Sunday, February 3, 2008

ETHOS 2008 Conference

Again ETHOS (Engineers in Technical and Humanitarian Opportunities of Service - motto: "Changing the household at a time") met in Kirkland, WA for its annual conference last weekend. This tends to be a meeting of mostly "stovers" (designing and advocating improved cooking stoves for developing countries) but it is slowly adding other topics that address broader global problems. It is a manageable enough size (~100 people) so that most people know each other, are usually conference returnees, and they form a comfortable "stoving community". For the first time there were 3 simultaneous sessions going on in different rooms - a sign of more talks than before (and more time allocated for each), but a difficult situation for those of us who want to see every one.

This year saw an increase in efforts to mass produce improved stoves in factories, to get more out in the field, faster - talks were presented by Philips (a beautiful fan stove now being test marketed in India), Aprovecho (the cheapest stoves and parts imaginable - newly available and looking for their first mass field trial), and Envirofit (a new and very ambitious program, with vision and lots of conceptual stove designs). For stoves manufactured outside of the countries where they will be distributed ("locally made" has long been a tradition, because of transportation costs and funding issues, and the lack of commercial interest in this market) some concern has been expressed - should we keep shifting carbon responsibilities around the globe? And some stove types may always be local because of the low volumes required - these places needs unique stoves, to meet very local needs. The ONIL stove in Central America should qualify as well as a volume producer, with thousands of new IAP stoves manufactured every month, and Trees, Water, People will be opening a new stove factory in Honduras soon, with AHDESA. When should we consider emulating proven, cost effective (and manufacturing/implementation optimized) programs in other locations/countries - perhaps 100 km apart so that we are local and have less transportation problems? But for similar sociocultural and cooking practice circumstances, why should we keep re-inventing the wheel? Certainly, at present things appear to be accelerating and building momentum as new manufacturing/distributing models are being tried.

In the background was always lurking modern publicized stove global goals, like the "billion stoves" challenge, and the U.N.'s "Millennium Project" (the stoves/IAP aspects, from the WHO perspective, are here) - though of course stover researchers and implementers work with these in mind every day. There is also a new appreciation of the role of cultural research/participation - someone commented that "the solution" may only be 2% engineering, less than my constantly decreasing estimate of 10%.

There were also talks on the results of finned pot experiments (the potential fuel savings with these is very impressive), new TLUD stoves and activities in India particularly, new tools available for quantifying emissions (from Aprovecho and the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group), health effects of traditional indoor cooking practices, stove efficiency testing and analyses of the validity of present common testing procedures (such as the WBT, KPT, and CCT), and a number on "integrated cooking" - where improved cooking stoves are combined with solar cooking and retained heat cookers, taking advantage of the benefits of each one. I can't list all the talks and the countries represented here (my favorite image was of a llama dung burning stove in Bolivia, since I used to raise them and know its easy collecting characteristics, courtesy of CEDESOL), but ETHOS will soon publish the full proceedings here, where you can also find the proceedings of the last few meetings.

One of the favorite parts of the meeting is always the burning stove event at the very end, where people bring their newest stoves to show off and get comments on them - its amazing how people drag some of the bigger ones there from all over the world!


Crispin in Waterloo said...

Had a great time Charlie! Thanks so much for providing advice and inspiration.

It is a really impressive gathering and I encourage anyone who wants to investigate the world of stoves to attend and make friends with fellow experimenters, researcheres, hackers and of course professionals.

See you next year!

murugan said...

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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Nick Layron said...

Hi Charlie,
Thanks for your post. I have learned from it. I've been trying to come up with a design here in the Philippines.


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