You are here: Improved stoves found to change gender dynamics in Ugandan school kitchens – new study reveals


A recent Energy 4 Impact study found that improved institutional stoves are in high demand, but may disadvantage women cooks in school kitchens across Uganda.

Since 2013 Energy 4 Impact has run programmes in Uganda to encourage the installation of improved cookstoves in schools. A recent study in 500 schools across 10 districts in Uganda reviewed the continuing relevance and impact of the programme and highlighted challenges and opportunities for the future.

The study found significant uptake of stoves among schools targeted by the Energy 4 Impact programme – in fact higher than anticipated. There was also high demand for them in schools that had not yet installed them.  Kitchen staff and administrators pointed to multiple cost savings, including up to 42% on fuel expenditure.  Other reported benefits included improvements in kitchen conditions and reductions in manual labour.

Unexpected findings

Some unexpected dynamics emerged from the study, which challenge assumptions that the new cookstoves improve working conditions for women in school kitchens.

The stove design seems to have an unforeseen disadvantage for female cooks due to the weight of saucepans, height of installation and demands for firewood preparation.

- explains Makena Ireri, Programme Manager, Energy 4 impact.

This may be the reason for the reported changing gender dynamics in school kitchens.

14% of responses highlighted heavy lifting and the height of the stoves as the least liked aspect of the new design. In addition, more manual labour is needed to split firewood into small pieces. Some respondents suggested that these factors unfairly disavantage female cooks.

The stoves were built so high that they have to step on a stool while preparing posho [Uganda maize meal based staple].

- says Sserungaya, a cook at St Stephens College Bajja, Uganda.

Mildred, employee at Blessed Valley Primary School in Kampala says:

Heavy saucepans need to be replaced with more practical alternatives, and the design of rings and saucepans should be improved.

Kitchen staff were also asked about changes in gender balance following the installation of the stoves. It emerged that in kitchens with more male cooks, there has been proportionally less change than in kitchens with more female cooks, where more than 50% reported a shift in gender balance.

Lessons learned

Stove design and usage should be studied in greater detail to understand the unintended effects on gender dynamics in the kitchen. In addition, further study on the effects of women in the kitchen in terms of fuel efficiency, stove durability etc. is crucial in understanding whether there are missed benefits from the changing gender dynamics. Stove makers should also involve and consult more women on the design and installation. Improved training could reduce incidences of faults caused by improper use.

Click here to read the entire study.


The primary benefits of an improved institutional cookstove (IICS) is that it saves fuel wood. The stove has various energy conservation features that enable the use of far less wood to carry out the same amount of cooking. This saves on average 40 to 60% of the firewood used for cooking compared to an open fire. Given the large cooking volume of institutions, the associated fuel wood savings are significant. The follow-on benefit are reduction in low greenhouse gas emissions due to lower fuel wood consumption, and cost saving for the user.

Other observed and reported benefits of the stove include:

1. Ease of use: the IICS requires little attention once lit.

2. Increased efficiency means it can respond quickly when needed.

3. Faster cooking as a result of the higher temperatures.

4. Adaptable to various cooking methods, for example can simmer at a near constant temperature and can retain heat to keep food warm over time.

5. Safe to use with lower risk of burns and injury due to insulation, and separation of cook staff from direct fire.

6. Improved kitchen staff conditions through smoke reduction; cleaner, safer and more organised layout and modern aesthetics.