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                         IMPROVED WOODSTOVES:
                     USERS' NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS
                            IN UPPER VOLTA
                              A REPORT BY
                          JACQUELINE KI-ZERBO
                   1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
                     Arlington, Virgnia 22209 USA
                 Tel: 703/276-1800 . Fax: 703/243-1865
                            September 1980
                         IMPROVED WOODSTOVES:
                          ISBN: 0-86619-147-X
          [C] 1980, Volunteers in Technical Assistance, Inc.
               This is to acknowledge the contributions
               of Bruno Sylvestre, who provided the
               English translation of the report;
               Kristine Stroad Ament who edited the
               English text; and Patricia Haddad , who
               assisted in production of the report.
Energy is one of the essential factors of development.
Energy enables man to stay alive, and gives him the
power to control nature in order to get from it the
necessary elements of a better life.
Since the 1973 oil crisis, the word "oil" has tended to
become synonymous with energy. Oil has overshadowed
all the energy sources which preceded it in human
history . These other sources continue to be the only
ones used by the majority of people in developing
In Upper Volta, hydrocarbons account for only 5 percent
of the country's energy needs, and are fueling
vehicles, industrial equipment, and, to a lesser
extent, agricultural machines.
According to Soumana Traore(1), national consumption of
hydrocarbons, which approaches 100,000 tons, represents
an outlay of 3 million CFA(2) per year, or 20 percent of
the national export revenue. Since the need for hydrocarbons
increases at 12 percent a year, and considering
the rise of oil prices on the world market, it is
likely that before the end of the century meeting
national needs will require a purchase cost which
considerably exceeds the national budget.
Consequently, oil, gas and electricity cannot be
considered as sources of domestic energy.
Domestic and handicraft needs of families are met by
wood (heating, iron-works, food processing, and meal
preparation), and by the sun (drying and preservation
of food products.)
As far as wood is concerned, the situation seems fairly
serious. A. J. Deville, F.A.0. expert, says: "If we
estimate the needs of each inhabitant at about 1.35
stere a year (0.7 [m.sup.3]), the use of firewood rose in 1974
to 3.9 million cubic meters which means yearly overfelling
of nearly half a million cubic meters beyond the
usual total forest output."
(1) Director of the Societe Africaine d'Etudes et de
    Developpement (SAED), Ouagadougou.
(2) Approximately 250 CFA=$1 U.S.
This overexploitation of forest resources is of
concern mostly in the central plateau, where nearly 60
percent of the entire Voltaic population lives, and
"whose annual needs for wood at the beginning of the
next century will be tremendous--estimated at more than
4 million cubic meters of firewood within about 20
years, more than the total annual production of all the
current forest resources of the country."(3)
It is obvious that these demands on wood resources represent
a serious threat to the ecological balance,
which has already been deeply affected by brush fires,
collection of wood for other needs (construction, handicrafts,
etc.) and by clearing of forests for
agriculture and for cattle grazing.
Given that situation it is no wonder that the price of
wood underwent an increase of more than 50 percent
between 1975 and 1978. In Ouagadougou, this represents
about 30 percent of the buying power of the poorer
To remedy this situation, it is necessary to triple the
annual replanting of forests on a large scale (1,500
hectares a year at present) around the cities of the
Mossi plateau, while making sure that the pace of reforestation
in the rural centers is increased tenfold.
Within 20 years, we want to reach a wood fuel
production level sufficient for the population's needs,
in order to permit natural forest vegetation to regain
the strength necessary to regenerate the soil in
agricultural fallow lands.
The Sahelian people are very aware of the consequences
of the situation: little rainfall, drought, and
desertification. Consequently, they are willing to
participate in whatever reforestation programs are
being undertaken.
To reforest is indeed the first priority of our
country. But planting and growth of a tree require
water and continuous care for several years (six to
seven years minimum for the rapid growing species). At
present, "extension of artificial forests--by 40,000
hectares a year is, especially on the central plateau,
completely out of proportion to the available land,
personnel, and budgetary means."(4)
(3) A.J.  Deville, Le developpement des ressources
    forestieres en Haute-Volta.
(4) Ibid.
In spite of efforts in education and information, every
year brush fires destroy vegetation over enormous
Considering the increase in population and current
agricultural practices, each year thousands of hectares
of arable land are cleared--felling and destroying
trees. There is no doubt that unrestricted needs will
follow the population curve upward and limit the area
available for reforestation.
This is why the role of women as consumers of wood appears
more and more in national energy and
environmental protection programs. Indisputably, this
is a new aspect of women's participation in
development, and technical and political leaders will
increasingly be aware of this.
The integration of women in the development process
which is strongly advocated by the Federation of Women(5)
and which has become a political credo these days, will
become a reality only if the vital and daily activities
of women are taken into account. Among those activities
is the preparation of meals which allow adults and
children to regain the strength to work and to
survive. This is an important activity, and one which
has direct bearing on the serious problems of energy
and environment.
Since 1977, action has been taken in Upper Volta to
reduce wood consumption and to ease the toil of housewives
through the introduction of improved stoves.
Briefly, this is what has happened:
* In March 1980, the German Forestry Mission, a
  pioneer in this field, built about 800 brick and
  cement stoves. The German program planned
  construction of some 600 stoves in the Black Volta
  region (Dedougou), the Sahel (Dori), and the
  Western Center (Koudougou). The program, which
  has already been implemented in the Center region
  (Ouagadougou), will eventually include two other
  regions, one of them the Yatenga. For brick stoves
(5) Upper Volta's Federation of Women comprises l'Amitie
    Africaine, l'Association des Femmes Voltaiques,
    l'Entraide Feminine Voltaique, and l'Association des
    Veuves et Orphelins de la Haute-Volta.
  built in rural areas, the only cost of any
  concern was of the manual labor. (The cost,
  unfortunately, was not given.) The brick stoves last
  about two years. Cement stoves, for family or collective
  use, cost between 3,000 and 9,000 CFA,
  depending on the number of holes and the size of the
  stove. These stoves, constructed in urban or
  semi-urban centers, last longer.
* In the Northern Center region (Kaya) the U.S. Peace
  Corps set up a small company for constructing
  improved stoves. It employed young Voltaic men and
  sold about 50 stoves between January and March 1980,
  each costing 3,000 (CFA).
  If the success of this first attempt is confirmed,
  more small companies such as "Modern Stoves of Kaya"
  will be created. Experiments will also be conducted
  to perfect special stoves for the preparation of
  dolo (a local beer made out of sorghum).
  A village project is envisioned as well as the construction
  of 200 stoves between May and September
  1980. This project will provide materials and
  guarantee the training of masons, while villagers
  will do all the work.
* In addition to these two projects, which include
  research to "fine tune" stoves adapted to local
  working conditions, the Fonds Europeen de
  Developpement (FED) and the Association
  Internationale de Developpement Rurale (AIDR)
  initiated a project with three components in January
  -- a comparative study of the designs of improved
     stoves in use in the country;
  --   the construction of prototypes selected in
     collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs
     and women's organizations; and
  -- the publication of news articles, and radio and
     T.V. debates.
These three improved stove construction and dissemination
projects are augmented by two research
projects. One concerns technical and scientific
research to formulate mathematical rules for the
construction of fuel efficient stoves. It is being
conducted by the University of Eindhoven and the TNO
Research Institute, with financing from the Dutch
Government. The studies envisioned will be carried out
in Dutch laboratories and in the Sahelian countries, in
close collaboration with national institutions for
scientific research. The other research project
involves both a technical study of energy and materials
available in Sahelian countries, and a sociological
study of food habits and cooking practices of the
Sahelian people.
The following report presents the results of a sociological
study undertaken by VITA,(6) and funded by IBM,
with the participation of people from the Ministries of
Social Affairs and Women; Rural Development;
Environment and Tourism; the Women's Technical Training
section of the AVV (Volta Valley Management); and, the
Federation of Voltaic Women.
We would like to pay tribute to the people responsible
in those ministries and organizations especially to the
Minister of Social Affairs and Women, whose moral and
material support was a decisive element in carrying out
the study. The continued interest and effective participation
of the staff and field workers who often
worked overtime, demonstrated their deep interest in a
technology which helps families and women meet a basic
need. To all of them, we express our gratitude for
this first collective work which, we hope, will lead to
the concrete results the population awaits.
(6) VITA (Volunteers In Technical Assistance) is a U.S.
    non-profit voluntary organization.
                         GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The quantity of wood used in preparing a meal depends
on several factors, such as:
 * type of food and dishes prepared;
 * size of family;
 * number of meals prepared each day;
 * kind of stove on which cooking is done, and its
   position in regard to the direction of the wind;
 * quality of the fuel;
 * utensils used; and,
 * organization and "know-how" of the housewife, etc.
These essential factors are often masked by the widespread
belief that Sahelian housewives use more wood
than is necessary.
In a country in which 94 percent of the energy needs
are met uniquely by wood, present consumption (1
kg/inhabitant/day) seems to be excessive and
constitutes a real threat to the already precarious
natural environment.
If it is true that we have only a few more years (20 at
most) to avoid the inexorable and irreversible desertification
of the major part of Upper Volta, we must act
quickly. It is only by acting to bring back what we had
that we will be able to move forward, carefully and
methodically, to safeguard the future.
The seriousness of the situation and the urgency of
finding realistic and humane solutions demand our
lucidity and vigilance. We have to be aware of what
people do, what they want to do, and what they are
capable of doing. As Tristan Bernard says: "To be happy
with human beings, one can only ask them for that which
they can give."
