Switching from traditional to smoke free cooking: Story from a first mover


Mrs. Sim Saran, 20, is married and living in Chreas village. She lives in a household of six people, including her own family of three, her parents, and her sister.

Located about three kilometres from Prey Chrouk commune, Pouk district, Siem Reap province, Chreas village has 85 households with a total population of 427 people. In her village, most of the households use a traditional Lao stove. Saran uses this same stove to cook meals for her family, twice per day, seven days per week as many generations have done before her. 

‘I know it is smoky but I have no choice; I have to use it because I do yet have money to buy an LPG stove,’ she said, adding that she finds it difficult to use these traditional stoves.

In Cambodia, there are around 2.5 million families still using traditional cookstoves with solid biomass such as wood, charcoal, and agricultural waste. Wood is a main fuel for traditional Lao stove, which is collected from nearby forests or bought from vendors. According to the World Health Organisation, around 14,000 people in Cambodia die prematurely per year, due to household air pollution; whereas poor respiratory health condition also proved to increases vulnerability to COVID-19.

In May 2020, SNV's Energy team started introducing Behavioural Change Communication triggering events in rural Cambodia. Chreas was the first village to pilot these tools and materials. These events include seven-steps and take about 45 minutes, starting with an introduction to the dangers of indoor air pollution, interactive role playing, open discussions and proposed solutions. The event ends with a quiz relating to the subject of the meeting and the winner of the quiz gets to take home a prize. The Commune Council for Women and Children are the implementer of these sessions and since May, around 56 villagers have participated in these events.

Mrs. Saran said she attended  the event with other villagers; it was a happy and fun experience – with many activities, photos, games and these made her think. She recalls how the facilitator asked to map out their village on the ground, and then asked them to place colour cards on the map based on the types of cookstoves they use at home.

‘It is the first time that I realized how harmful the use of traditional cookstoves is to our health in the village!” she exclaimed.

Saran used to use a traditional stove to cook meals for her family

She is now using electric rice cooker to cook rice and LPG to cook food

After attending the event, by June 2020, she decided to buy an electric rice cooker and an LPG stove to replace her traditional stoves as she believes that this  would reduce health risks as well as time to cook.

‘I discussed with my husband whether or not we should buy an electric rice cooker as I think it would be convenient and faster to cook. And, he agreed,’ said Saran, ‘Cooking is really less of a burden to me now; it is so much more efficient and easier, and our kitchen is also cleaner.’

She added that she is now using electric rice cooker to cook rice and the small LPG to cook food, like frying meat with vegetable or making soup. She keeps the two old traditional Lao stoves to use only once to grill meat or fish.


Bastiaan Teune

Energy Sector Leader