Determinants of improved cook stove adoption and sustained use to reduce traditional wood fuel use in rural Lesotho

Carliez, Daphné
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In rural Sub-Saharan Africa, the implications of heavy traditional wood fuel dependency and its negative environmental and social impacts remain a grave concern. The reliance on wood fuel for cooking and heating prevails and is expected to remain the primary form of energy for many rural households. As a consequence, the region is witnessing natural resource depletion and has left households deprived of access to sustainable energy resources. To address this challenge, development stakeholders have long advocated the introduction of improved cookstoves (ICS). These solutions had been anticipated to address the challenges of cooking with solid biomass, but despite their potential benefits, a large number of barriers have stalled their uptake and sustained use. Neither these barriers nor enabling factors promoting adoption and sustained use are well understood. This is preventing further improvement of such technologies across the continent and risks the widespread roll out of unsustainable instruments and investments which may not yield the desired long term outcomes. This research was undertaken to identify key barriers and enabling factors to the adoption and sustained use of ICS in rural Lesotho and similar contexts in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lesotho is a perfect example of the need to improve the understanding of ICS adoption and long-term use determinants in an effort to reduce traditional wood fuel use given its prevailing energy-access challenges and environmental vulnerabilities. The need to address these wood fuel challenges in Lesotho is high, while literature has largely excluded this nation from its research efforts in this field. The study findings contribute to the existing body of work by by uncovering the broad range of determinants and their relative importance for the adoption and long-term use of ICS in Sub-Saharan Africa and the extent to which regional drivers and barriers are transferrable to the context of Lesotho. Three separate data-collection methodologies were used, including a literature meta-analysis (n=425), key-informant interviews (n=17) and a survey of experts (n=30), to understand the various determinants, perspectives and challenges in the region. The findings demonstrate a substantial gap between the existing body of work conducted on ICS adoption and the long-term use of these 3 technologies. Determinants that are essential for the adoption differed from those required to allow the sustained-use of these technologies at the household level. The variability found among contextual variables between Sub-Saharan Africa and Lesotho further emphasize the need for well-informed targeted approaches to stimulate and facilitate the ICS adoption process. A number of technological, programmatic and policy factors which have received limited attention in existing ICS literature were found to be important determinants for the adoption and sustained use of ICS. In particular, policy and programmatic mechanisms should be utilized to address financial constraints at the household level. The study shows that increased consideration needs to be given to local household needs and cooking practices and the ICS’ overall user-experience beyond fuel efficiencies. In Lesotho specifically, the additional benefits people receive from their traditional cooking methods are often overlooked and not fully substituted by an ICS, rendering the technology ineffective as a substitute for traditional wood fuel use. The ambition to fully transition away from traditional cooking practices should be reconsidered and more emphasis needs to be placed on introducing context-appropriate and convenient wood fuel-reducing technologies that can become part of the household’s cookstove and fuel portfolio instead.
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Science in Environmental Sciences to the Faculty of Science, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2021