In order to know what the people, and, more specifically,
the women of the Sahel, can contribute to the
success of a program for the dissemination of improved
stoves, the VITA sociological study intended to identify
the following:
    I. The people that cook, and during what periods
       of the day they cook.
   II. The foods consumed and methods of preparation.
  III. The equipment and cooking utensils used.
   IV. The fuel used and preferences in this area.
    V. The incidence of smoke, its effect on health, and
       its domestic utility.
   VI. The rites and customs related to stoves and to
  VII. Women and families' attitude and financial ability
       to finance improved stoves.
 VIII. The field agents to be trained and mechanisms to
       be set up for large scale production of improved
   IX. The Voltaic institutions and local social structures
       likely to be involved in experimentation
        and dissemination of improved stove prototypes.
The information gathered should guide three groups of
people, the triad upon which any action on improved
stoves should be based, as follows:
* Researchers, to improve the efficiency of stoves;
* Artisans, to build the stoves according to the
  fuel and heat transfer rules provided by the
  researchers, taking into account the needs of
  women; and
* The women themselves, to employ and adapt to reality
  the researchers' theories and the artisans' models.
The VITA study was planned to take seven weeks, in two
parts: four weeks during the dry season (May to April
1980) and three weeks after the harvest (November to
December 1980), so as to cover all the regional and
seasonal variations in the chosen area.
Research was conducted in a geographical base which includes
four of the ten regions in Upper Volta. These
regions, the Center, the Northern Center, the Sahel,
and the Black Volta seemed to us to be fairly representative
of the areas most seriously threatened by deforestation
and deterioration of the natural environment,
due to social, economical and climatic diversity.
Furthermore, there is already some activity underway in
the Black Volta, the Center, and the Northern Center,
even though by every indication the Sahel is the region
most likely to benefit from the experience acquired so
 The Black Volta
As early as 1977, the first improved stoves had been
constructed in this region by a German volunteer, first
in Nouna and then in Dedougou, the regional capital.
The Black Volta today has several hundred stoves,
constructed in Bomborokuy, Goui, Koro, Djonkuy, and
Sharing a common border with Mali, the Black Volta's
population is essentially composed of Bobo, Bwa,
Dafing, Fulani, Samo, Marka, and Mossi immigrants who
work in subsistence agriculture (corn, sorghum, millet,
fonio, yams, potatoes, peas, beans), and in cash crop
agriculture (cotton, peanuts, tobacco,...).
Reasonably good rainfall and relatively fertile soil
favor good yields and an income per inhabitant which is
slightly above the average. This income, if wisely
invested, would permit real economic progress in the
The existence of temporary streams and of one river
(the Black Volta) explains the presence of forest
corridors and the relatively thick ground cover.
 The Center
As its name indicates, this region is in the middle of
the country. Its population is composed mainly of the
Mossi people, and it has the highest population density
in the country. Governmental administration as well as
financial and banking establishments have their headquarters
in the national capital, Ouagadougou, which
explains the high rate of demographic growth, due both
to natural growth and to the rural exodus of younger
people in search of jobs.
Several agricultural and social development
organizations have their offices here; the untiring
work of courageous people, tied to the ancient and
tired land, producing millet and ground nuts.
The workshop which constructs and exports the improved
stoves of the German Forestry Mission opened its doors
in Ouagadougou in June 1979. This allowed access to the
urban dwellers likely to buy the stoves, helped make
people aware of the need for improved stoves, and
helped meet the demand created.
 The Northern Center
Situated between the Center region and the Sahel, the
Northern Center region has a granite substratum
peculiar to the central plateau.
The predominant ethnic group is Mossi, and the main
crops are millet, potatoes, beans, and cotton. Market
gardening is well developed in the region of Kongoussi,
north of Kaya.
The main river of the region is the White Volta.
Although it is dry six out of 12 months, it is lined by
a forest corridor which amply supplies the capital.
Since 1979, a Peace Corps Volunteer has constructed
several dozen stoves, mostly in the town of Kaya, where
the wood problem is becoming serious.
Between May and September 1980, a small rural project
will attempt to construct 200 stoves around Kaya, in
cooperation with the local populace.
The Sahel
This is the region which exhibits the typical Sahelian
characteristics: sandy soil and sand hills which are
moved by gusts of wind, light rainfall, and a predominance
of thorny plants.
The most common tree is the acacia, though artificial
planting efforts use neem, cassia, and melinas in
villages and semi-urban centers.
In addition to the domestic use of wood, before the
drought a sizeable number of cattle seriously threatened
the vegetation in certain areas.
Agricultural crops which are abundant are sorghum and a
variety of millet that grows and ripens within three
Handicraft skills are quite developed, especially in
weaving and basket making.
The population of the Sahel is composed mostly of
Fulanis, but also has Rimaibes and Djermas, who seem to
have the same way of life as their brothers in Niger,
whose border lies some 50 kilometers from Dori.
While the Center and the Northern Center regions will
be the sources of improved stoves for the other regions
of Upper Volta, we may suppose that operations undertaken
in the Black Volta and the Sahel regions could
spread very quickly oustide the borders to Mali and
Niger, which are of equal concern in the CILSS regional
project for the dissemination of improved wood stoves.
(The CILSS is the eight-member country Permanent
Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel).
The Lepeleire/Ki-Zerbo mission concerning "the improvement
of stoves for the domestic use of firewood" had
recommended, among other things, that "the introduction
of improved stoves be integrated into rural development
projects, particularly those in environmental improvement,
food self-sufficiency, nutritional education,
reducing domestic work, and improving women's monetary
incomes, especially in rural areas" (May 1979).
This recommendation, approved by the national experts
of the CILSS "Ecologie-forets" team in Niamey in June,
1979, guided us in the choice of the organizations and
offices whose collaboration has been indispensable in
carrying out this study.
The study concentrates on the food habits, cooking
practices, and the role people (particularly the women)
could play in a program of stove improvement. We have
consulted offices and organizations which include both
urban and rural women.
The study was undertaken in the four regions as
*  In the Black Volta, by the women trainers of the
   "Education and Participation of Women in Development"
   project, whose activities are integrated
   appropriately into the ORD (regional extension
   service) program.
*  In the Center, by social workers responsible for
   maternal and infant protection activities in the
   social centers; women trainers in the "Education and
   Participation of Women in Development" project; women
   trainers in "Volta Valleys Management" (AVV);
   the women trainers in the Voltaic Women's
   Federation; and students of the Women's Handicrafts
   Training Center of Gounghin and of the Women's
   Technical Training School.
*  In the Northern Center, by women trainers in the
   "Education and Participation of Women in Development"
   project of the Kongoussi area, in collaboration
   with the social workers and the ORD women
*  In the Sahel, by ORD women trainers, in collaboration
   with the women social workers of the
   "Education and Training of Sahel's Women" project,
   and those of the Foundation for Community
Since these people knew the environment and since they
had been working with women on a daily basis, these
women social workers and trainers(7) were in the best
position to head an inquiry team concerned with such
intimate aspects of family life as food, cooking, and,
to a certain extent, income in Sahelian countries.
Without a doubt, it was the interest and openness of
the interviewers, who chose which villages and individuals
to interview, that inspired the confidence necessary
for the people to respond to the questions, and
even to express their satisfaction at having been
chosen to participate.  This was true in all but a few
isolated cases.
Three questionnaires were distributed: Questionnaire A
applied to groups of women regularly involved in different
activities such as child care; sewing and knitting;
teaching, reading, and writing; and agricultural
education.  These group interviews were intended to collect
the maximum number of opinions concerning various
problems, while trying to get a village level
consensus, if not of the entire region.   A large number
of people (2,600 altogether) were interviewed and made
aware of the problems of improved stoves between April
1 and July 16, 1980.
Questionnaire B consisted of an interview and seven
day observation of a housewife's activities.
We wanted to be in a better position to support the
information collected during the group sessions by
individual interviews.
Sixty-one housewives were observed and interviewed
about their cooking techniques, their wishes and expectations,
and their feelings about purchasing improved
To look beyond the circle of the housewife, we compiled
Questionnaire C for the guardians of traditions,
(7) In Ouagadougou and in Kaya, three men who are social
workers also led inquiries.
knowledge, and possibly the decision makers in the area
that concerns us.  These are the older women and men,
and the technicians who work in the regions (extension
agents in the fields of water, forestry, agriculture,
health, education, general administration, etc.).   The
questions posed sought to find out what changes had occurred
in food habits and fuelwood supply; customs,
causes, and possible consequences of these changes; and
recommended action.
This was sort of a thermometer to measure to what
extent these people were aware of the current situation
with regard to deforestation, soil erosion, and suggested
solutions.  One hundred twenty people (men and
women) agreed to answer this questionnaire.
The quality of the information gathered was sometimes
limited by the short period of time during which the
study had to take place (before the rainy season and
the farming period), and by the distances which had to
be covered in the four regions.
The desire to collect more and more information
sometimes resulted in questionnaires that were too long
and difficult for certain interviewers.
Although the interviewers' preparation involved a
general introduction to the problems of energy and
environment in Upper Volta, as well as detailed reading
of the questionnaires and the complete translation of
these questionnaires into national languages (More for
the Center and the Northern Center, Dioula for Black
Volta, and Fulani for the Sahel), some of the interviewers
had difficulty in translating the questions as
well as the answers they received.   A control visit we
made to Tanghin-Dassouri allowed us to look at the
information the investigators received which they could
not categorize in their reports.
