Testing Stoves: Before Not After

Testing was designed to occur before manufacturing. 42 years after the International Standards were published, how many stove projects are spending a year or two in their project areas to make sure that the cooks love the intervention and that it decreases pneumonia before starting to make stoves?

Testing the Efficiency of Wood Burning Cookstoves: International Standards was published in 1985 and was the result of three international conferences. The purpose was to describe three tests that would enable stove projects to create interventions that met their goals. Testing was intended to happen before manufacturing to make sure that the stove and the entire intervention (a lot more than the stove!) works to save fuel, decrease pneumonia, protect kids from burns, or whatever is important in the context.

Using stove testing after the stove is manufactured to see if project goals are met is a great idea, too. But, bringing a stove into a village without good information showing what is needed in the cultural context to accomplish goals is obviously foolish. The WBT, CCT, and KPT were designed to result in reliable data to try to make sure that project was proven, before dissemination of the stove, to be successful.

The recent pneumonia study in Malawi showed that the new stove was used less than 1/3 of the time for cooking. Prior studies using the WBT, CCT, UCT, KPT, etc. with emission equipment could have been used to create a successful intervention that then would have been followed up to analyze results. This approach uses testing to identify the interwoven factors involved in the design of a useful medical intervention. When ARC created a Rocket stove for the Shell Foundation project in India it took about a year with months spent in villages (and in the lab) to discover what made both cooks and funder satisfied. We were trying to make sure that the consumer would love and buy the product and that it was significantly improved before it was made available on the market.

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