Environmental and health impacts from the introduction of improved wood stoves: evidence from a field experiment in Guatemala


Improved wood-burning stoves offer a possible solution that can simultaneously impact both problems of deforestation and problems of respiratory health in developing countries. We carried out a field experiment in which new fuel-efficient woodstoves were allocated in a Guatemalan village via the use of a lottery. A 2008 baseline survey was carried out on 2,148 individuals in 351 households, and then a follow-up survey was carried out in 2009, 4 months after households received the stoves. We found that households with the new stoves reduced wood consumption by an average of 59.1%. We also found indications of reductions in indoor air related health problems, where point estimates indicate a significant reduction in reported respiratory symptoms by 48.6% among women and 63.3% among children.

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  1. 1.

    It is interesting to note that small differences in stoves such as the plancha can have large impacts in terms of wood use. Boy et al. (2000) find that while the plancha consumed more fuel in water boiling and cooking tests than an open fire, a small modification to it, the insertion of a baffle, increased the stove’s efficiency to the point where it consumed significantly less fuel than cooking on an open fire.

  2. 2.

    Onil Stove Description, http://www.onilstove.com/works.htm.

  3. 3.

    HELPS International Website, http://www.onilstove.com, Accessed 5/20/10.

  4. 4.

    HELPS International: "The Onil Stove." www.globalgiving.org/pfil/1946/projdoc.doc Accessed 5/20/10.

  5. 5.

    We assume branch weight is equal to 30 percent of trunk weight and use standard wood density calculations. These can be found online, for example, at SherrillTree.com.

  6. 6.

    Because there was a slightly improving trend from 2008 to 2009 in reported health symptoms even among non-stove recipients, including 2008 statistics would produce a bias in favor of wood stove impact since the Onil stoves were installed in 2009. For this reason we only carry out the t-tests in Table 3 and Mann–Whitney tests in Table 4 using 2009 data. Regression estimates in Table 5 are easily able to control for the overall village trend through a year fixed effect and so they include 2008 data.


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The authors wish to thank Keith Calabria, Victoriano Chan Ajce, Pamela Chevalier, Felipe Dizon, Monica Murillo, Melinda Perez, Laine Rutledge, Gonzalo Villaran, our outstanding field enumerators and wood stove installers, and donors to the Mayan Partners stove program. Funding to this project from the University of San Francisco Jesuit Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Bruce Wydick.

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Ludwinski, D., Moriarty, K. & Wydick, B. Environmental and health impacts from the introduction of improved wood stoves: evidence from a field experiment in Guatemala. Environ Dev Sustain 13, 657–676 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-011-9282-z

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  • Biomass fuel
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Wood stoves
  • Field experiments