Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fuel efficient stoves projects in Darfur

I was involved in this USAID study... the complete report is available here.

Darfur, the westernmost region of Sudan, has been embroiled since 2003 in violent conflict that has resulted in the internal displacement of over 2 million people, many of whom are living in temporary camps. USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has been one of the key US Government entities providing funding for humanitarian organizations working in Darfur. One component of humanitarian relief for the region’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) has been the introduction and promotion of fuel-efficient stove (FES) programs. An increasing number of humanitarian organizations are requesting funds to implement these programs throughout Darfur.

FES can deliver numerous benefits to end-user households, including fuel and time savings, reduced exposure to smoke, and lessened risks of fires and burns. Programs promoting FES therefore seem well-suited to IDP settings, where such multi-sectoral benefits typically are urgently needed but difficult to achieve given staff and resource constraints and difficult logistical conditions.

To better understand FES program drivers and outcomes, the USAID evaluation in Darfur examined four types of FES being promoted by three different non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to ascertain whether the stoves were indeed reducing fuel consumption. In addition, the evaluation team sought to identify behavioral and programmatic factors that influenced the likelihood that the FES programs would meet their fuel savings and other goals. The evaluation revealed a considerable range in stove performance and implementation strategies. Given the small sample set, the data should not be considered definitive, but rather as indicators of areas where improvements can be made.

Key findings of the evaluation include:
•Darfur is one of the world’s most challenging places to undertake humanitarian assistance. Field staff work in dangerous conditions, turnover is high, logistics are challenging, and access to the camps can be difficult to obtain. Despite these obstacles, all of the NGOs whose programs were reviewed had succeeded in disseminating stoves to large numbers of camp residents.
•Stove performance tests conducted by the evaluation team revealed that one stove seemed consistently to consume significantly less fuel than the traditional three-stone fire; several performed slightly better or worse than the three-stone fire; and one stove consistently consumed more fuel than the three-stone fire. Fuel efficiency did not increase proportionately with the cost/design sophistication of the stoves tested.
•The NGO programs reviewed did not incorporate sufficient monitoring and evaluation systems to guide their performance or validate their results. When data was collected, it was not disseminated adequately throughout the organization or the surrounding community.
•Several of the NGOs had sought outside expertise to introduce new stove models and strengthen their FES programs. However, promotion/dissemination of multiple technologies stretched the management capacity of the programs.
•NGOs need to spend more time on end-user education, to ensure that behavior change messages are transmitted effectively and that beneficiaries know how to use their stoves to obtain maximum benefits.
•Beneficiaries typically were enthusiastic about their stoves. However, many stated that they experienced difficulty maintaining the stoves, particularly after donor support had ended.

Focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews revealed that IDPs in Darfur are very interested in new cooking technologies, and especially welcome benefits that improve their overall quality of life (such as reductions in the incidence of fires and burns). The evaluation team concluded that the promotion of FES remains a valid intervention for humanitarian assistance programs, but recommends that donors and implementers strive for realistic, consistently attainable fuel efficiency performance.

This will require the following steps:
•Stronger monitoring and evaluation protocols that will need to be implemented throughout the life of the program (not just at the beginning and end). The monitoring and evaluation criteria should incorporate a variety of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, in order to identify and address discrepancies between end-user feedback and stove performance tests.
•Workshop-centered production utilizing paid specialists, in order to improve quality control and maintain stove design parameters.
•Regular training for beneficiaries on how to maintain their stoves (particularly mudstoves, which crack with time), along with safe access to materials needed for repair.
In addition, the introduction of market-based principles into the stove production and distribution process should be explored. For instance, charging a minimal amount for each stove might help improve the quality of the stoves (and the sustainability of the programs) by giving end-users a vested interest in their stoves’ performance and creating mini-markets for various stove services (i.e., repairs). This can be achieved, however, only if all NGOs working in a given area adopt the same strategy, which will require greater planning and coordination at the camp level.

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