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social acceptance of solar stoves in south africa 

 

international workshop on solar cooking � 22 to 24 october 2001, johannesburg, south africa


introduction

 

firewood is the traditional energy source for cooking in the majority of countries of the developing world. the fao estimates that 2 billion people worldwide, experience serious problems with their cooking fuel supply.� high population density, deforestation and soil erosion cause severe environmental degradation.� the use of fossil fuels for cooking also aggravates poverty and impacts negatively on local economies.� solar cooking as an environmentally friendly technology could contribute to the solution � provided that the technology is accepted by end-users and that the solar stoves are both appropriate and affordable.

 

 

user acceptance of solar stoves in developing countries has frequently been insufficient or totally lacking. a few years ago, no comparative information on the user acceptance of different solar stove models was available and it was unclear what type of solar stove is accepted best in any given situation. the successful dissemination of solar stoves, from production to household, is a complex undertaking, which involves many actors with various tasks. in a joint german-south african solar cooker pilot program, dme and gtz set out to study the acceptance of 7 selected types of solar stoves by a variety of end-users in south africa.

 

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the dme/gtz solar stove field test

 

solar stoves to be used in the field test were selected based on the results of technical tests carried out in almeria, spain.� the test was held in 1994. it concerned 25 different stove models from 10 different countries. amongst others, performance parameters such as heat-up-time of water, cool-down-time, maximum temperature in oil, tracking frequency, pot access and pot capacity were recorded.�

 

technical tests alone cannot predict the adaptation of a given stove model to a real-life user situation, the adaptation of the test stoves to the south african climate and user situation was verified at the first monitor training session prior to the stove placement in the field.� the results showed that all selected stoves allowed the preparation of all tested dishes, including the baking of bread.

 

 

a baseline study, targeting the dry north western region of south africa, scanned five potential areas by interviewing 200 households.� the locality of the study areas is illustrated in figure 1.

 

 

figure 1: ��������� baseline study areas

 

 

 

 

 

based on cooking profiles (weather conditions, fuel availability and prices, household size, availability of appropriate sunny space, cooking techniques and schedule) as well as socio-economic characteristics, three test areas were selected:� onseepkans, representative of small rural villages, where collected wood is the primary source of fuel.� pniel, though also a small rural village, is located 8 km from the nearest town; there is a fuel mix with wood and paraffin used in almost equal proportions.� huhudi, an urban township, has access to electricity, has a high reliance on paraffin for cooking and a comparatively low use of wood.

 

 

a total of 100 families made up the test sample, 70 user families (with cookers) and 30 control families without cookers.� the test also included 14 institutions, in all cases education centers and in most cases pre-schools.� seven different cooker types were placed with the user-families in a yearlong study.� the yearlong placement is the first interesting component of the study, which allowed the research team to evaluate the solar cooking habits in detail, and it also allowed for seasonal use to be analysed.� this was a unique approach � a world first for two reasons:

 

        the field test was designed to be a comparative test of the various solar cooking technologies and real-life conditions

 

        families used a different cooker every two months in a �round robin� test to ensure that users get to know all the different stove models.

 

 

 

results:� household acceptance

 

end-user acceptance

 

use rates of the stoves have been used as one indicator of end-user acceptance.� before the solar stoves were placed with families, wood collected from the environment to be used in an open fire or wood stove was the primary energy source for cooking.� families used wood and wood-fueled appliances for approximately 50% of all meals.� gas, paraffin and electrical appliances were used to a lesser degree, in that order.� after solar stoves were placed with user-families, the cookers joined wood and wood stoves as the most used appliances, each now being used just over one third of the time.�

 

 

solar stoves were reported to be used to cook 35% of meals, or looking at it from another set of questionnaires, they were used at least once on 37% of all days.� the remaining third of all cooked meals was prepared on gas, paraffin and electric appliances in that order.� it should be noted that only one of the study areas is electrified and this would reduce the number of times an electric appliance was used.� users also reported good results for 93% of all solar cooking attempts.

 

 

solar stoves, along with wood (open fires, wood-stoves and coal-stoves fuelled with wood combined), are the most used cooking appliances amongst test user families, followed by stoves fueled with gas, paraffin, and electricity (note that electricity use appears very low since only one out of three study areas is grid connected). in 7% of the cases, non-solar stoves were used but the fuel type was not specified. on 2% of all days, no cooking took place.� these results indicate acceptance of solar stoves by family test users ("acceptance" of solar stoves being defined here as "solar stoves are used as much as or more than other cooking options in the household"). it should be noted that acceptance does not imply that all other cooking options are replaced by solar stoves. rural households, just like households in cities, traditionally use a variety of cooking options (on the average 2.5). this is not likely to change by the introduction of a new technology, as the example of the microwave oven shows.

