendous impetus to stove dissemination efforts.

The major thrust towards large scale stove dissemination efforts was begun in 1984 with the dissemination of stoves in rural areas. Based on the experience gained efforts were later extended to cover urban areas with modified objectives and strategies.

The lessons reamed and the experiences gained from these programmes are vivid and diverse.

These are well documented and the subject of deep discussions and have been widely shared with local and international stove development agencies. Two international seminars were held in Sri Lanka in 1989 and 1993 to share the experience of the Urban Stove Programme implemented by the CEB and the Stove Commercialisation Programme implemented by IDEA.

It must also be mentioned that there are a few other organisations independently promoting stoves within their own agendas without much publicity. Such promotion is generally carried out in a small way, but consistently. Unfortunately, these organisations have very little interaction with other organisations which are more involve in stove dissemination activities. UNICEF and the extension unit of the Agricultural Department are two such organisations.

7.3. Important events in the history of stove activities in Sri Lanka

1950 Introduction of the Herl Chula

1972 Interest shown by govt. research organisations, namely IDB and cisir in designing stoves

1979 Sarvodaya Stove Project with technical inputs from ITDG

1981 International Seminar on Stove Projects ITDG/Sarvodaya

1983 Formation of the National Fuelwood Conservation Programme under the Ministry of Power and Energy

1984 Pilot project to identify a suitable stove design for a large scale dissemination programme funded by the Ministry of Housing and Construction

1984 Pilot project to identify a suitable dissemination strategy for large scale dissemination funded by the CEB.

1985 Commencement of a three year large scale dissemination programme in Hambantota District under the IRDP and funded by NORAD.

1985 Launching of the national Rural Stoves Project jointly funded by the MPE and Royal Government of The Netherlands.

1985 Prof. Mohan Munasingha Award presented to the stove team for implementing the best energy project in 1985.

1985 High priority accorded to stove project activities by H.E. the President

1987 Launching of the Urban Stoves Programme jointly funded by MPE and ODA (UK)

1989 International Seminar on Urban Woodstove Dissemination, funded by ODA/CEB

1989 Pilot Project to identify suitable stoves for the plantation sector

1990 Extension of the Rural Stoves Programme (CEB)

1991 Omnibus survey on "Anagi" stoves (Woodstove promoted under the Urban Stoves Project)

1991 Stoves Marketing Project - Extension of the urban commercial strategy to rural areas. Implemented by Integrated Development Association (IDEA) in collaboration with ITDG.

1993 International Seminar on Commercialisation of Wood Stove Dissemination jointly funded by FAB/RWEDP, GTZ, ITDG, ARECOP.

1993 IDEA Stove Marketing Project 2 phase

1993 Termination of the CEB stoves project

1994 Continuation of the Stove Marketing Programme by IDEA

1994 Pilot project to identify a suitable strategy for marketing of woodstoves in the Plantation areas. Funded by the Plantation Housing Social Welfare Trust (PHSWT) of the Ministry of Plantation Industries.

It is this chain of activities which has kept the programme moving forward uninterruptedly from

1972 to the present.

7.4. shift of development objectives in stove programmes in Sri Lanka

1953 To improve kitchen environment (Taking away smoke using chimney stoves). Social Workers

1972 To develop stoves with high efficiency. CISIR & IDB

1979 To develop a socially acceptable stove. Sarvodaya

1984 (National Stove Programme - CEB)

To minimise deforestation and its ill effects

To increase the availability of firewood by helping to use firewood more efficiently, thus reducing pressure on existing resources.

To develop a built-in mechanism in the village infrastructure for a self sustaining programme for dissemination of fuelwood efficient stoves

1987 (Urban Stoves Programme - CEB)

The reduced consumption of fuelwood for domestic purposes using an improved design of cooking stove

To reduce the rate of deforestation

To enable households to reduce their expenditure on woodfuel Generation of employment opportunities

Improving quality of life through cleaner kitchens, and the potential to increase the availability of hot meals and hot water

1991 (Integrated Development Association Stoves Marketing Programme - IDEA Programme) To create additional income earning opportunities for potter families, including women potters

To improve household conditions, particularly for women through greater cooking convenience and savings of time spent in the kitchen

To provide information so that the experience and lessons learned from the project can be used to influence policy makers, donors, and others interested in household energy, health, and other development issues

To make provisions in the project for low income households, especially in the rural areas, to benefit from the stove

To establish fully commercial and sustainable production distribution and sales networks for stoves

1994 (Plantation Housing & Social Welfare Programme - IDEA Proposed Programme) Reducing the woody biomass (tea clippings & wood) that is removed from the vicinity of tea estates Improving conditions under which women cook Utilising stoves as an entry mechanism for social work of other types.

