More than half of the population in Southeast Asia continues to depend primarily on biomass as fuel in inefficient cookstoves to meet their cooking needs. The majority of those using biomass are based in rural areas. In view of this high level of dependence on biomass, various countries in the region have launched improved cookstove dissemination programmes. In some countries in Southeast Asia, these programmes are being implemented by international NGOs in partnership with local NGOs. Such programmes have been informed by the long-term work of pioneering international NGOs like GERES in Cambodia. In other countries, multi-lateral institutions like the World Bank and European Union are working with the national governments and local NGOs to implement improved biomass cookstove programmes. Many of these programmes aim at developing an integrated approach towards the dissemination of improved cookstoves.
There is a substantial impact of cookstoves on society, and the selection of a particular cookstove has a number of environmental, health and social implications. A “systems thinking” approach is needed when looking at the issue of improved cookstoves. Instead of focusing solely on disseminating improved cookstoves, it is important to understand the entire cooking system such as the layout of the house, cooking habits, and the type of food being cooked.
On 2 December 2015, the Smart Villages Initiative and GERES brought together a diverse set of frontline actors from across Southeast Asia to consider the challenges of deploying improved cookstoves and how they may be addressed. Key conclusions and recommendations from the workshop held in Yangon, Myanmar are summarised in this brief for policymakers, development donors and agencies, and other stakeholders.