We will take these problems into account for the
follow-up study, which will enable us to fill in some
of the missing data.
In any case, here follow the initial results of a collective
task carried out in good faith and with
enthusiasm by Voltaic directors and field workers.
  Food Consumed, Quantities, and Dishes Prepared
The diet in Upper Volta is based on foods from three
food groups:
  * cereals (sorghum, millet, corn, and rice);
  * dry vegetables (beans, peas); and
  * tubers (yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, fabirama,
It is necessary to add cooked greens, either eaten
alone or mixed with cereals, to these various foods.
Certain variations are found in the diet according to
regional availability.  For example, one finds greater
consumption of fonio, yams and sweet potatoes in the
Black Volta, more frequent consumption of fresh
vegetables (potatoes, green beans, and peas) in
Kongoussi, and macaroni and moroccan couscous in the
Ouagadougou area.
Cereals are eaten either in the form of porridge, or in
a dough (to or sabgo), a type of thick pancake which is
prepared in three steps:
a) The water is heated in a metal or clay pot.
b) When the water boils, flour which has been mixed
   with cold water is poured in.  This is the way
   porridge and starch are made.
c) After it has cooked awhile, flour is added to the
   porridge, beating it constantly with a wooden
   spatula to avoid lumps forming.
When the dough is thick enough, it is served in a large
cake or in small balls on enamelled plates.
Fonio and flour can also be steamed for many hours, as
is done for cooking couscous.
Rice is cooked with meat and vegetables (Djoloff rice),
or plain and served with a sauce or stew.
Dry vegetables and greens take a long time to cook, and
are served mixed with oil.
These basic foods are served with vegetables (tomatoes,
cabbage, sorrell, spinach, okra, peppers), and several
local condiments made out of seeds or French "Maggi
In rural areas, little fat (karite butter), meat (beef,
sheep, goat, pig) , or fish (dried or smoked) is consumed.
Sauce or stew is broth made out of nere seeds or
sorrel, fresh or dried greens, salt or potash.
In urban areas, sauces or stews are made out of braised
meat, with onions and tomatoes.   A great deal of water,
boiled for a long time, is mixed into this preparation,
and it is then simmered.  Fresh vegetables such as okra,
baobab leaves, peanut or sesame paste, are added to
thicken the stew.
The quantity of food prepared depends essentially on
the size and income of the family, food availability,
and on the housewife.
As indicated in the following table, the families
observed were generally large families.   They often
exceeded the average number of people per family (five,
or seven, according to geographic divisions).
Although we do not have enough reliable data, the
information we did collect reveals that food rations
can vary from one to four times: two bowls of millet
for six people in a village in the Northern Center; two
bowls of millet for six people in the Sahel; half a
bowl of millet for six people in the Black Volta; one
bowl of rice for 16 people in a village in the Center;
one bowl of rice for 10 people in the Sahel; and, three
bowls of rice for 10 people in Black Volta.
Besides the tastes of the inhabitants, the variations
in quantities can be explained by the standard of
living of the family, the presence of children for whom
one keeps the leftovers, and the number of meals
eaten every day.  When only one meal is cooked a day,
the quantity of prepared food is more important than
when cooking is done several times a day.
In any case, in all the regions the quantities prepared
for dinner are greater than those for lunch.   The reason
is probably that in rural areas the most important meal
is often dinner, and leftovers, warmed up again, are
given to the children as breakfast.
Region            Size of         Number of            Quantities prepared
                  family          families observed
                  1 to 6 pers.             -
                  7 to 10 pers.           11           2 1/2(9) bowls/8 pers.
                                                      1 1/2 bowls/10 pers.
                  10 to 15 pers.          10           1 1/2 bowls/ 11 pers.
CENTER                                         1 1/2 bowls/15 pers.
                  16 to 20 pers.           5           1 bowl of rice/16 pers
5.9(8)                                                4kg. rice/17 pers.
                                                      1 1/2 bowls millet/16 p.
                  More than 20             2                 -
                  1 to 6 pers.             3           2 bowls/6 pers.
                                                      3 bowls/6 pers.
                  7 to 10 pers.            5
                  10 to 15 pers.           3           3 bowls/11 pers.
NORTHERN CENTER                                4 bowls/11 pers.
5.9               15 to 20 pers.           1           3 bowls (flour)/20 per
                  More than 20              4                  -
                  1 to 6 pers.                        2 bowls/6 pers.
                                                      1 bowls/6 pers.
                                                      2 bowls/5 pers.
                  7 to 10 pers.                       1 bowl/7 pers.
SAHEL     10 to 15 pers.                      2 bowls/10 pers.
                  15 to 20 pers.                           -
4.4               More than 20.                            -
                  1 to 6 pers.             3           1/2 bowl of millet/6 p.
                  7 to 10 pers.            4           3 bowls (rice)/10 pers
                  10 to 15 pers.           4           2 bowls (flour)/12 per
                                                      3 kg (rice)/12 pers.
BLACK VOLTA                                    1/2 bowl(peas)/12 pers
                                                      2 kg.(flour)
5.3               15 to 20 pers.           1                 -
                  More than 20             2           1 tub/day/36 pers.
(8) The figure indicated is the regional average
(9) One bowl weighs approximately 2.5 kg.
Number of Preparations of Meals
Breakfast is mainly made up of the leftovers of the day
before, warmed up again or served as porridge.   In some
areas, to is made with the flour left over from the day
before.  On certain occasions, the meal is prepared and
eaten later (9, 10, or even 11 a.m.) than usual
5:30-7 a.m.).  This is especially the case in the region
of Kongoussi, in the families observed in Baad-Noogo,
Sanwi, Baam and Tampelga.  In that case, the late
breakfast becomes a brunch and no meal is cooked until
the evening.
Lunch, unless combined with breakfast, is not very
common in the Center or the Northern Center regions,
except in urban and semi-urban areas.   Lunch is
generally prepared between 9 a.m. and 12 noon, except
in the Sahel where a number of housewives cook between
12 noon and 2 p.m.  It is the meal where one most often
eats rice.
Dinner is the meal prepared in all the regions.   To is
the most common dish, but one also finds couscous.   In
the rural areas, dinner is usually prepared between 6
and 9 p.m., but some cooks start preparing it right
after lunch to take advantage of the fire.   This is the
case in Dedougou and Ouagadougou, where the housewives
observed in Dapoya and Kalgodin prepare dinner between
3 or 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Some housewives prepare dinner
very late, between 8 and 9 p.m. (Badnongo), or 8 and 10
p.m. (Bouloye), and even between 10 and 11 p.m.
Utensils Used
The various dishes are prepared in either clay or
aluminum pots.
The latter are becoming more prevalent, but clay pots
are still preferred in the rural areas for the
preparation of dried vegetables, the sauce or stew for
the to, and different infusions.
Many women want to switch from clay to metal pots.   In
the city, every woman possesses at least two pots, one
for the to or the rice, and another for the sauce or
stew.  Like the portions of food, the sizes of pots do
not always correspond to the size of the family.   For
instance, a housewife feeding 6 persons will use a #6
pot for the to and a #3 pot for the stew, whereas an
AVV housewife will use a #6 pot to cook the to for 11
persons and a #4 pot for the stew.   Although we did not
record the various numbers for the pots used by the
housewives, it has been verified that the sizes we encountered
most frequently were #2 1/2, #3 and #4 for
the stew, and #5 to #7 for the main dish.   The holes in
improved stoves can be adapted to these different
sizes, and movable rings, if needed, would suit the
majority of the housewives.
Cooking techniques and rate of combustion of the fire
We have briefly described the most common cooking
methods.  As indicated in the following table, cooking
generally requires a long time.
                               FAMILY     PERIOD     WHICH POT IS
                Rice           12 pers.   1 1/2hr.   1 hour
                Stew           12 pers.   2 hr.      almost all the
                Beans           7 pers.   4 hours    During the
                                                    entire cooking
                Broth            6 pers.   45 min.    Until the water
                                         to 1 hr.        boils
                To      8 pers.   1 hour     30 min. at the
                                                    beginning and
                                                    10 min. at the
                Couscous        7 pers.   2 1/2 hr   During the
                                                    entire cooking
                To-stew 7 pers.  30 min.     20 min.
It should be noted that on general holidays, in the
city and also in rural areas, to is eaten with two
sauces: the usual glutinous sauce, and a meat or fish
During meal preparation, the fire is very high at the
beginning and during 3/4 of the cooking time.   It is
then lowered for 10 to 20 minutes at the end.
This reduced heating period is better for cooking
starchy foods and for simmering stew so that the oil
rises to the top (a method used particularly in the
Depending on the region, housewives often prefer to
cook the dishes one after the other (to and stew or
sauce; rice and stew) instead of cooking them at the
same time.
This tendency is very common in the Sahel where, out of
seven women observed, five cook the to and the stew one
after the other.  It is also common in Titinga
(Kongoussi) where six out of seven women prepare the
dishes successively.
Although some housewives practice both methods, most of
the women seem to believe that successive cooking of
dishes consumes less wood than cooking more than one
dish at a time, which would require using two stoves.
Burned food
The intensity of the fire is linked directly to the
presence of burned food, which sticks to the bottom of
the pots.  Food tends to cook less rapidly and to burn
less in clay pots.