7.5. Change of stove models

1953 Herl Chula - Two pot mud stove with chimney

1972 Two pot brick 8 cement stove - IDB model

1978 CISIR two pot pottery liner chimney stove

1982 Single pot clay stove with built-in grate



Lorena Stove

Two pot mud stove with chimney

Dian Desa Chimney Stove

Dian Desa Chimneyless Stove (2 pot)

Sri Lankan Chimneyless Stove (2 pot)

Sri Lankan pottery liner stove (2 pot)

1983 Single pot clay stove with grate - CISIR model

1986 CEB "Anagi" Stove (2 pot, clay)

Various Actors in Stove Programmes



Technical Assistance




Social Workers






Design & Testing




VITA, ATI Helvitas Novib,

Design 8 Field Evaluation





Field Evaluation




Prime Minister

Pilot Dissemination





Rural Dissemination


Hoffman Eng

Dutch govt., MPE






Urban Dissemination




ODA, MPE Future





Publishers/ ITDG ODA/NORAD/






Pilot Project

Stoves used in Sri Lanka in the 17th & 18th Centuries.

Traditional stoves used in Sri Lanka.

3 stones open fire

Semicircular mud stove "Sinnala Lipa"

Stove used in the Plantation areas by the South Indian Community.

Improved Stoves 1950-1978

Stove designs 1950-1978


I.D.B. Stove 1972

CISIR Stove 1978

CISIR Charcoal Stove 1978

Stoves Disseminated in Sri Lanka 1988-1987

CISIR Stove (urban)

CEB Two-pot Stove (urban)

Sarvodaya Mud Insulated Stove (rural)

7.6. Some important findings of the omnibus survey 1991

This survey was carried out by a private marketing consultancy firm SRI BRANDSCAN on behalf of IDEA/ITDG. 1,000 urban and 1,000 rural households were interviewed.







Neighbours & Friends


21 %

Officials & Societies




11 %





Over 50% were purchased by women and in 2/3 of all cases the decision was taken by a woman. This pattern is equally strong for rural and urban areas. The clear implication is that marketing has to be focused on women

39% of the urban "Anagi" users and 46% of the rural users do not use any other stove which indicates that the "Anagi" meets the full range of the cook(s) needs

According to the latest Ominibus Survey (report not yet ready) the penetration level of "Anagi" stoves is assessed to be 19%.

7.7. Present situation

The CEB, IDB, CISIR and Sarvodaya, the four pioneering organisations in stove activities are no longer active. The Integrated Development Association (IDEA) which took over dissemination activities in 1991 is implementing the second phase -- the Stove Commercialisation Programme.

Unlike in the Urban Stoves Programme where the focus for production was limited to the formal sector, mainly the tile factories, the IDEA strategy was to bring in the rural potters into the commercial network. With the "Anagi" stove gaining popularity there emerged a large number of untrained potters producing sub standard "Anagis" which was a cause for concern for the project officers creating an antagonistic attitude towards these producers. They were even labelled as "Pirate" producers. This was in one way justifiable because sub standard "Anagis" were posing a double threat: they could undermine the reputation of the "Anagi" hence limiting the potential for commercial success and secondly, they could restrict the benefit of "Anagi" use. However being an associated with NGO with a broad development outlook, the project officers were made to realise that this was an indicator of success and that they needed to capitalise on this entreprenial effort of the potters. Thus the "Pirate" producers became Look Alike Stove (LAS) Producers -- a more respectable name which amply recognises their resourcefulness.

In phase 1 of the programme it was seen that with the process of commercialisation, the poorest users and producers did not reap any benefits from the programme activities. It was mostly the affluent users and producers who had access to commercial markets and networks. Being an NGO devoted to uplifting the living conditions of the poor IDEA was concerned and had to incorporate activities in the second phase to ensure that IDEA's development and social obligations were not diluted by the commercial interests of the stove programme.

Accordingly the following actions were taken.

In addition to the need to access a large number of poor users through grassroots level organisations there are other reasons and benefits from working with them.

7.8. Impact of the programme

To quantify or assess the impact at a national or macro level programme is a difficult task. It was a misconception to have expected stoves to save the forests or reduce national firewood consumption. Even a crude estimate therefore may not be realistic.

In an evaluation (carried out by ITDG in 1989), of the Urban Stoves Programme, it was estimated that 100,000 stoves disseminated under the programme would provide 0.4% of savings relative to deforestation (saving of forest cover is 16.4 ha while annual deforestation rate is 42,000 ha). This indicates that even a very successful stove programme would have only a marginal impact on the rate of deforestation.

The evaluation highlights the substantial financial savings at household level that could be achieved from using stoves as the pay back period is 3 months for users buying their firewood.

