Clean cooking

Creating a shared framework and roadmap to adoption for clean cooking in India.

In India, where nearly 60 percent of the population use traditional cookstoves, the issue of clean cooking is one of mammoth proportions. Half a million deaths in the country can be attributed to household air pollution from cooking and heating.

The Trusts initiated the Clean Cooking Programme in 2013 to gain an understanding of the market for clean cooking products and technologies. Further, in 2015, the Trusts launched a Market Development Programme facilitating marketing, distribution and financing of clean cooking products and technologies in key states. The primary objective of the programme was to reduce exposure to carbon emissions and reduce the drudgery of cooking on traditional chulhas and collecting fuel wood. The focus was to build a market for aspirational as well as affordable clean cooking solutions and create a positive impact in the lives of rural communities. The programme was rolled out in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. By March 2019, the sale of more than 35,000 improved cookstoves was facilitated. The programme measured the success metrics as the number of units used by communities.

The Trusts, with their trained teams and technology-driven data collection systems, have also helped government administrations to target their schemes with greater accuracy, while generating awareness among communities about the government’s clean cooking scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

In the process of developing the impact measurement design tools for the Market Development Programme in 2018, the team realised that there is a significant gap in the understanding of the term ‘adoption’. Every stakeholder in the ecosystem defined the term from their perspective and the real challenge of sustained usage of a product was not recognised and addressed directly. The absence of tested and accepted frameworks and methodologies on understanding the processes of adoption made it challenging to identify the impact of a technology/ programme, and impossible to compare its efficacy and efficiency at the field level.

This gap in a shared understanding and consensus on the definition of adoption, and cognizance and acceptance that adoption needs to be fueled, measured and understood at varying degrees, is multifaceted, and needs to be measured and assessed on a continuum, has led to the disparate research and impact findings across the sector. This absence of an accepted key variable is also one of the chief reasons why such extensive work on the field by various stakeholders has not fueled into policy making. To build this understanding and address this gap, the Tata Trusts have initiated an action research with support from the Clean Cooking Alliance in 2019. The programme builds on the existing field initiatives and targets to develop and define the framework to understand adoption and the drivers that fuel it, and take it from one stage to the other.

With a commitment to build an evidence-based framework, the coalition brings together implementation partners, research partners and technology providers. Technology is being used in the research design for various means: to measure actual product usage, to disseminate messages on carbon emissions, etc. Technology is also driving the collection of empirical data to map how different engagement activities/ discussions/ policy changes, if any, etc would impact the usage behaviour in a specific geography. By analysing, evaluating and comparing different implementation models, the research would attempt to simulate a roadmap to sustained adoption.

Given that all clean cooking initiatives in the country are working towards adoption of clean cooking products, to move towards the cleaner stack over time, the framework would build the definition of adoption and understand its drivers from the stage of idea development, and assess adoption as a multi-staged process which is multi-dimensionally nuanced in nature. Subsequent to framing the various ways of defining adoption from the lens of the various stakeholders through rounds of consultation, the framework would also measure adoption as a function of key variables (activities carried out by implementation programmes) to drive usage of these solutions, like sales and last mile availability of products, behaviour change campaigns, availability of consumer financing options and product innovation, by mapping usage data across indicators to measure which factor(s) and/ or combination of factors/ variables are driving clean cooking behaviour, and to what extent.

The action research is in progress and has concluded the first part of its design. There were significant setbacks to implementation and data collection with the onset of COVID-19, but the situation accentuated the interlinkages between traditional way of cooking, health, gender and the environment. This linkage indicates a heightened risk for women across all age groups who cook using traditional technologies. It also highlights an urgency for all stakeholders working within the clean cooking space to work collaboratively to promote sustained adoption of clean cookstoves.

The first segment of the programme’s work recently concluded. It attempts to understand what factors facilitate and hinder the adoption of clean cooking practices and technologies amongst communities, and it takes a deep dive with the lens of behaviour change communication. A report detailing the findings and discussions is available on the research partner’s website.

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