local resources
safety & health


The open fire: the competitor

For a moment we assume a commercial environment even in the rural sector. We have already pointed out that the stoves we have been discussing in this book are claimed to be superior designs to the traditional designs that people have been using so far - say, the open fire. Unfortunately that statement concerns only the task of cooking. A major factor that we have ignored in this discussion is that the open fire serves a multiplicity of functions. These functions are illustrated diagrammatically in Fig.1. The list of functions are located between two vertical dashed lines. The functions are divided according to whether they are performed by the fire proper or by the smoke. The former is further split into primary and secondary functions. Finally, on the right hand side of the diagram,is indicated the notion that not all the functions need to be performed year round.

The main purpose of bringing this into our discussion is that the open fire is a formidable competitor and cannot be glibly dismissed. One should work careful design strategies to combat the competition. Foremost the new stove should do some things in a decidedly superior manner so that the user can do a proper trade off. Snap judgments should not be made on the basis of casual observations like ``smoke kills bugs and therefore chimneys should be avoided''. It is obvious that the user's priorities should be carefully evaluated and proper design decisions have to be made.

The reader might turn around and state that the whole exercise is so general as to be nearly useless. But the author's contention is that a design procedure is being discussed. It has to be general so that one can handle a wide variety of situations.

The resource situation
Fig.1. The resource situation

Figure is a comprehensive one and it is the expectation of the author that not all functions are valued equally in every region. To give an example, it is quite conceivable that drying is not such an important need, but the bug menace is quite impossible to live with in some parts of the year. The simplest solution to the problem is to light the open fire once a week or so which might contain the bug menace to manageable proportions. The user might appreciate the smoke free environment during the rest of the year. This is not a text on the sociology of the stove but yet if the design is being canvassed with the users it seems imperative that the designer should be able to provide proper answers to the worries of the prospective clientele.