The stoves have brought in positive changes at the household level as a result of savings of firewood, and savings of women's time in collecting firewood and cooking. These effects in turn have also had associated health benefits.

Certain households do not save firewood but do more work such as boiling water which is also a positive impact. Recent tests carried out in the estates households indicate lower CO levels (reduced by 31 %) in the smoke emissions when using "Anagi" stoves.

The following are the results of a survey carried out in 120 households in 1987.

Per capita consumption of firewood & boiled water per day


    Wood in Gms

    Boiled Water Lts














3 66















Smoke emissions tests in plantation households - Peter Young & IDEA staff, 1994, Comparison between "Anagi" and traditional stoves.


Anagi (5 tests)

Trad(6 tests)

% Change

CO ppm




RSP ug/m3




CO: Carbon Monoxide

RSP: Respirable suspended particulates

From the producers side, benefits are very visible. In some of the pottery villages a considerable social and economic transformation can be seen. Improved housing conditions, land ownership and social status are some of these. Some producers have become distributors making use of their own lorries. A number of them have also made other profitable investments.

The following data is from a survey carried out in Kumbukgete which is a pottery village comprising 24 families mainly producing stoves.


No of Families




< Rs 3.000



Rs 3,000 - 5,000



Rs 5,000 - 7,000



Rs 8,000 - 12,000



New Possessions



















Hand tractors



Video decks






Motor cycles



Bullock carts



The Stove Cooperative Society, established with a loan of Rs 20,000 provided by IDEA, has earned Rs 459,640 over a period of 14 months and each member has been provided with Rs 4,000 from profits to open a savings account with the bank.

It is estimated that donor agencies have provided nearly $800,000 for stove activities in Sri Lanka. Users are likely to have spent nearly $400,000.

Since 1983 about 500,000 stoves have been disseminated either through the extension or commercial routes. Neglecting the future production, the donor investment is around $1.6/stove. Assuming a life span of 2.5 years these 500,000 stoves have been used by 125,000 households over a period of 10 years. Thus, the investment is little over $5/household. How do these indicators compare with donor investments in other fields of development? At present, without exaggeration it can said that at least 100,000 stoves are sold annually through the commercial route established as a result of this investment. If this output is also considered the benefits will spread over 250,000 households over a period of 10 years, making the indicator a little over $1/household.

7.9. Lessons learned

List of Acronyms


Ceylon Electricity Board


Ministry of Power & Energy


Ceylon Institute of Scientific & Industrial Research


Industrial Development Board


Plantation Housing & Social Welfare Trust


Janasaviya Trust Fund


Asian Region Cookstove Programme


Regional Wood Energy Development Programme


Intermediate Technology Development Group


Project documents of relevant stove programmes

Progress Review of Stoves Marketing Programme - Peter Watts 1993

A History of Stove Development Programmes in Sri Lanka - Emma Crewe & Peter Young - 1995

National Fuelwood Conservation Programme - Prof. M. Munasinghe 1984

Evaluation of Urban Stoves Programme - Mel Jones 1989

Conservation of fuelwood in rural households - Sepalage & Amerasekera 1987

Sri Lanka stoves programme: Progress. Issues and Future Directions - Amerasekera 1991

"Smoke Signals" - A health warning to estate workers - Peter Young & others 1994

Sri Lanka Ominibus Survey - SRL Brandscan 1991

Commercialisation of improved cookstoves - T.R. Shyam Sundar 1995 Sri Lankan experience

Women producers and user's of intermediate technology: the trade offs within ITDG improved stove programme. Kiran Dhanapala 1995

7.10. Annex

Women Producers and Users of Intermediate Technology;

The Tradeoffs Within ITDG (Sri Lanka's) Improved Stove Program

by Kiran Dhanapala

There are several constraints to operationalizing gender concerns in development projects despite the existence of gender issues for about two decades. Analysis of an ITDG (Sri Lanka) project promoting improved fuel efficient stoves seeks to throw light on the constraints that exist when gender related objectives are linked to multiple general project objectives and the internal conflicts and compromises this gives rise to.

"In practice, gender concerns in a project are often made subservient to other objectives which are often seen as more indicative of success - such as marketability, sustainability and productivity, and the sustainability of the project itself. As such, there often exists unacknowledged and inherent internal trade-offs between multiple objectives. This does not aid the integration of gender concerns fully into the overall project but instead, leads only to the partial fulfilment of its objectives."

Further, there is an important need for practical realism in formulating objectives that are achievable and complementary to each other in the project planning stage.