Although they are quite aware that watching and regulating
the fire more carefully can reduce the quantity of
burned food that remains in the bottom of the pots,
many housewives acknowledge that they cannot avoid this
annoyance, particularly with to and Djoloff rice.
Burned pot bottoms are not easy to clean, sometimes affect
the taste of the food, and in any case they are a
waste of food--something that should be avoided.
In the Black Volta some housewives first rub the bottom
of the pot with karite butter, which serves as a
protective coating.
Leftovers and what they are used for
In spite of the scarcity of food, Sahelian housewives
always try to prepare a little more food than necessary
for the family.  This practice has its origin in the
strong tradition of African hospitality, where at any
time an unexpected stranger will have something to
eat.  Leftover food may also serve as a snack or
breakfast for the children.  Leftovers are also given to
beggars and pupils of Koranic schools whose education
involves learning humility through begging.   Saving a
portion for the "garibou" is part of the Moslem housewives'
mentality, especially in the Sahel region.
When these leftovers are not completely consumed by
strangers, children, beggars or domestic animals, they
are kept, dried and used in other dishes for other
Cooking for purposes other than meals
In addition to the preparation of food for meals,
housewives use wood to heat water, to cook various
products for the family's consumption or for business
(nere seeds, sorrell, peanuts, fritters), and to
prepare infusions which are very common among African
drugs and especially used for children.
These preparations are generally made after meals are
cooked, except for the water which may be heated before
breakfast is prepared (especially in the city), or
while the meal is being prepared (especially in the
Black Volta).
In all four regions, people use warm water for bathing,
at least once a day either in the morning or evening,
especially during the rainy and cold season (from June
to February).
Some families use, or wish they could use, warm water
twice a day, in the morning and evening, according to
regional availability.  Besides the infusions made with
medicinal herbs in Upper Volta--especially in the
Sahel--there is the practice of giving babies warm
water to drink at bathtime, and from time to time
throughout the day, four or five times.
During childbirth, women must have fire and warm water
available at any time.  Stoves which conserve heat and
make warm water available all the time would be most
Embers and live coals are not enough for these
purposes.  They require additional wood.
During the rainy season, in certain regions such as
Tampelga (Kongoussi), housewives light the fire immediately
after preparing the evening meal, and cook
the beans or vegetables for the field workers' lunch.
Responsibility for cooking, and rules related to the
preparation of meals
Who cooks? In the cities and villages studied, women
and girls were responsible for the cooking.   In fact,
cooking is carried out by the woman of the house, who
is sometimes helped by her oldest girls or by relatives
living under the same roof.
Among the housewives observed, the youngest was 14
years old and the oldest 110 years old.   They were from
Tanga and Bissiga, in the Center region.
From the age of 10, young girls are closely involved in
the preparation of meals.
However, this initiation of young girls to housework
was not observed in the seven families studied in the
Sahel, where the age for marriage is noticeably lower
than in the other regions.  Three hypotheses are given
below, and will be verified later.
a) In the families observed, there was no girl old
   enough to work in the kitchen.
b) The families tended to spare the young girls, due
   to the particularly difficult living conditions
   characteristic of this region.
c) Apprenticeship in domestic responsibilities takes
   place after marriage.  Indeed, several answers
   received indicated that the housewives only used
   their stoves six months or even a year after the
The children who help their mothers with housework
belong, generally, to the female sex.   In Zura
(Kongoussi), one housewife indicated that she was
helped by her 18 year old son.   This could be explained
by the absence of girls, as was the case, in fact, of
the mother of Soundiata Keita, emperor of Mali.(10)
Rules observed during the preparation of meals
African culture is rooted in animism and vitalism, a
belief in the existence of a living and organized force
inherent in things, beings, and their actions.
(10) cf. Soundiata Keita, or l'Epopee Madingue de Djibril
Tamsir Niane.
Preparing food and eating are two essential means of
maintaining this vital force.   Because of this, these
two activities were and are still strictly regulated in
certain traditional circles.   One cannot prepare and eat
food under simply any circumstances or behavior.
One of the most widespread rules is silence, to be observed
both by the housewife preparing the to and by
the guests during the meal.  In the Sahel, the Center
and the Nothern Center, housewives indicated that it
was forbidden to sneak or to sing during the beating
of to.
Certain people even require that those who are around
the housewife be quiet as a sign of respect.   Under no
circumstances may one quarrel during the preparation
of the to.
In the Black Volta, where this rule does not exist, one
does not go far from the fire during the preparation of
the meal.  This is probably to Prevent the fire from
going out, or from fear of food poisoning.
Above all, one must not drop the spatula used to stir
the batter into the pot.  This is why it is important to
be comfortably seated and to use one's knee as support.
This is probably why it is forbidden everywhere
to stand up while beating the to, except when the
quantity of food prepared requires standing (large
families, holy days, etc.).
A Bissa housewife from Tenkodogo, who was interviewed
in Ouagadougou, said that the housewife must not
prepare the meals during menstruation.
In the Center region, in Bendogo, Tanghin-Barrage, and
Komsilga, it seems that one must avoid standing up
while pouring water into the pot and while preparing
the stew.  The housewife must sit down or, if absolutely
necessary, bend over the pot.
In the Northern Center region, notably in Kongoussi,
one must abstain from saying the name of certain
kitchen utensils (especially spatula or calabash); and
under no circumstances should these be allowed to
burn.  The pot has to sit securely on the stove and
should not make noise during the beating of to.   In
order to keep the pot from hissing, one should not pour
water into it right after cooking the to.   (This hissing
sound is produced by the temperature difference between
the heated bottom of the pot and the water which is at
a lower temperature.  In any case, this is a good
precaution to take to avoid cracking the pot.
For certain preparations, very precise things are
forbidden or recommended: one must not knead fritter
dough with both hands, whereas one must laugh while
preparing the soumbara so that the nere seeds split
These rules are mentioned for the reader's information;
most have disappeared or will disappear because of the
influence of urbanization and, above all, of religion.
Housewives clearly stated that their religions
(Catholic in the Black Volta; Moslem in the Center,
Northern Center, and Sahel) had no specific rules
pertaining to cooking.
                            II. STOVES USED
Type and materials
The study confirmed what we already know: Most of the
women observed cook on three stones (yiguiri or yagare
in More, gwa in Dioula), or on stoves which are in fact
nothing but variations of three stones.
In the Center, the Northern Center and Sahel regions,
one finds only the customary three stones. In Dori,
however, there is a traditional stove (femmare), also
found in Niger. An old Mossi farmer told us that since
in some villages it was difficult to find large stones,
women used to dig two cross-shaped furrows, into which
the wood is laid. The pot is set on a hole at the
intersection of the two furrows. This more rudimentary
stove is built on the same principle as the three
stones. In this case, there are four entries for the
wood instead of three (only two out of these four are
used for that purpose), but the housewives are just as
satisfied as with the three stones.
In Tangue (Ouagadougou) one housewife uses a terracotta
stove, while in Kalgodin (Ouagadougou) another housewife
makes a fire in a pan that looks like a deep
frying pan without a handle.
In semi-urban and urban centers, metal stoves are frequently
used. In one district of Ouagadougou, seven out
of 28 women interviewed used metal stoves for preparing
stews in addition to the three stones on which the to,
the rice or the couscous was prepared.
Of the 64 women observed at home, one uses a modern
stove, and one uses a gas stove from time to time--when
she has guests. Both are from Ouagadougou.
Where the stoves are found
Aside from metal or earthen stoves which are movable,
most of the time housewives use fixed stoves. Since
they generally cook outside during the dry season and
inside during the rainy season, most housewives have at
least two stoves.
Out of 39 housewives who were observed in the
Ouagadougou area, 19 cook in the courtyard for lack of
a kitchen; 11 have a kitchen but often cook outside
because the heat and smoke fill the kitchen hut; two
their houses in order to stay out of the wind and rain
--especially during the rainy season.
In Zura (Kongoussi, Northern Center), 24 out of 24 cook
outside during the dry season, and during the rainy
season three work under a shed and 21 in their houses.
Women's participation in the construction of the house
and outer buildings
The 1975 national census indicates that 78 percent of
the Voltaic people live in banco (mud brick) houses, 17
percent in straw huts, and only 3 percent in concrete
or partial concrete buildings.
Eighty-eight point nine percent of the population own
their houses. Only 3 percent rent their houses, mostly
in urban and semi-urban centers.
Rural people build their own houses with assistance
from the community, each one helping his neighbor as he
has been helped before. Distribution of tasks by group
and sex is found: men are responsible for staking out
the house, the foundations, and the roofing, while
women transport the banco, water, and bricks, and do
the finishing work (leveling and flattening the ground,
plastering, and decorating the walls). Of course the
preparation of meals for the workers is also done by
Women also participate in the construction and
finishing work for the grain storehouse; the grinding
stone and its support; the attic; and, the stove for
the karite commonly found in Upper Volta. For the
grinding stone, for instance, the men often construct
the brick walls, but the women gather the stones and
the earth to fill up the enclosure, level it, and
plaster it to prepare the working surface on which the
millstones will be placed.
As for the stoves, they are put into place exclusively
by women, often the housewives themselves, the mothers-in-law
(often very old), or the sisters-in-law,
according to the region. This is a custom which every
construction program for improved stoves should take
into account so that women are not robbed of a responsibility
they have always had. Should that responsibility
be taken away from them, it would only make
them more dependent on men.
