The dissemination of improved biomass stoves throughout the developing world began in the early 1980s. Since an average 75% of biomass energy is used for cooking, widespread rural dissemination of improved cooking stoves was seen as a promising way to reduce the overall firewood requirement.
India has an extensive firewood shortage problem. Per capita consumption of firewood has been steady for the past two decades, while the total population has grown alarmingly by nearly two thirds. A rapid increase in the price of commercial fuels (kerosene, coal and charcoal) over the last two decades has led to poorer groups depending on firewood/biomass as the means of household energy. Again, the firewood shortage in various rural areas has caused many families to turn to burning dung and straw for fuel – thus steering them down the energy ladder.
Today India still relies on firewood to satisfy 24% of total energy consumption. India’s forests can sustainably provide 41 x 10
6 m3 of firewood per year, even though current annual demand for wood remains at 241 x 106 m3. (World Resources Institute, 1994). In India, in the household sector, the bulk of energy is spent on cooking. According to 1991 census, about 30% of the urban population uses firewood and twigs whereas in rural sector, about 78% of the population rely on firewood and twigs. According to the NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) survey, conducted in 1978/79, cooking accounted for 85.2% of the total energy consumed in the rural domestic sector. The women in rural India, especially the poor, have to trudge long distances to forage for scraps of firewood.