Projects seek to address a combination of interests, priorities and issues felt by different levels of actors; donors, governments and implementing agencies such as NGOs. This leads often to a multiplicity of objectives - as is the case with successive improved stove projects in Sri Lanka. In the past, projects such as the Sarvodaya Stove Program from 1979-83 and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) instituted project under the National Fuelwood Conservation Plan (NFCP) from 1984-89, and ITDG's Urban Stoves Program (USP) during 1987-89, stressed macro national level objectives such as fuelwood conservation and environmental benefits from reduced deforestation. This was in addition to micro-household level objectives such as cleaner kitchen environments, reduced expenditure on fuel wood, etc. which were often added as projects progressed for sake of added legitimacy and the appearance of wider impact.

Further, the projects differed in both their approaches to implementation with the first and the second projects characterized by rural decentralized production in a welfare oriented approach while the third was urban, centralized mass production with a commercial dissemination strategy. Commonalities among these three projects include; (1) relatively little achievement in attaining respective macro objectives in contrast with micro impact. (2) achievement in micro objectives were primarily from the user end due to addressing quality of life factors, and (3) fulfilment of women users' practical needs within an existing gender based socio-economic framework (4) relative lack of prominence to gender concerns at the producer end. Fulfilling gender concerns at the producer end was relatively easier in decentralized production models than in highly centralized and commercial production models. (5) a lack of regard for women's strategic interests and concerns.

The Sri Lanka Stoves Marketing Project began in 1991 with a number of objectives (a mix of both macro and micro as in the past) within a commercial project framework. The project cycle emphasised, firstly, the potter producers, and later, the users. This involved a shift to welfare concerns for both in the later parts of each respective stage. Its commercial orientation in its objectives, the stress on sustainability and, its pursuit of a supply led "market take-off" strategy for the Anagi stove led to the project's inability to optimally address gender concerns at both producer and user ends. The project was unable to provide adequate access to and unable to address the constraints to greater inclusion of female potters in stove training at the producer end (female potter trainees were around 23% during different intervals despite comprising usually 50% of potters). This was due to the project's inability to deal with gender concerns (such as the practical needs of women potters) due to the constraints in having to achieve (conflicting) higher priorities/objectives during this period. Through the lack of optimal integration of female potters into learning about a new product and the consequent exclusion from production, thereby reinforcing gender based divisions and norms, a negative effect on strategic interests resulted. This is however, in an academic sense as in no way did such issues ever enter the project's already numerous objectives and was therefore beyond its scope. This gender related failure was however, within the success of its overall (commercial) objectives and to a lesser extent, the welfare objectives that followed.

On the user end, the successful achievement of initial supply concerns and product take-off enabled a shift in attention to the user and user benefits. Although the project gave priority to impact at the household level, the emphasis in stove promotion was chiefly on quantitative benefits (such as fuel savings) instead of qualitative benefits (such as cooking time savings and convenience). Later research on users by the project suggested that women users' qualitative concerns like time savings and ease of cooking (41.3% as compared to 25%, excluding other qualitative benefits, Boowalikada User survey 1992). This indicated a misperception and/or misrepresentation of women's practical needs and interests. With respect to the project's user related welfare objectives, the impact on poorer users was achieved in a relatively comprehensive coverage of low income groups (Omnibus Survey data 1992). Users' strategic needs and interests again were largely ignored by the project which adopted gender norms (such as women as cooks) in its promotional material due to cultural and practical considerations. On balance, strategic interests were neglected more with respect to female potters than users. Indeed, the project could have played a direct role in affecting some important changes within this group.

The project serves to provide lessons and insights into the tradeoff that is likely to appear when gender concerns are incorporated into overall project objectives. Firstly, due to the market driven nature of launching a "social good" project, implementation was responsive and supply led forcing it to compromise one set of objectives for others. This was perhaps greater in the case of producer related objectives. Secondly, the multiplicity of objectives were too extensive and ambitious. In seeking to address issues such as project and product sustainability, poverty alleviation, household level needs serious internal incompatibility, seen in consequent shifts in emphasis throughout the project cycle, resulted. Lastly, despite stress on potters involvement in stove production and women's participation, the failure to adequately address these concerns at both producer end and within the project was due to the failure to analyze the implications of such objectives and consider the mechanisms by which they may be reached.

It can be concluded that careful analysis of project objectives in an overall project context is required to ensure defined and focused goals which are mutually supportive. More generally, a comprehensive approach addressing all aspects of beneficiary needs is required; in the case of stoves this would imply a greater focus on women user's overall requirements (including their strategic interests) and their roles so as to result in greater benefits. In the Stoves Marketing project this would require a stress on contextual concerns; the "soft skills" of stove use and management techniques rather than the stove itself. This home economics dimension would include stoves and women's energy requirements and, women's coping strategies in fulfilling both their roles and the energy constraints they function under.

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