London:Researchers have revealed that India’s transition to clean cooking fuels may be hampered by users’ belief that using firewood is better for their families’ wellbeing than switching to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
Women are considered primary family cooks in rural India and those featured in the study feel that both fuels support wellbeing.
According to the study, published in the journal Nature Energy, understanding these viewpoints helps to explain why India’s switch from traditional solid fuels is slower than expected.
India has more people relying on solid fuels for cooking than any other country in the world and providing universal access to clean cooking fuels has been identified as one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to which the country is a signatory.
Researchers at the Universities of Birmingham (UK) and Queensland (Australia) conducted focus group discussions with women in four villages in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.
“Two villages mostly used firewood whilst the other two comprised of mostly LPG users who had switched from using firewood,” the authors wrote.
Firewood users believed that cooking with this fuel improved their financial wellbeing because selling firewood generated income, whilst collecting the fuel gave them an opportunity to socialise and is a tradition they would like to continue.
They viewed LPG as a financial burden that gave food an undesirable taste and feared a fatal canister explosion.
LPG users told researchers that their fuel allowed them to maintain or improve social status, as well as making it easier to care for children and other family members.
Cooking with LPG freed up time which they could use to work outside the home and earn money. They also enjoyed extra leisure time with their family.
“Despite India’s aim of switching to clean fuels, the scale of solid fuel use in rural areas signals that widespread uptake and sustained use of clean fuels is a distant reality,” said study co-author Rosie Day from the University of Birmingham.
Researchers suggest that future interventions to promote new fuels should actively involve women who used solid fuels and clean fuels – opening discussion about the benefits of each and allowing cooks to observe different cooking practices.
“Interaction programmes could inform firewood users about the positive wellbeing outcomes of LPG, address concerns, and promote learning from each other,” the authors noted.