Civil society brings cleaner cooking to the table in Honduras

A microphone.

This Story of Change describes how, against all odds, civil society in Honduras has managed to put cleaner cooking firmly on the government’s agenda and have united efforts to stimulate market demand by changing public opinion on the value of cleaner cook

Improving the cooking systems used by three billion people globally[1] would significantly help increase resilience in the current climate crisis and the global COVID-19 pandemic by bolstering health and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The fumes emitted by inefficient, traditional cookstoves are estimated to cause 4.3 million premature deaths a year[2] and increase the risk of respiratory infections. Furthermore, because they are usually fuelled by firewood or charcoal, their widespread use exacerbates climate change due to deforestation and GHG emissions. While improved stoves can potentially use up to 71.2% less wood than traditional stoves,[3] changing the way in which many communities around the world have cooked for generations is no easy task.

This story describes how a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) managed to drive a seismic shift in attitudes to cleaner cookstoves in Honduras as part of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP), which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and led by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. This is a significant achievement in a country where about half of households (approximately one million)[4] cook with traditional wood-burning stoves and where, until now, there has been no exclusive regulatory framework or legislation to stimulate change.

It describes how, against all odds, the CSOs have managed to put cleaner cooking firmly on the government’s agenda and have united efforts to stimulate market demand by changing public opinion on the value of cleaner cooking. Key to their success was the development of the Inter-institutional Platform for the Development of Improved Stoves and other Clean Cooking Technologies, which became a powerful vehicle for advocacy and collaboration as it grew into a network of more than 20 members from government, civil society, academia and the private sector.

As a result of their advocacy, a new National Strategy for the Adoption of Improved Stoves (ENAEM) has been agreed, which provides a clear route to promote cleaner cookstoves in Honduras for the first time.

This is their story.


A burning need for improved stoves

Poverty affects more than 60% of the rural Honduran population.[5] Many of these families depend on firewood for 88%[6] of their household energy needs, which has resulted in serious health impacts and a significant increase in deforestation in the last few decades.[7]

Yet burning firewood for fuel is not only detrimental to human and environmental health, it also has a huge impact on the economy and the social welfare of families, due to the cost of collecting or buying it. If collected, it detracts from time that could be used for alternative economic or educational activities. If purchased, it costs around 46.60 Lempiras a day, roughly 35% of an average monthly family income.[8]

Since 1999, many have promoted the distribution of improved stoves in Honduras. However, they have been unable to achieve widespread change for numerous reasons, not least because the positive impacts of improved stoves have not been monitored so there has been a lack of evidence-based incentives to invest in them.

Uniting stakeholders

In 2017, a group of CSO partners of the V4CP’s renewable energy programme in Honduras saw the value of uniting efforts to develop the market for improved cookstoves and to progress related policies.  To galvanise a participatory process, in June 2017 they launched the Inter-institutional Platform to bring together knowledge institutions, CSOs and cooperation agencies. Later that year, they succeeded in attracting relevant private sector actors to the platform as well as the government, which was developing a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) for improved stoves in order to reduce GHG emissions and help the country’s meet its climate change commitments.

Evidence for change

The CSOs and other members of the Platform worked together to identify important knowledge gaps that needed to be overcome to design a new national strategy. As a result, 10 studies were developed. The first, “Analysis of the Legal Framework, Evidence and Content Proposal of a National Strategy for the Adoption of Improved Stoves” revealed that improved stoves were not included in the vast renewable energy regulations in Honduras. It highlighted that, although efforts had been made to disseminate improved stoves for more than 20 years, there was insufficient structured information in the country to build a solid national strategy that included the opinion and experience of the multiple actors involved in the development of the market and value chain.

The V4CP programmes’ partner CSOs, Asociación Hermandad de Honduras (HdH) and Fundación Vida, led the generation and dissemination of the studies, working closely with other Platform members including several state entities. Supported by SNV, they also jointly constructed the terms of reference, selected the researchers, monitored progress and validated the findings with Platform members. In tandem, the information gathered through desk research was verified in the field through household surveys and statistical analysis so that the variables that influence the adoption of improved cookstoves could be properly understood.

Participatory development

During the process of evidence gathering, the Platform began to attract organisations from across the entire value chain, all of which participated in devising the new national strategy for improved stoves.

The Platform with support of a Monitoring Committee, provided opportunities for participatory workshops to discuss, reflect and analyse the studies developed by the V4CP programme. The aim was to gather views on the challenges related to the construction and implementation of the national strategy and to ascertain which critical elements should be included and what the role of individual institutions should be.

Most notable was a workshop held in Tegucigalpa in October 2019, where the strategic lines of the national strategy were presented and analysed by Platform members. It was decided that the proposed new strategy would be a national framework for the displacement of traditional stoves and the promotion and sustained use of improved stoves. It would have six strategic lines: inter-institutional coordination; financial mechanisms; strengthening of the value chain; access to firewood in households; cultural awareness and adaptation; and monitoring and evaluation of impacts at a national level.

