Conflicting worldviews of cooking, energy and technology in rural Nicaragua

Authors: Curt Davis*, University of Delaware
Topics: Energy, Development, Latin America
Keywords: improved cookstoves, household energy, appropriate technology, development critique, rural Nicaragua, culinary worldviews
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cooking with solid fuels in traditional cookstoves (TCSs) in lesser-income countries results in negative impacts to both human and environmental health. The development community has responded by developing and disseminating non-traditional cookstoves (NTCSs), which allege to either improve efficiency or evacuate smoke from the point of use or both. However, recent literature supports findings that adoption and utilization rates of NTCSs are lower than would be expected considering the purported benefits of the technologies. I conducted ethnographic research in rural Nicaragua to understand local worldviews of the overall cooking experience as a precursor to understanding cooks’ relationship with cooking technologies. The results from a combination of interviews and observations revealed that the majority of cooks do not identify a need to change their cooking practices including the utilization of NTCSs. In fact, some cooks reported an aversion to NTCSs—including ‘modern’ liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves—based on perceived risks. When viewed through the lens of development critique, the overall findings reveal a polarization between the worldviews on cooking energy held by the development community at large and cooks in rural Nicaragua. For the cooks, the most important aspect of their cooking system is the ability to cook traditional cuisine swiftly and in the way that they are accustomed. In contrast, the ‘altruistic’ impetus for the design and dissemination of NTCSs in the name of ‘development’ has been to improve human and/or environmental health, thus representing a disparity of perceived risks and a disconnect between energy technology and food culture.

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