Cash Incentivizes Families in Nepal to Cook with Clean Fuels, New CCA-led Study Finds
For low-income households around the world, the cost of clean cooking solutions like liquified petroleum gas (LPG), biogas, and electricity remains a significant barrier. In Nepal, for example, where the average person lives on roughly US $3 per day, switching to a more expensive fuel and stove can be out of reach without innovative financing solutions.
A new pilot study by the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) finds that direct cash transfers can incentivize households to not only increase their use of clean cooking solutions, but also to decrease their use of traditional, more polluting stoves and fuels. The study was part of a two-year demonstration project to support the Government of Nepal’s objective to establish smoke-free kitchen communities and improve health outcomes through clean cooking.
Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs provide funds to individuals or families for fulfilling certain behaviors. Many CCTs, including programs that encourage LPG use, have been successful in improving health and education outcomes for low-income households in several countries. However, CCA’s new research finds that CCTs can also discourage stove stacking, where families use different combinations of old and new technology at the same time – a practice that undermines the health and other benefits of clean cooking.
CCA explored the effectiveness of CCTs in the disuse of traditional biomass stoves and use of modern cooking alternatives such as biogas and LPG in the Naubise and Kafldi areas of Nepal. A total of 97 households participated in the program, using sensors to measure stove use. At the end of each month, the program transferred cash to households if they stopped using their traditional stove for at least 40% of cooking time. The less time a household spent using their traditional stove, the more cash they received. For example, if a household stopped using their traditional stove for 80% of cooking time, they received NRs. 250 – enough to cover about 45% of their monthly LPG cost.
One month into the program, CCA found a 71% and a 40% reduction in traditional stove use in Naubise and Kafldi, respectively. In addition, there was a significant corresponding increase in LPG use, demonstrating that households were spending less time cooking with traditional stoves and more time using clean solutions. These findings suggest that that the right financial incentives can support low-incomes households in successfully transitioning to clean cooking solutions.
It is important to note that, at the start of the CCT program, other behavior change campaigns were also launched in Naubise and Kafldi. As a result, more research is needed to explore the effectiveness of CCTs as a standalone intervention. While promising, CCTs may not work in incentivizing biogas and electric cookstove use because households don’t have control over biogas production in the winter, and similarly, load shedding could prevent households from using electric cookstoves consistently.
Nevertheless, given the success of CCTs in general and CCA’s study in Nepal in particular, governments and other implementers should further explore CCTs as a way of reducing stove stacking and increasing households’ ability to pay for clean fuels.