Joy Magambo from Ruharo, a small village in western Uganda is fascinated by the fact that her husband has broken custom and is now having his meals with her and the children in the kitchen. The change in behaviour by Silil, Joy’s husband, is not due to a mere change of heart but a newly built rocket mud stove. The once very smoky kitchen is now a clean and inviting place that Silil finds a worthwhile place to have his meals. Joy has found this rocket mud stove indeed a delight.

The Context

Energy is a key factor in economic and social development. More than 90% of the Ugandan population lack access to sustainable and modern energy. The majority of the people in Uganda rely heavily on biomass fuel (firewood, charcoal) for cooking and very often use traditional stoves in poorly ventilated kitchens. Low access to energy has a disproportionate effect on women, men and children, especially in rural areas. Women in rural areas (and children) spend a lot of time and physical effort to supply fuel for their households, using their own labour to carry heavy loads over increasingly long distances, at great risk to their health and safety. Worse still, these long distances from home make them vulnerable to rapists, thieves and wild animals. This especially affects women, who are responsible for cooking. It exposes them to respiratory and eye infections.

The traditional approach to energy in development policy and planning has assumed that energy is gender neutral thus virtually excluding women’s needs. This has thus resulted in little attention given to energy demand characteristics of women and poorly harnessing their potential contributions in energy.

PREEEP’s Intervention

In line with the energy policy 2002, PREEEP is being implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It works closely with all relevant Ugandan stakeholders, like the Government, NGOs, the private sector, the media, and training and research institutions, on developing sustainable energy policies, improving energy efficiency and widening access to modern energy in rural areas.

The objective of PREEEP is to improve access to modern energy services through renewable energies; promote energy efficiency in various sub-sectors in such a manner as to ensure that, at all levels, the baseline conditions and the impacts on men and women are taken into account in order to make it possible to work toward the goal of real equality between men and women.
Figure 1: Woman in Northern Uganda using the rocket mud stove (Photo: Rosette Komuhangi)

The rocket mud stove

As one of the interventions, PREEEP promotes the rocket mud stove in rural areas. The stoves are built using a rocket principle which in essence is to ensure relatively efficient firewood combustion and maximisation of heat transfer to the food being cooked. The stoves are built using locally available materials like soil, grass and water. They utilise one-third of the wood used by the traditional cooking methods, cook food faster and hardly emit any smoke. This in turn, saves wood and is cheaper to run; it also improves indoor air quality.

The stove advantages directly impact on women who are in charge of cooking and collecting firewood. See table below of how the stove impacts on the life of rural women.

Stove benefit Benefit to women
Firewood savingThe stoves have been tested and proven to beeconomical in firewood consumption, saving morethan 50% compared to the traditional (open) 3-stone fireplace. Since women and children are the ones primarilyinvolved in wood collection, a reduction in theconsumption reduces their workload and the risksinvolved. According to Britta (2006), as a result of theuse of the rocket mud stove, the average per capitaconsumption of firewood has been reduced by 51%,from 1.02 kg per day to 0.51 kg. Each household withan average of 7 members saves 52 kg of firewood permonth. This is equivalent to 620 kg per year.
Almost smokeless operationCooking with these stoves greatly reduces thekitchen smoke due to better burning. Moreover,the 2-pot stove has a chimney that eliminates anytrace smoke.An indoor air pollution monitoring in the kitchen with therocket mud stoves indicates that there is a reductionin emissions by up to 69% for carbon monoxide and85% for particular matter. This therefore means that thewoman who spends so much time in the kitchen withthe rocket mud stove is at less risk to get smoke relatedillnesses.
Easy to operateOnce lit, the stove fire does not stop unlessfirewood feed into the stove is stopped. Thereis no need of straining one’s lungs to blow airinto the stove to fan the flame as it is with thetraditional (open) 3-stone fire. This is done by theair chamber below the feeding shelf.Since women are the ones involved in cookingthe ease of operation brings convenience to thewomen and hence improving their quality of life.
Safe to UseThe stoves are safe-to-use domestic appliances.The shielded fire is screened (out of reach) andtherefore less likely to cause burns to children andthe user. Moreover the saucepan is inserted into afire cavity and it cannot topple to cause accidents.Reduction in kitchen accidents for women andchildren is a safeguard to uphold their health.
Fast cookingThe stove cooks faster since it generatesa hot fire and ensures better heat transfer.The stove cooking faster is an advantage to womenwho spend a big portion of the day cooking. The timespent on cooking per day in each family decreasesfrom 4.03 to 2.19 hours (about 45.5%) according to animpact study Britta (2006). The time saved for cookingcan be used for productive work, leisure or resting.
Environmentally FriendlyThe stoves use less firewood leading to reductionof the deforestation rate.The stoves are less pollutant because of theirnearly smokeless operation.The consequences of environmental destructionincluding wood scarcity and climate change affect allhumanity, but women and children are most vulnerable.Accordingly, environmental conservation protects thelives of women and children. Currently, 715,000 tonsof firewood can be served per year due to PREEEPinterventions in the component of improved biomasstechnologies (GTZ- PREEEP annual report 2009).

With its advantages, the rocket mud stove certainly improves the lives and status of women. GTZ PREEEP has so far disseminated more than 600,000 stoves in 17 districts in Uganda. This mass dissemination has been a result of a strategy that involves local non-governmental organisations (refer to Boiling Point 52 for an article on the strategy).


''Britta Malinski, 2006. Impact Monitoring Study: The Rocket Lorena Stove Dissemination in Bushenyi District. University of Oldenburg

GTZ Promotion of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Programme (PREEEP) 2010. Annual report 2009.''

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Tuesday September 7, 2010 15:45:43 GMT.
  • A practitioner's journal on household energy, stoves and poverty reduction.

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