ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Value of Rural Women’s Labour in Production and Wood Fuel Use

A Framework for Analysis

How do gender-related factors influence cooking fuel use? Why does an LPG capital subsidy lead to fuel stacking rather than fuel switching? The insights gained from authors’ research are supplemented by case studies, specifically aimed at exploring the connections between women’s labour time and fuel use. Using these observations and case studies, an analytical framework is developed, which yields propositions that can be tested empirically, such as the high value of women’s labour in production leading to the adoption of labour-saving cooking fuel and vice versa. This framework is used to assess the limitations of capital subsidies forLPG in remote rural areas where women’s labour has a low opportunity cost.

This paper is a product of “The Gender Factor in the Political Economy of Energy Use” research project of the Department for International Development–supported Energia Research Programme, being implemented by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, India and Centre for Rural Technology (CRT), Nepal. The authors thank Andrew Barnett, Joy Clancy, Sheila Oparoacha, Youba Sokona and Annemarije Kooijmans for frequent discussions. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewer for perceptive questions that helped sharpen the analysis.

In the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as a whole, and in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of rural households relying on wood fuel for cooking is 86% and 87%, respectively (UNDP and WHO 2009: Figure 10). Among South Asian LDCs, 89.6% of the rural population in Bangladesh relied on wood fuel, while the figure is 83% for Nepal (UNDP and WHO 2009: Table 20). In rural India, wood fuel was the principal source of energy used for cooking by more than three-quarters (76.3%) of households in 2009–10 (NSSO 2012). Further, the proportion of rural households in India dependent on wood fuel shrank by just two percentage points in the 17-year period, from 1993–94 to 2009–10 (NSSO 2012). Electricity use spread much faster than Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) use, though not in the case of Nepal (AEPC 2012). In the developing world, while the average annual increase in electrification was 111 million households in 2010–12, increase in “access” to non-solid cooking fuels was just 62 million (Foster 2016: Slide 4). Clearly, special attention must be devoted to the issue of cooking fuel to close this gap.

The inability of poor rural households to purchase LPG has been dealt with in a number of projects that sought to overcome the capital barrier by providing subsidised LPG stoves and cylinders, including the World Bank’s Deepam project in India, which covered 1.2 million rural households in 2002, in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. How did this capital subsidy project fare?

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Updated On : 11th Jul, 2018
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