"Hillary Clinton set to unveil initiative on clean cooking stoves," is among this week's highlights at the Millennium Development Goals Summit. Indeed, climate change, deforestation, global health, and women’s empowerment are extremely important issues to address.

Yet, I am extremely wary of any products manufactured in the developed world that are touted, marketed, or delivered to “make life better” for poor people in the developing world.

I have worked for many years supporting a local, community-based organization operating in Kasese, Uganda, The Center for Environment Technology and Rural Development. They have been helping women build safer and more environmentally sound stoves with locally available materials in the Rwenzori region for years.

In their own words,
“Cooking with three stones has been common in rural areas of Uganda. But in the villages where our programs are located, CETRUD has also help women who cook the meals for their families, through the building of appropriate and safer cooking stoves. This saves wood and provides relief to women, and often their small children, who suffer constant smoke inhalation. Cooking stoves improve general health, save time, and reduce the amount of wood used.”

From CETRUD's website: "Improved cooking stoves save the women and children from heavy smoke and the heavy load of looking for firewood." Before and after photos can be seen at: http://www.cetrud.org/wb/pages/programs/appropriate-technology.php

At the end of last year, The New Yorker featured the Aprovecho Research Center’s 10th annual Stove Camp in Oregon, which they described as a “kind of hippie Manhattan Project” of the “small but fanatical world of stovemakers.” Despite this latest publicity among policy wonks and donors, several designs for improved cook stoves have been developed and successfully utilized in the developing world using locally available materials such as clay, mud, concrete, sheet metal, or tile. (You can find many of these described on Appropedia’s page on improved cook stoves.) Local efforts also have the flexibility and responsiveness to address environmental conditions and community needs more directly than any global alliance can.

That’s why the United States’ $50 million commitment will be met by me with a deep sigh, disappointment, and skepticism. Taking exception to newly hyped technological ideas that will “save the world” can be unpopular. In fact, in a previous discussion a fellow international do-gooder once criticized my view as an “a priori xenophobic dismissal of the intentions and products of ric....”

Rather, my concerns are based on wanting to ensure that any efforts to improve people’s lives in the developing world are first based on the locally available resources, rather than creating additional dependency on outside “expertise,” supplies, or technology. (The blog, Good Intentions Are Not Enough, write a lot on this topic and has some great guidelines on in-kind donations of this sort.) My concerns also include wanting to avoid undermining local economies and local organizations, especially if products such as these are delivered through traditional funding mechanisms, with each layer of bureaucracy taking its share.

Clinton needs to take a more responsible approach to throwing her support behind “solutions” such as these. The media must also stop portraying foreign assistance as a kind of ever-elusive (and arrogant) search for a single, magic "silver bullet” to solve poverty. Instead, let us all focus on putting real resources behind local initiatives and means of overcoming obstacles in the developing world.

Despite whatever trend comes next from the policy-makers, development experts, and donors, skilled and experienced people working on the ground know that no technological initiative in and of itself can offer the full answer to complex problems in the developing world. As former Clinton crony, Al Gore, reminds us in his movement to stop global warning, “It’s not a silver bullet, it’s silver buckshot."


This post originally appeared at:



Related Posts

Spotting Community Ownership

Listening to People on the Receiving End of Aid

Reuters: New report, model of best practice for aid world

Changing the aid system: 5 ideas from the inside

The Real Experts

Views: 9

Tags: Al, Aprovecho, Center, Clinton, Gore, Hillary, MDG, New, Research, Summit, More…The, Uganda, Yorker, aid, assistance, change, climate, community-based, cook, countries, deforestation, developing, development, empowerment, foreign, global, goals, grassroots, health, improved, international, millennium, organizations, stoves, women’s, workers


You need to be a member of Peace and Collaborative Development Network to add comments!

Join Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Sponsored Link

Please Pay What You Can to Support PCDN

Please consider Paying What You Can to help PCDN grow. We encourage you to consider any amount from $1 and up. Read the SUPPORT page prior to making a payment to see PCDN's impact and how your payment will help.

Sponsored Link

Translate This Page


PCDN Guidelines and Share Pages

By using this site you're agreeing to the terms of use as outlined in the community guidelines (in particular PCDN is an open network indexed by Google and users should review the privacy options). Please note individual requests for funding or jobs are NOT permitted on the network.

Click BELOW to share site resources Bookmark and Share
or Share on LINKEDIN




© 2016   Created by Craig Zelizer.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service