Durability and maintenance of traditional stoves
As indicated above, only 3 percent of the population
live in rented houses, which implies that the three
stones used to cook on remain fixed in the same spot
for generations and are passed on from mother-in-law to
daughter-in-law. During the study most of the housewives
said that they use stoves which were used by
their mother-in-law. Some of the housewives have been
using their stoves for 20 or even 30 years, so we can
say that a correlation exists between the period during
which a woman uses her stove, and her age at her wedding.
This is why wives of Camp Guillaume soldiers told
us: "We can't tell you exactly how old the stove is.
But it definitely dates from our wedding, and when we
move we will build another one."
Traditional stoves, however, require certain maintenance:
     *   removing the ashes every day, every other day, or
        once a week (according to the housewives);
     *   filling up the hole that is created when the ashes
        are dug out of the hearth;
     *   washing the stones (Ipala/Kongoussi, Northern
     *   packing the stones or the clay pots with mud so
        that they cannot move;
     *   replacing the stones or clay pots which have
        broken because of the heat;
     *   building a wall to strengthen the stove, as in
        Dedougou or in Linoghin in the AVV; and,
     *   making sure that children don't pour water on the
        burning stoves.
Maintained in this way, stoves may last for several
(two to four) years without any repair.
Rites and customs related to the stove
The stove is the symbol of family health. It reflects
understanding and solidarity among those who use it.
When co-spouses are getting along well, they use the
same stove without any problem.
In the Sahel, where the extended family still exists
(as opposed to the nuclear family), five out of seven
women use the same stove as their co-spouses. The two
housewives who do not use the same stove are from Welde
and Mamassiol.
In Ouaqadougou, a housewife declared she does not use
the same stove as the other wife of her husband because
the other wife is messy. She never sweeps the area
surrounding the stove during the two days she is in
charge of it.
By contrast, the separation of stoves seems to be a
standing rule in the region of Kongoussi, where every
woman often has two stoves: the first constructed
inside the house, often by the mother-in-law or the
daughter-in-law, and the other stove, outside, often
built by the woman herself.
In Fakena (Black Volta) as in Kongoussi (Northern
Center), sharing the cooking responsibility between co-spouses
did not exist in the families we observed.
Every spouse cooks for herself and for her children
every day, and prepares one dish for her husband.
In Bomborokuy, an old Bobo farmer said that the stove
must never be constructed facing east but must always
be oriented towards the west or the north. Nowhere
else did we encounter this care of stove orientation
which, in this case, must be related to the wind direction
and sun exposure.
Even though in many villages (Bangasse, Goghin,
Kombissiri, Dapoya, five out of seven villages in the
Sahel, all Moslem) we were told that the installation
of a stove requires neither sacrifice nor ceremony; we
noticed that certain customs are practiced--such as
killing a black chicken and pouring its blood on the
stones of the stove(11), putting the excrement of hens in
the middle of the stove(12), or preparing a special meal
(to, pounded beans with okra, etc., which is then
either served to the old people of the neighborhood, or
eaten by members of the family, especially the elderly
members and sisters-in-law). The meal is prepared by
sisters-in-law or by the bride herself, for whom it is
the first preparation of a meal.
(11) Mossi farmer from the Black Volta.
(12) Housewife from the Sahel (Mamassiol).
After the installation of the stove, which is synonymous
with the start of a new family, the housewife
gives pancakes or millet flour to a beggar every
These last two practices bring to mind the meaning of
sharing, which is firmly established in Africa, and of
housewarming parties in Europe.
(13) A housewife from the Sahel (Dantiadi).
                            III. FUEL USED
Without a doubt, wood is the fuel used most. The use
of wood in combination with other energy sources, and
under certain specific conditions, is described below.
First of all, wood is used all year long (12 out of 12
months) in the cities and in certain parts of the
Center, the Northern Center, and the Black Volta
regions, while it is used only during a certain period
of the year in major areas of the Northern Center and
Sahel regions.
Families supply themselves with wood either by
gathering it themselves, or buying it. Most people
gather it themselves. It is usually gathered by the
women and children. In certain villages we observed
such as Bambofa, Malbo, Mamassiol and Kampiti, only men
gather wood. It remains to be verified whether the men
are heads of families, gathering wood for their
spouses, or whether they are carring out a wood-gathering
task for another family.
For women, how often they gather wood and the distances
they have to go vary according to the villages. The
following table gives an idea of frequency and
The most common form of transporting wood is by carrying
it on one's head. Some privileged people have
bicycles and carts, particularly in the Black Volta, in
the vicinity of Kongoussi and of the AVV.
It should be noted that the amount of work involved
depends on the availability or scarcity of wood, which
determines the distance of the trip and the time
devoted to collecting the wood. It also depends on the
size of the family, on the woman's physical strength,
and on the season, for there are periods (especially in
May and June) during which women go and look for wood
every single day, sometimes twice a day, in order to
build up their stock for the rainy season. Looking for
wood is a daily duty for the women who sell wood (in
In the city and in a number of villages, women buy all
or part of the wood they use. As the cost of physical
labor varies, so does the financial cost.
                         WOOD GATHERING DATA
Villages       Families        Distance    Duration of     Frequency
                              traveled      trips         of trips
Lamzonda       10 persons       2 km        1 hour          7/week
Mogtedo         8   "            2 "         2 hours        3/ "
Village no.6   10   "            2 "         1 morning      1/ "
AVV of the      8   "            3 "         2 hours        3/ "
Linonghin VI   11   "            5 "         3 hours        1/month
Ouedanghin     11   "            5 "         5 hours        4/week
Komsilga        7   "            5 "         the whole      5/ "
Bissiga        15   "            7 "         3 hours        1/ "
Koudiere       20   "           15 "         8 hours        3/ "
Tange          13   "           75 "         4 days/hand    2/ "
                                           1 day/truck
Bayend-Fulgo   16 persons       2 km        2 hours         2/week
Sawi            9  "             3 "         2 "            1/ "
Tampedga        8  "             4 "         4 "            2/ "
Mafoulou        6  "             5 "         3 "            2/ "
Wintini         6  "             5 "         4 "            2/ "
Looga           7  "             5 "         5 "            1/ "
Selbouri        5  "             7 "         3 "            2/ "
Baam           12  "             7 "         5 "            2/ "
Baadnoogo      10  "             9 "         4 "            3/ "
Zura            7  "            12 "         5 "            3/ "
Dantiadi        5 persons       3 km        3 hours         7/week
Bouloye         6  "             3 "         4  "            3/ "
Kampiti         8  "             5 "         3  "            3/ "
Bambofa        11  "             5 "         5  "            2/ "
Welde           7  "             5 "         7  "            1/ "
Malbo          10  "             7 "        10  "            2/ "
Mamassiol      12  "            22 "        13  "            3/ "
Brouyo         11 persons       1 km        3 hours         3/week
Dionkongo       6    "           2 "         2 "            1/  "
Moundasso       7    "           3 "         4 "            1/  "
Dabe            8    "           4 "         5 "            3/  "
Fakena         19    "           5 "         5 "            4/  "
Pampoi         19    "           5 "         5 "            3/  "
Bazakuy        36    "           6 "         6 "            every day
Bomborokuy     10    "           6 "         the whole      2/week
Trypano        10    "           7           5 "            3/  "
Bandoukuy      12    "           10          8 "            4/  "
Daka            6    "           10          9 "            2/  "
For a cart-load of wood, housewives pay 2,000 to 2,500 CFA in
Dedougou, 2,000 to 2,500 in Kongoussi, 3,000 to 5,000 in
Ouagadougou, and 400 to 700 in Dori (specifically Bambofa). In
addition to these costs, there is an extra cost for chopping the
wood (500 to 600 CFA for each cart-load in Dedougou and
Ouagadougou). Prices rise during the rainy season. One cart-load
may last between one and three months, depending on the size of
the family and the housewife's thriftiness.
Monthly expenses for wood are up to 450 CFA in Kombissiri, 500 to
800 CFA in Cissin (Ouagadougou), 4,000 CFA in Kalgondin
(Ouagadougou), and, for a large family living in the area of
Ouagadougou which is being developed, up to 9,000 CFA.
In the Sahel, monthly expenses are 560 CFA in Bouloye and 280 in
Malbo and Mamassid. These paradoxically low costs can only be
explained by the combined use of wood and other fuels.
In any case, wood weighs heavily in the family budget,
especially when one takes into consideration that in
1977 the SMIG (monthly minimum wage) was 15,637 CFA. A
wage-earning head of household who had to support a
large family in Ouagadougou therefore had to spend one-third
of his monthly salary just to buy wood.
Millet straw
Many women use sorghum/millet straw to light the fire
or even to cook. This is how, in several villages of
the Northern Center and the Sahel, fuel needs are met
totally by millet straw for several months, especially
during the dry season. A table covering use of millet
straw in the four regions studied follows.
Other vegetable or animal waste products
In addition to millet straw, cotton and sesame straw
are also burned in Dedougou, and cow manure is used in
the Sahel, in Toece and in the development area of
Ouagadougou, in the Center region. In Dantiandi
(Sahel), certain women said that they use cow manure
seven months out of 12.
In the Black Volta cow manure is not used for cooking,
but it is used as fuel in the karite stoves and for
firing pottery.
Millet straw and cow manure are not sold commercially,
but are collected by women and children.
Charcoal and gas
These are seldom used in rural areas except in the
Sahel, where charcoal is used to prepare tea. Often the
embers which remain afterward are used. Gas is rarely
used, even in the city.
