Rethinking improved cookstove diffusion programs: A case study of social perceptions and cooking choices in rural Guatemala Academic Article uri icon


  • Promoters of improved cookstoves (ICSs) argue they provide the "triple benefits" of improving health outcomes, preserving local ecosystems, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of ICS research reveals a strong pro-diffusion bias toward proving these benefits. Few studies have examined ICSs from the adopters' point-of-view. The purpose of this case study was to describe how culture and social perceptions affect the adoption and use of ICSs. Results showed that stoves in this rural Guatemalan community had several layers of practical importance beyond cooking food. Most prominently, household members valued stoves as heat and light sources, and as a social gathering point for families. Most ICS models have been purposely designed in controlled conditions to deliver maximum heating efficiency at the lowest production cost. However, this case study revealed that the fuel-efficient designs sacrificed important functional, social, and cultural needs. Efforts to increase adoption rates of ICSs will be more successful if the macro-level "triple benefits" paradigm is adapted to include functional consumer-centric benefits beyond heating food, such as providing heat and ambient light. Adoption programs should account for the cultural and social needs of users, such as recognizing that stoves often serve as a gathering point for families. 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 18.112

author list (cited authors)

  • Bielecki, C., & Wingenbach, G.

citation count

  • 65

complete list of authors

  • Bielecki, Christopher||Wingenbach, Gary

publication date

  • January 2014