Yogyakarta, Indonesia, November 3, 2014 – Ratinem, a farmer living in Central Java, explains why she uses a traditional stove that uses tree bark for fuel. She gathers the wood, she says, from nearby fields.
“I use a traditional cook stove because it’s cheap. I don’t have to buy gas,” says the mother of three.
Ratinem’s family is among the 24.5 million households in Indonesia who use traditional biomass for cooking. Unaware that smoke they inhale from the stoves cause illnesses, families keep cooking with traditional stoves because they are considered cheaper. Women and children are particularly vulnerable because mothers, lacking help for child-care, often have their children closeby when cooking.
“I don’t think that my family’s health has been affected,” Ratinem says. “We are all fine. Sometimes my children cough but that’s normal.”
About 165,000 Indonesians die prematurely every year from illnesses, such as respiratory diseases, caused by indoor air pollution.
In rural areas across Indonesia, biomass such as tree branches can be obtained for free. Families simply gather branches from nearby wooded areas. Even if the wood has to purchased, it is still very cheap.
Producers are reluctant to create better cook stoves because there is barely any consumer demand. The market has remained under-developed.
Biomass cook stoves sold commercially are made by small producers with poor quality control.
If the government doesn’t encourage people to use clean stoves, more families will use the dirty traditional stoves.
The Dian Desa Foundation, run by Christine Aristanti, produces clean stove models and also works with communities in raising public awareness about health hazards.
“We have to raise people’s awareness of the importance of having a healthy cook stove in the kitchen,” says Christine Aristanti. “We need to touch on what is most important for families, so that they are willing to invest in a better stove. From what we have observed, families want one that is cheap, clean, and easy to use.”