 

figure 2: ��������� �daily use frequency of different cooking appliances

 

 

 

 

solar stoves were used mostly in the hottest hours of the day, between 10 am and 3 pm.� they were therefore used to prepare lunch and supper.� supper could be prepared early and left in the cooker as several of the different types of cookers converted to a warming box when a blanket was placed on top.� surprisingly, 21% of solar stove use was for breakfast.� this was higher than had been anticipated.� however, as the test areas can reach high temperatures by 8 o�clock in the morning, cooking the morning porridge was a common practice, particularly on the fast cookers.� water was also routinely boiled in the solar stoves for washing purposes or the morning cup of tea.� another interesting use for the solar stoves was for ironing.� families placed their cast irons in the stoves to heat rather than the open fire, which dirties the iron.

 

 

the reasons for the intensive use by the families are time savings, as less wood was now collected. monetary savings as less fuel was now purchased and a positive impact on the social networks, which form a crucial part of the survival strategies of poor rural women.

 

 

impacts on household fuel consumption and expenditure

 

households in the three study areas spent between r31 and r66 on energy each month.� the variation is largely due to the amount of collected wood that families utilize, as families with a very low income often collect wood to reduce costs.� despite this strategy, the poorest families in the study were spending up to 26% of their monthly income on fuel.� using solar stoves represented a considerable saving for these families.� on average across the three study areas, paraffin use dropped by 33%, gas by 57% and wood by 36%.� these figures were calculated using actual measurements before solar stoves were introduced, in winter 1996 and 1997 and summer 1997 for both users and the control group).� this amounts to an average fuel saving of 38%.� this translates to savings of between r12 and r26 per month, depending on the area.� users indicated that these savings were significant and promoted the continued use of solar stoves.

 

the reduction in fuel consumption is comparable to the reported solar stove use.� this suggests that the questionnaires were completed accurately by users and field workers and that the reduction in fuel consumption was largely a result of the use of solar stoves.

 

 

the purchase of solar stoves

 

the purchase of solar stoves by those in the study was taken as another indicator of end-user acceptance.� as with the use figures, the number of cookers purchased indicated strong end-user acceptance.

 

 

all families involved in the study, both users and non-users, were given the opportunity to purchase a solar stove at the end of the 12-month study period.� they were asked to pay only the costs of the materials, as the cooker would be second-hand.� the �cost-price� (about equal to the price of materials for a mass produced stove), at which the cookers were made available, was also considered to be a way of thanking the participating families for their time and effort.�

 

 

sales by stove type indicated strong regional preferences: onseepkans users have bought mostly ulog and rem15, pniel users ulog, rem5 and sk12, huhudi users rem5 and sk12.� overall, the most sold stove for small families is rem5, followed by ulog. for large families, the most sold stove is sk12, followed by rem15.

 

 

in total, 51 solar stoves were bought by user families at the end of the field-test period.� a limited number of stoves were available � only 20 of each type were used in the field test.� the stoves were sold at the following prices to families who participated in the test:

 

        sunstove:� r43

        ulog:� r113

        rem 5:� r130

        sk12:� r257

        rem 15:� r474

        schwarzer 1:� r2 090

        schwarzer 2:� r2 536

figure 3: solar stove rem 15 (for institutions) tested in the field during phase 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

figure 4: solar stoves schwarzer i and ii (for institutions) tested in the field

�� during phase 1

 

 

 

 


 

affordability of solar stoves

 

household affordability is described here in terms of the payback period, namely the amount of time it takes for the cumulative savings in fuel expenses per household to offset the cost of purchasing a solar stove. the results, based on the cost of the solar stoves during phase 1 (for all but the two most expensive models) are presented in figure 5.

 

figure 5:���������� � payback periods for solar stoves in the three test areas[g1] 

 

the payback periods, based on phase 1 cost of the stoves, range from 8 months to 5 years� (2 years on the average), depending on study area and stove type.� the payback period analysis does not take into account the non-monetary gains associated with solar cooking, and these can be quite substantial. safety, convenience, time savings and social status which are derived from using solar stoves may all have high value to potential purchasers, and may in fact be more important than the direct monetary savings associated with a reduction in other fuel use.

 

 

during phase 2 of the pilot program, a significant reduction in the manufacturing cost of the solar stoves was achieved.� as a result, solar stoves could be offered to the market at much lower prices than in phase 1.� based on phase 2 retail prices (price paid by the customer), the payback periods became significantly shorter.