Former Executive Director of HdH, Mr. Manuel Mejía, said: “The Platform is a space for participation and agreement where different actors come together. It is a space of trust where we work in a coordinated manner, participate in dialogues and discussions that increase collaboration and consensus, the quality of the information and the technical and evidence-based advocacy capacities.”

A new roadmap for clean cooking

In May 2020, the final document of the proposed new strategy was presented to a plenary session of the Platform through a virtual event organised by the Natural Resources and Environment Secretariat (MiAmbiente), the National Directorate of Climate Change (DNCC), the Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Climate Change, the National Mitigation Committee of Honduras and the V4CP programme, with its partners SNV, HdH and Fundación Vida.

Director of the DNCC in Honduras, Sergio Palacios, said: “The construction of the ENAEM is the reflection of the necessary inter-institutional coordination in the country and will be the umbrella where the NAMA for improved stoves will fit, fulfilling the country's commitments on the climate agenda. The Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment and the National Directorate of Climate Change support the ENAEM implementation process and invite each of the key actors to accompany.”

In her presentation to the plenary session, Dr. Victoria Cortés, a representative of the Panamerican Agricultural University, Zamorano (EAP-Zamorano) team that supported the construction of the new strategy, said: “The adoption of improved stoves reduces the consumption of firewood. At the same time, it significantly reduces the smoke inside and outside the home, improving the air quality in homes and reducing the risk of respiratory diseases. These and other direct benefits, such as optimisation of resources and poverty reduction, reduces pressure on forests and comprehensive improvements of the value chain are generated with the adoption of improved stoves.”

Bridging policy and people

The Government of Honduras approved the National Strategy for the Adoption of Improved Stoves on September 28, 2020 at a meeting organised by MiAmbiente, the National Directorate for Climate Change and Platform members. Currently, MiAmbiente is preparing the agreement based on the Act of the Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Climate Change that was approved during the meeting. The agreement will be published in the National Register, La Gaceta, signifying that the new strategy has been officially adopted by the government.

“By adopting ENAEM, government institutions will be able to focus their resources effectively and thus benefit those who need it most,” said Executive Director of Fundación Vida, Julio Cárcamo.

Platform members are calling on the Secretary of State to lead on a swift implementation of the new national strategy. Representatives of MiAmbiente and the Health and Energy Secretariats have all expressed interest in promoting this initiative. They, in coordination with other government institutions and members of the Platform, are poised to form an interdisciplinary committee to oversee its implementation.

“The adoption of improved stoves will help the country meet its commitments in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. The national strategy marks the way to achieve adoption, so its implementation is important,” said Jorge Chi Ham, biomass specialist at the Ministry of Energy, Honduras.

Towards the future

The ground-swell of support to promote improved cookstoves across Honduras had exceeded the CSO’s expectations. Thanks to their incredible efforts and to the strong support from both government representatives and the clean cooking sector, a major milestone has been achieved, one that could not have been envisaged five years ago.

In coming months, with the continued support of the CSOs empowered by the V4CP programme, the Inter-institutional Platform is expected to help steer the new strategy as it is rolled out. Not only will its implementation improve the health and household income for families across Honduras, it will create the enabling environment for the construction and implementation of the NAMA for efficient stoves. This will help the country fulfill its obligations to reduce GHG emissions by achieving a 39% cut in the consumption of wood for fuel by 2030 and rejuvenating one million hectares of forest,[9] while advancing progress towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Who we are

The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) strengthens the capacities of CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[1] World Health Organisation, May 2018.

[2] World Health Organisation, May 2018.

[3] Flores, W.; Ojeda, O.; Flores, M.; Rivas, F. Sustainable energy policy in Honduras: Diagnosis and challenges. Energy Policy 2011,39, 551–562.

[4] INE, National Institute of Statistics (Honduras) and Flores, W.; Ojeda, O.; Flores, M.; Rivas, F. Sustainable energy policy in Honduras: Diagnosis and challenges. Energy Policy 2011,39, 551–562.

[5] World Bank, 2018.

[6] INE, National Institute of Statistics (Honduras).

[7] CESPAD. La Deforestación del Bosque en Honduras: Entre Tala Ilegal y una Endeble Institucionalidad. 2015.

[8] Inter-American Development Bank Multilateral Investment Fund 2013. Memorandum to Donors to Promote Sustainable Business Models for the Promotion of Clean Cookstoves (HO-M1038, HO-G1004). https://ewsdata.rightsindevelopment.org/files/documents/04/IADB-HO-G1004.pdf

[9] https://ndcpartnership.org/countries-map/country?iso=HND