Peru: Improving cook stoves and access to energy

Pilar Valladolid’s health—and that of her family—has improved since she received a new, energy-efficient cook stove
Pilar Valladolid’s health—and that of her family—has improved since she received a new, energy-efficient cook stove (Photo:Musuk Nolte/UNDP)

by James Leslie
Cooking on a wood fire has always required a great deal of effort for 48-year-old Pilar Valladolid. She is supported in this duty by her 8-year-old daughter, Pamela. Together they have to walk more than an hour to collect the firewood they will use to cook with during the coming days, just as Pilar used to do with her mother when she was a girl.  

Pilar and her family live in a small town in the highlands of La Mar Province in the northeast corner of the Ayacucho region in the Peruvian Andes. Her husband José and their four sons usually return home in the evening after a long day harvesting potatoes. There are more than 3,000 potato varieties in Peru, and farmers like José are the guardians of this rich agro-biodiversity.


  • Greenhouse gas emissions in Peru have been reduced by approximately one megatonne per year per stove, an achievement that can be commercialized in the carbon markets.
  • More than 750,000 people in areas of extreme poverty are benefiting from the installation of improved cook stoves in their homes.
  • 150,000 improved cook stoves will be installed through early 2012.

Cooking over a wood fire has always been the norm here. In the poorer areas of Peru, families live in houses made of clay walls and earthen floors. They eat, sleep and relax in one common space.

Traditional wood fire kitchens have a low level of energy efficiency. They use too much wood and since they are not equipped with chimneys, the smoke produced remains indoors, damaging the health of the families who depend on them.

Improved cook stoves are more energy efficient than traditional ones, since they generate the same level of heat with up to 50 percent less firewood, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. At the same time, the improved stove design includes a chimney to eliminate the smoke from the house, reducing the incidence of respiratory problems.

In 2009, UNDP developed a programme with Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mining that provided 25,000 improved cook stoves to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country. The programme is cross-cutting in nature, addressing a number of development challenges, including health, climate change and forest preservation.

Two new partners have since signed on, the regional governments of La Libertad and Arequipa. Altogether, the goal is to provide another 125,000 improved cook stoves, ultimately benefiting 750,000 people. 

By November 2011, the programme had resulted in the construction of 75,000 stoves in various provinces of the country, including those with low human development indicators.

In Ayacucho, Pilar and other people who have received the new cook stoves are already benefiting from cleaner indoor air. They no longer suffer from smoke bothering their eyes while they cook. Since they now need to collect much less firewood every day, they have more time to help their children with homework and they are free to dedicate part of their time to other income-generating activities.

“With the implementation of the improved cook stove programme, La Libertad region will avoid the emission of 41,000 tonnes of CO² a year,” said José Murgia Zannier, the region’s president.

UNDP provided technical assistance as part of a regional project called Carbon 2012, which helped the initiative and others like it to access carbon markets. As a result, the programme will be able to access additional international financial resources to help make it sustainable. For example, the funding will be used to invest in the maintenance of existing cook stoves, as well as continued awareness-raising regarding the benefits and training in appropriate uses of the stoves for families like Pilar’s.

˝Because of the smoke produced by my stove I suffered from bronchitis and my walls were black. Today, thanks to my improved cook stove, everything has changed; the smoke always goes outside,” said Angélica Flores Farfán, who has also benefited from the programme.

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