Women's preferences
Women have strong preferences for particular types of
fuel, for very specific reasons.
On the whole, they prefer wood because it permits fast
cooking without burning too quickly and does not
require constant watching. Many of the women
interviewed consider wood to be the least expensive
fuel, because, "We can easily find wood and we hardly
have to watch the fire."
                      USE OF MILLET STRAW AS FUEL
Villages                 Picking season             Length of use
Bilbalogho                Dry Season                  2 months
Komsolga                   "     "                     3  "
Koudiere                   "     "                     3   "
Lamzondo                   "     "                     4   "
Lougsi                     "     "                     4   "
Samandin                   "     "                     4  "
Bendogo                    "     "                     5   "
Kalgondin                  "     "                     5   "
Goghin                     "     "                     6   "
Kombissiri                 "     "                     6   "
Toece                      "      "                    6  "
Village No.VI              "     "                     6   "
Linoghin VI                "     "                    12   "
Northern Center
Zura                      Dry Season                  2 months
Ignongo                    "     "                     3   "
Ouemtenga                  "     "                     3   "
Tampelga                   "     "                     3   "
Wapassi                    "     "                     3   "
Wintinga                   "     "                     3   "
Baam                       "     "                     3   "
Balonghin                  "     "                     4   "
Bangasse                   "     "                     6   "
Wintini                    "     "                     6  "
Looga                      "     "                     7   "
Selbouri                   "     "                     9   "
Malbo                     Dry Season                  4 months
Mamassiol                  "     "                     5  "
Welde                      "     "                     7   "
Black Volta
Bondoukuy                 Dry Season                  3 months
Lah                        "     "                     3   "
Dedougou-Nouna              "     "                    12  "
bMillet straw is appreciated by housewives who use the
ashes as fertilizer. But the straw burns too fast,
requires constant watching, and emits a great deal of
smoke. Cow manure has many of the same characteristics.
Cooking with charcoal is considered to be too slow a
process, but it offers the advantages of emitting little
smoke and being available for retail consumption.
One can buy charcoal for 25 CFA, whereas wood at the
same price is nonexistent in many areas.
One housewife interviewed asserted that gas allows fast
and easy cooking, but that she prefers wood, probably
because of the price.
Changes in wood availability, techniques for reducing
wood consumption, and other recommended action
The men and women interviewed have a very clear idea of
the causes and consequences of trees disappearing.
Elderly people note that in former times the distances
traveled to get wood were not major. Today, wood is
becoming scarce, due to:
     *   large-scale gathering of wood made possible by the
         use of carts, and encouraged by increasing demands
        from the cities;
     *   population growth and the clearing of land;
     *   new needs for wood, such as garden fences;
     *   brush fires and scarcity of rain, attributed by
        one old farmer to the abandonment of customs and
        the use of millet straw as fuel;
     *   the increasing number of meals per day, from one
        to two, and even three; and,
     *   the splintering of large families, which leads to
        excessive wood consumption. An old farmer from
        Bomborokuy (Black Volta) commented: "The small
        family is the cause of the disaster. These days,
        one cooks for only two people, while in our time
        every son who married stayed in the large family
        with his spouse. Their children used to be
        educated by elderly people who knew about life."
The consequences of this situation are well known. They
are deforestation, drought and desertification.
In order to break this cycle, women and men practice
and recommend the following precautions:
     *   reduce the consumption of fuel by protecting the
        fire from wind (to do this, fill in the gaps
        between the three stones with pieces of pottery or
     *   prevent the wood from burning too fast by wetting
        it slightly when it is too dry;
     *   put out live coals immediately in order to be able
        to use them later on; and
     *   use metal instead of clay pots.
To increase the quantity of wood available, the people
interviewed recommended:
     *   outlawing open outdoor fires, with severe penalties
        handed down by the government (Kombissiri);
     *   planting and protecting young trees;
     *   extending reforestation Programs;
     *   only one preparation for two meals each day; and,
     *   the construction of improved stoves, which they
       have heard people talk about on the radio and have
       seen at the Dedougou fair and in certain
       households in Kaya and Ouagadougou.
                          WOMEN'S ASPIRATIONS
Current working conditions
As for conditions under which meals are prepared, most
of the women interviewed complained foremost about the
smoke.  Smoke is caused mainly by the traditional way in
which the fire is started: embers are taken from a
neighbor's stove and laid on the pile of wood between
the stones--at first the wood smokes, then it breaks
into flames.  While the smoke eventually dies down, it
never disappears completely.
To facilitate lighting the fire, many housewives use
straws, paper, pieces of tire, or gas.   They stoke the
fire either by blowing on it, or by using cardboard,
pieces of metal, a fan, a broom, etc.
Even women who have a kitchen prefer to work outside,
to avoid the smoke.
Although smoke is mentioned as a primary discomfort in
Black Volta and Northern Center, women in the Center
and the Sahel regions complained about the heat almost
as much as the smoke.
Watching the fire and the pot ranked third in the list
of complaints, probably because it had been mentioned
in the questionnaire.  However, it was mentioned from
the outset by several women in the Sahel, even before
smoke and heat.  This is probably because of the widespread
use of millet straw, which burns fast and goes
out easily, thus requiring that the housewife keep a
close eye on the fire.
Elsewhere, watching the fire and the pot seemed to be a
primary concern.  To a lesser extent weather conditions,
dust, burns and the work that is required to beat the
to were concerns.  (Wood gathering was not even
Prejudices related to smoke
Although most of the women complained about the smoke,
only four of them specified that smoke hurts the eyes
and provokes respiratory disorders (such as a cold or
cough).  The traditional education of the African girl
involves learning a certain stoicism in regard to physical
work and pain.  For that reason, peremptory
and severe judgements are passed on those who cannot
bear the harshness of life in general and women's role
in particular.
This is why a women's group in the Northern Center declared
that "women in general are afraid of smoke, but
no one dares say that for fear of being called lazy."
Two attitudes, very similar on the whole, grow out of
this feeling of fear: one is condemnation, the other
Certain women have so well integrated the image that
the society has of themselves, that they believe a good
housewife does not have to be afraid of smoke because
it is her duty to cook.  A woman should not be weak, and
if she is afraid of smoke, she is certainly a lazy
woman counting on others to get fed.   In fact, she is
not really a woman, for the women who are afraid of
smoke in the Kombissiri region have no breasts.
The group of those who are resigned share the attitude
that it is normal to be afraid of smoke, but that they
can't do anything about it. "A woman who is afraid of
smoke is going to suffer, for she is doomed to cook,
whether she likes it or not."
A woman's group of the AVV does not see any solution to
this problem, for "all housewives are afraid of smoke
because it is painful to the eyes.   We think that a
housewife who is afraid of smoke is going to sugger her
whole life, because she was born in this situation and
will die in it, too."
Use of the smoke
Discomfort for housewives aside, people interviewed
recognized that smoke also has some usefulness.   It
drives mosquitoes away, protects the beams of the house
from termites, and protects the harves (especially
corn) from insects.  The soot which appars on the walls
and ceiling is used as a base for a medicine, which
when mixed with karite butter, is used to cure hemorrhoids
and to heal wounds.
Changes desired in meal preparation conditions
The question we asked on smoke allowed us to identify a
certain attitutde of powerlessness.   We also found this
attitude when we asked questions about changes women
want to see in their working conditions.   In the Center
region (development areas of Cisin, Village III AVV)
and the Sahel region too (Welde), groups of women said
they did not want any change, because "long ago, our
grandparents cooked and taught us how to cook.   And we
don't have to change anything."
In opposition to this ultra-conservative view, the
majority of women strive for changes which overlap, but
which can be classified in three categories:
     *   changes to increase housewives' personal comfort;
     *   demand for better working equipment; and,
     *   secondary needs.
Improving housewives' personal comfort
Women do not want to get dirty and overly tired from
cooking.  That is why they think it is desirable:
     *   to avoid sun and heat;
     *   to avoid smoke and sore eyes;
     *  to avoid burns, especially foot burns;
     *   to reduce the consumption of wood, the time spent
        gathering wood, and particularly to ease the toil
        of stockpiling wood for the rainy season;
     *   to be helped by the men in gathering wood, or even
        to delegate this responsibility to men;
     *   to reduce the time spent beatinq dough;
     *   to reduce meal preparation time so that there is
        time to do something else;
     *   to be helped by a domestic;
     *   to reduce fatique caused by beating dough;
     *   to reduce the length of trips to look for spices;
     *   to have a kitchen with sets of shelves and a large
        window through which the smoke could escape.
With this last wish, expressed by rural women in the
Black Volta, we focus on equipment demands.
Kitchen equipment
In order to work in better conditions, women want to:
     *   replace clay pots with aluminum;
     *   have more modern utensils (pots, dishes, ladles)
        in order to prepare several dishes at one time;
     *   replace the three stones with a stove that would
        guarantee the stability of the pots and let any
        smoke escape;
     *   have some means of stoking the fire, and consuming
        less wood;
     *   have a kitchen hut instead of having to work in
        the middle of the courtyard or in the house; and,
     *   have, in the absence of a kitchen, a wall around
        the stove.
Secondary needs
The answers we gathered indicate that women are very
aware that improved stoves alone will not solve their
problems.  Also necessary are good access to water (well
or running water), a grinding mill, and above all, the
availability of food.  (See RECOMMENDATIONS, No. 6.)