 

figure 6:������������ payback periods per stove type and per area (in months, phase 2 retail prices)


 

 

as illustrated in figure 6, payback periods in onseepkans are longer due to the fact that less commercial fuels are used, resulting in a lower monetary expenditure on energy carriers.� because the area relies on collected fuel wood as their main energy source, non-monetary gains, in terms of time savings for example, would be important to consider.�

 

 

based on the same fuel savings achieved during the field test, but phase 2 prices, the average payback period of a solar stove decreased to 19 months.� average pay back periods, based on phase 2 prices, per stove type are illustrated in figure 7.

 

 


figure 7:� �������� average payback period (month) per stove type

 

 

families were also asked how much they would be willing to pay for solar stoves in monthly installments.� the responses varied between r20 and r30 and for the larger cookers up to r50.� with the exception of the most expensive of the large family cookers, the size of these installments would allow families to pay off the solar stoves in under the normal two-year period considered reasonable for similar household appliances.� the most expensive family cooker would require a monthly installment of r56.� using this method of inquiry, it would appear that families place more value to the ownership of these cookers than actual monthly savings they facilitate.

 

 

 

results:� institutions

 

on a different level, the acceptance of solar stoves (schools, kindergartens) was studied. taking into consideration the collapse of the state feeding scheme, school holidays and the selection of additional institutions for monitoring,� original institutions where interest was observed together with the new institutions, then (excluding holidays)� solar stoves were observed to be used on over 50 % of all occasions when visited by the monitors or supervisors.

 

 

important reasons for using solar stoves are:

 

        the overriding incentives for solar stove use are serving a midday meal (at 88% of all interested institutions), cooks that are highly motivated (75% of interested institutions), and a management incentive to reduce fuel expenditure (75%).

 

        most institutions in the study served a meal at midday but this, alone, is not an important enough reason to use the stoves as over 80% of the �disinterested� institutions did so. it is therefore considered to be a necessary pre-requisite.

 

        how many people are fed at the institution is not as important as the motivation of the cooks and managerial incentives to use the stoves.

 

 

the most important reasons for not using the solar stoves are

  • a lack of budget control by the cooks (found to be the case at all institutions that are disinterested in using solar stoves),

  • a lack of incentives for the cooks (100%), and

  • a disabling management style, i.e. top-down decision-making (83%).
     

furthermore

  • an insecure budget for cooking, a lack of storage space for the stoves and catering for a large number are not found to be significant reasons for institutions not being interested in using the solar stoves.

  • the pot size and numbers fed are problematic in using solar stoves at the large institutions (>50 fed), which does not preclude institutions from being interested in using them.� this could be because of the high possibility of achieving monetary savings as well as the possibility to use more than one solar stove, thereby increasing cooking capacity.

 

�����������

lessons learned

 

the key messages from phase 1 of the solar cooker pilot program regarding solar stoves for households are:

 

        solar energy is a promising option capable of being one of the leading energy sources for cooking;

 

        the high use rate of solar cookers, at par with wood and above other fuels, indicates acceptance of solar cooking by families;

 

        each type of cooker has its own supporters.� an obvious, universal, single choice did not emerge.� however, clear user preference for certain cooker types is evident and thus provides a sound basis for the selection of solar cookers to be promoted during phase 2 of the project;

 

        considerable fuel and time saved by the use of solar stoves generate reasonable pay-back periods, except for the most expensive stoves.� with price reduction achieved due to mass production, pay-back periods will be reduced even further;

 

        the willingness to buy test stoves suggests a viable market for solar stoves, confirmed by an independent market study;

 

        while causing shift in cooking times and reorganization of household labor, the use of solar stoves does not disrupt social relationships;

 

        macro-economic impacts are positive;

 

        the questionnaire methodology concerning family use has proven sound.� for institutional use, direct observation by the project staff was used;

 

        all test cookers needed technical improvements and have undergone adaptations.� the adapted cookers will serve as a basis for local production;

 

        the open methodological approach where users can express their judgment of a technology in general, and preferences concerning different appliances in particular, has proven valid.

 

 

in terms of institutional solar stove use, it can be concluded that the original institutions involved the pilot program did not maximize the use of the stoves available to them.� from the research, seven issues were identified which make up the management environment and which influence the potential use of solar stoves in institutions:

 

         human resources;

 

         financial resources;

 

         communication channels and methods;

 

         attitudes to work;

 

         decision-making structures,

 

         wealth of the institution;

 

         institutional support networks.

 

 


the text states that the pay-back figures are based on phase 1 stove process.� the new pay-back period based on new figures come later [g1] table and paragraph before and after should refer to the most recent ex-factory price estimates

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