Improved stoves: Acceptance and availability
In the opinion of those interviewed (men and women),
the introduction of improved stoves would be welcomed
to ease the problem caused by lack of wood, and the
difficulties of collecting and using it.
A women's group asserts: "We are in f avor of the
change.  The improved stoves will help us considerably."
This expectation goes along with the wish for success
of improved stove programs.  Groups expressed certain
reservations and fears about the conditions necessary
for the successful dissemination of improved stoves:
A. Some people indicated that they felt reluctant to
declare themselves for or against the adoption of a
stove that they have never seen.   "They want to see the
innovation and how successfully it works before expressing
an opinion."
Moreover, it is imperative that the men agree, at least
in certain villages such as Mamassiol, "because the men
have the final say.  The women do not take part in
decision making."
B. Then, there is the fear that the switch from three
stones to the improved stove may create problems.   More
explicitly, people are afraid that fires may start if
the stove is incorrectly used, and that it will not be
possible to beat the to on these new stoves.   As women
of the AVV said: "We only know the three stones, which
means that we will have problems with other stoves."
In fact, "whatever is new creates problems."   Thus it
will be necessary to inform and to educate the women in
the use and maintenance of the stoves.
Certain women's groups already know who will help them
solve these problems: they will go to the social
C. But the two prerequisites that people interviewed
tend to consider as the biggest obstacles, are the financial
investment and stove construction techniques.
Some women's groups seemed to be able to overcome these
obstacles with help from their husbands; support from
women's associations, which joined together to buy materials
(cement, iron); or from existing credit systems
set up by organizations such as the ADRK and USAID for
the purchase of small scale agricultural and domestic
Even if people are prepared to accept improved stoves,
they are worried they will miss the opportunity of acquiring
one due to lack of funds.  This worry was
expressed repeatedly, even in the most enthusiastic
answers.  The lack of money and the fact that "not all
the men will be willing to give money to their wives"
prevents many housewives--who would otherwise be quite
inclined to adopt the improved stoves--from having one.
D. Aside from those reservations, people interviewed
tried to describe the models of improved stoves they
would like to have.
The materials they prefer are stabilized banco, cement,
or metal.  It seems that many women expressed the desire
to be able to work standing up.   Most of the women use
stoves in which the three stones vary in height from 11
to 17 centimeters, with a maximum of 33 cm. (on ten
stoves measured in the homes of female civil servants
in Ouagadougou).  The height varies according to the
size of the cooking utensils.   To beat the millet batter,
they sit on tools which are between 14 and 25 cm.
The majority of women would like to be able to use two
or three-preferably three--pots at the same time.   In
Ouagadougou, only two women asked for stoves with four
The stoves should be supplied with chimneys, except in
some rare cases where the oral description of the
improved stove, without any visual support, made people
think that the risk of fire would be too great.
Opinions are divided on the question of whether the
stoves should be fixed or transportable.   The women from
the Northern Center and the Sahel would opt for a
transportable stove if they were sure it would not
break during the trip.
A question related to the size of the wood to be burned
did not receive clear, concise answers, particularly
because what are called short pieces of wood are
between 50 and 75 cm.  The fuel chamber opening requires
pieces of wood that do not exceed 30 cm.
In the Center region, especially in Linonghin VI, women
asked that the stoves be designed with work space and
that the kitchen include ventilation openings.
Economic evaluation, and financing improved stoves
The cost of the improved stoves now constructed in
Upper Volta ranges between 1,500 and 5,000 CFA for
families and 9,000 CFA for institutions (boarding
schools, hospitals, and so on).   Compared with the small
amount of money women make through small business and
handicrafts, these sums seem very high.
There is little information concerning women's incomes,
and we only tried to identify the types of income-generating
activities women are involved in, and the
level of income that they are presumed to reach in
each.  This attempt turned out to be not at all conclusive,
since the rate of consumption at home of products
for sale is very high; since the women have no accounting
system and spend money as needs arise; and since,
in general, they do not like to disclose how much they
In the following table ("Income-generating activities
of the women interviewed") elements we gathered are
presented, which in our opinion are only stepping
stones for a more systematic study.
Clearly, these low incomes do not enable the women to
pay the installation costs of an improved stove.   While
they may believe that, according to the traditional
division of duties, the expense is their responsibility,
they recognize that the help of their husband
or other male relative (uncle, brother, son) is indispensable.
In order to convince the relatives, a comparison should
be made between the cost of an improved stove and the
substantial advantages (savings of fuel, time, and
human energy) that one is likely to gain.
Cost/benefit study of improved stoves.   If we consider,
first of all, the cost of purchasing wood, and the possible
reduction of this cost by 40 to 50 percent, we
can estimate that a family which buys 3,000 to 5,000
CFA of wood every month will recoup a 5,000 CFA investment
within two to four months, with the possibility
of saving between 10,500 and 17,500 CFA during the
remainder of the first year's use.
In the Northern Center, the expenses we listed ranged
between 1,400 and 2,500 CFA a month.   A 3,000 CFA investment
will be regained within three to five months,
with the possibility of saving up to 5,000 or 9,000 CFA
the rest of the first year.  In the Black Volta, a
family of 12 spends 2,000 CFA a month for its wood. A
40 to 50 percent cut in this expense would allow for an
improved stove costing 5,000 CFA to pay for itself
within five to six months, not counting the savings
that would be realized afterwards.
Paradoxically, it is in the Sahel, where wood is
scarce, that fuel expenses are the lowest.   This is
probably due to the area's low urbanization, its small
population density, its diet, and the presence of dead
wood after the drought.  The monthly expenses for wood
Village                   Activity           Home             Income
                                           consumption       (CFA)
Koudiere, Linoghin       Private fields,      --
                          peanuts, peas,
                          sesame, beans,
Koudiere                 Nut gathering        --
                          and preparation
                          of karite butter
AVV Village (VI)         Cotton spinning      --
Kalgondin (Ouagadougou)  Cotton spinning      --              2,500/yr
Bendogo, Bombore         Preparation and                     500 to
 Kombissiri, Linoghin     sale of Dolo                        3,500/mo.
AVV Villages and         Sale of lemon                       1,500 to
 Paspanga (Ouagadougou)   juice, soda,                        2,000/mo.
                          beer, matches,
                          and cigarettes
AVV Village              Reestablishing                      500/mo.
Ouagadougou              Small trade: coal                   1,000/mo.
Ouagadougou              Small trade:                         1,000 to
                         peanuts, fritters                   2,500/mo
Ouagadougou  (Gounghin)  Cookies                              7,500/mo.
Ouagadougou  (Kalgondin) All sorts of                        10,000/mo
Goghin,Tanghin-Dassouri  Market garden                       15,000/mo
Ouagadougou(Tanghin-     Trade: loin-cloths   4 pieces/      30,000
 Barrage)                  and foulards           year           to
Kongoussi                Millet, peanuts,
                          sesame, potatoes,
Kongoussi                Dolo prepared from                  7,000/yr
                          millet cultivated
                          in private field
Kaya                     Preparation and                     750 to
                          sale of Dolo                        2,000/mo
Kaya                     Restablishing rice                  350 to
Kaya and Kongoussi       Cotton spinning      2 to 4
Badnoogo (Kongoussi)     Pig breedinq                        15,000/
Dandiadi, Mamassiol      Market gardens                      1,000/yr
                          and condiments
Banbofa                  Small trade:                        50/day
Bouloye                  Wicker work                         1,000 to
Mamassiol, Kampiti       Cotton spinning                     1,500 to
Banbofa, Kampiti         Hair-cutting                        100 to
Bouloye                  Small scale                         5,000/year
                         breeding (sheep,
Black Volta
Bondoukuy,               Private field:                      5,000 to
 Brouyo                    millet, peas,                       10,000 in
                          peanuts                            Bondoukuy,
                                                             15,000 in
Bondoukuy                Market garden                       41,000/month
Pompoi                   Small trade                         13,000/month
Lah                      Almonds and karite                  13,000/month
Bomborokuy               Sale of peanuts,
                          millet, corn, peas                 2,000/month
Bomborokuy               Wicker work (mats)
Trypano area             Cotton spinning      4 to 5          8,000 X 5 =
(Dedougou)                                    blankets a         40,000
Bondoukuy                Hair-cutting                         2,000 to
Pompoi                   Production and sale                 500/month
                          of soap
Bomborokuy               Wood trade                           500/month
Bomborokuy               Small scale breeding                20,000/year
                           of Guinea fowl and
Bomborokuy               Small scale breeding                5,850/year
                           of bees and sale
                           of honey
are between 400 and 500 CFA, which probably represents
purchases of wood to supplement wood gathered.   If we
take into account this outlay alone, it would take 10
to 15 months to regain the investment that the installation
of a 3,000 CFA improved stove entails.   If one
recalls that it is in the Sahel that women seem to earn
the least, one has to admit that the financial commitment
required by women in the Sahel will have to be
greater than in the other regions.
Time and energy savings, and economics and social
activities envisaged.  If improved stoves are really efficient,
they will almost certainly reduce wood
consumption, reduce the time normally devoted to
collecting wood, and therefore, reduce fatigue.
Reducing cooking time will give women more free time to
do other things.  But this new opportunity should be
approached carefully, so that the reduction in cooking
time is not confused with hasty or insufficient cooking
of dishes.  This having been said, women plan to employ
their free time for very specific occupations:
     *   resting, for their work is hard, especially in the
        rural areas.  But since they have been educated to
        "endure patiently," this specific wish is never
        mentioned by itself.  They want to relax but also
        to do other things, as listed below;
     *   visiting friends or relatives;
     *   performing certain domestic tasks which they feel
        they are not able to carry out the way they should
        for lack of time: pounding millet, looking for
        water and wood (!!!), sweeping the compound,
        washing and mending clothes, watching and taking
        care of the children(14), fixing their hair, or
        helping their husbands in the field;
     *   undertaking activities in the hopes of making some
        money: cotton spinning, sewing, knitting, weaving,
        taking care of the family field to produce more
        food, staying in the market to sell vegetables and
        spices, getting involved in a small business or
(14) One woman from Ouagadougou said she would like to go
     to the children's health center without being obliged
     to eat at two or three in the afternoon.
(15) In Bam, Kongoussi.
     *   participating in educational activities such as
        handiwork (sewing, knitting), literacy programs,
        child-care, discussions, etc.
It goes without saying that the development of this
last group of activities could increase women's incomes
and give them the opportunity to pay back a possible
loan, and contribute to the improvement of the family's
                            V. CONCLUSIONS
1. Some women's groups interviewed in the Center
(Paspango/Ouagadougou Village III--AVV) and in the
Sahel (Malbo, Dantiadi) had the impression that the
investigators asked questions out of simple curiosity.
Other women were rather amused, and felt it was a waste
of time answering the questions.
It must be pointed out that for some time women from
the Sahel have been subject to all sorts of studies,
yet they have never seen any results or follow-up.   One
woman responsible for the women's training center in
Dori quipped that, "the study asked women if they
wanted to go to the moon."
2. We must recognize that this assertion applies in
part to the questions asking women to describe the kind
of improved stoves they would like to own, when they
had never even seen a model of an improved stove, at
least not a modern one.
3. But even in the neighborhoods or villages in which
women don't seem too optimistic about follow-up to the
study, those interviewed made it a rule to answer the
questions, and the majority were happy to see that
their domestic problems are taken very seriously and
that attempts are being made to solve them.
4. In most of the cases a relaxed and frank dialogue
took place between the housewives and the interviewers.
According to some of the people who conducted the
study, they got to know the "family life" of the
people, and also found that certain housewives were
"clean and well organized."
Sometimes they learned recipes that were new to them
and their presence inspired some housewives to cook
dinner earlier in the day and to take better care of
the children (bathing smaller children every day after
play time, for instance).
The study has improved communication between women
living in rural areas and social workers, something
which will be of great benefit in the event of future
dissemination of improved stoves.
5. The women interviewed in general, and housewives
observed at home for a week in particular, would like
to have an improved stove in the house.   At this time,
they are afraid of not being in a position to make the
necessary investment.
One old woman from Ouagadougou explained with much
humor just how impatient the women are to use improved
stoves: "I want to see improved stoves before I die, so
I can tell my ancestors all about it."   The first improved
stoves already constructed in Ouagadougou should
dispel these doubts.
6. Although the study dealt essentially with women's
activities, some women hesitated to answer the
questions without their husband's opinion.   Men's
opinions were sometimes in the form of encouragement,
but were sometimes opposed to any change in current
cooking conditions, even though women want such
changes.  This will have to be taken into consideration,
since the man's decision and his cooperation in the
building of improved stoves are indispensable.
7. Most of the people interviewed--men and women--offered
their best wishes for the success of the
program, and expressed their support for those who
design and build stoves, relieving women of work and
improving their families' living conditions.
The study appeared to be a very efficient means of
making people aware of problems such as use of wood as
fuel, deforestation, and desertification.   But it also
made people aware of women's issues to such an extent
that they would willingly adopt a phrase like: " Let's
conserve wood and replant trees, to help our families
and save our country."
                         VI. RECOMMENDATIONS
1.  In order to maintain the interest and hopes that
the present study raised, it is important that this
report be reprinted as soon as possible, and that
as many copies as possible be distributed to all
concerned parties:  services and organizations,
those who carried out the study, and those who were
2.  Preparation for Phase II of the study (November-December
1980), would be a good opportunity to bring
back all the interviewers, in order to discuss future
action with them.
3.  Meanwhile, improved stoves should be constructed in
places chosen by the people: urban and rural social
centers, maternal and child care centers, centers
for young agriculturists, or in the homes of social
or women's leaders, and so on.
4.  In order to respond to the high demand probable for
installation of stoves, a plan for construction of
improved stoves should be drawn up. This plan should
have the agreement of the people involved, and be
structured as follows:
      a)   Training young villagers designated by the
          people of the village;
      b)   Defining how these young villagers are
          going to be employed and who is going to be
          responsible for them;
      c)   Searching for methods to finance the improved
          stoves (materials, payment for construction
          and maintenance, etc.);
      d)   Giving information to the women trainers and
          social workers, who will pass it on to the
          new users;
      e)   Training programs for craftsmen and those
          using the stoves should not teach only rote
          knowledge, but instead give practical and
          theoretical information to encourage
          reflection and to stimulate imagination
          and initiative.  This process is indispensable
          for a flexible, permanent bond between
          people's responsiveness, the construction of
          stoves, their use, and improvement.
      f) In order to be effective and really assist
          women and people in general, an improved stove
          program should be integrated with other programs
          aiming to satisfy other priority needs.  An
          ideally integrated program could be:  A program
          of food self-sufficiency + wells + a mill +
          reforestation improved stoves.
      g)   The most appropriate means for ensuring the
          success of these programs are the services and
          organizations which participated in this study,
          as well as non-governmental organizations
          involved in timely integrated rural development
          programs in the regions studied.

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                                   ANNEX I
          (square km)                        (MILLIMETERS)     CROPS
 CENTER       21,972     944,706       43.0         1,064.0     Karite, nere
                                                            tamarind, detarium,
                                                            (local species)
NORTHERN     21,598    632,285        29.3         456.0
 SAHEL        36,889     354,079       9.6          421.9       Neem, cassia,
                                                            qwelima (exotic
BLACK VOLTA  33,126    635,760        19.2         404.6
                               ANNEX II
                           PEOPLE CONSULTED
Mrs. Fatimata Traore, Minister of Social Affairs and
Ms. Isabelle Bouda, Staff Director of the Ministry of
Social Affairs and Women
Mrs. Sounbalo Sanfo, Director of Women's Affairs
Mr. Cheick Kabore, Director of Research and Programs,
Social Affairs
Mrs. Maimouna Traoret, Director of the EPFED Project
and President of the Voltaic Women's Federation
Mrs. Christophe Ouattara, Departmental Director of
Social Affairs (Kaya)
Mrs. Marie Blanche Ouedraoqo, Departmental Director of
Social Affairs (Ouagadougou)
Mr. Zida, Office for Research and Programs, Social
Mr. Salia Sanon, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of
Rural Development
Mrs. Ouedraogo, Provisional Director of the National
Office for the Furthering of Women's Affairs
Mr. Ouedraogo, Director of the ORD, Norther Center
Mr.  Botini, Director of the ORD, Black Volta
Mr.  Jacques Saou, Advisor FJA, Provisional Director of
the  ORD, Sahel
Mr.  Jean-Baptiste Some, from the district of Dori
Mr.  Sylvestre Ouedraogo, Director of Reforestation and
Forestry Management
Ms. Clarisse Yameogo, Head of the Office of Domestic
Economy, AVV, Ouagadougou
Mrs. Therese Zoungrana, Director of the Women's
Technical School, Ouagadougou
Mrs. Da, Director of the Women's Handicraft Training
Center, Ouagadougou
The Director of the Private Social Center of Dori
                               ANNEX III
Number of families observed: 35
Number of women who participated in group interviews:
Regional categorization: Social Affairs, Mrs. marie
Blanche Ouedraogo, Regional Manager; EPED:
Mrs. Maimouna Traoret:  National Coordinator of the
Regional Staff:
    Mrs. Fatimata Batta, Head of the Office of
    Appropriate Technology and Domestic Economy
    Mrs. Solange Nignan; Head of the area
    Mrs. Brigitte Ativon; Home Economist
    Ms. Clarisse Yameogo, Home Economist
    Mrs. Hawa Ouedraogo, Home Economist
    Mrs. Elise Kompaore, AT
    Mrs. Colette Nikiema, Technical School for women
    Mrs. Da, Women's Training Center at Gounghin
    Mrs. Vokouma, Women's Training Center at Gounghin
                        ANNEX VII (cont.)
C.  Village Leader Interview
Date of interview:
Name of interviewer:
Name and first name of
the person interviewed:
Ethnic group:
1.  Do the people have as much wood for cooking at the
    present time as they have had in the past?
2.  How do you explain the changes?
3.  Are there changes in the way people used to feed
    themselves and prepare meals?
    What changes?
4.  Which precautions should women take in order to
    reduce the consumption of wood?
5.  Are there other alternative responses to the
    current situation?
6.  Will the introduction of stoves different from the
    three stones cause any problems? What?
7.  What advice would you give to those who want to
    construct improved stoves?
     *   construction materials: Banco? Stabilized
        banco? Cement?
     *   number of holes to set pots in at the same
     *   with or without chimney
     *   utilization of short or long wood
    *   other
8.  Are there any associations of women or youth in the
9.  What part could these associations of women/youth
    play in an improved stove construction program?
10. Is it necessary to teach every family how to
    construct its own stove, or is it better to train
    craftsmen to construct stoves?
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