When households cook with firewood on an open fire or on an non-improved stove (plancha sin chiminea, o con chiminea vieja), they are exposed to high levels of household air pollution (HAP), which is dangerous for their health. In 2016 in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (La Alianza) took a dramatic approach to changing behaviours by creating a social marketing campaign whose centrepiece was a radio "novela" or soap opera called "Los Humos de mi Barrio" ("My Neighbourhood's Smoke"). A goal of this campaign was to encourage households that cook with firewood to purchase an improved cookstove (ICS) - specifically, one that uses liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - to reduce their exposure to HAP.

Communication Strategies: 

Strategies behind the entertainment-education initiative involved trying to connect emotionally with the intended audience (women ages 18-40 in urban and peri-urban areas of Sacatepéquez, most of whom work outside of the home) so that they have the intention and aspiration for an ICS. The positioning: For the working woman who "vive para cuidar a mi familia", cooking exclusively with LPG stoves and improved wood stoves protects her health so she can take care of her children and have more time with her loved ones. The goal was to create the belief that "Cooking exclusively with an ICS will keep me healthy" and also to advise potential consumers on the health benefits of using ICSs exclusively and where to purchase one in Sacatepéquez. The campaign built on/incorporated the key message developed from research: "Yo vivo para cuidar a mi familia. El humo de leña trae muchas enfermedades y algunas hasta pueden ser crónicas. ¿ Si yo no estoy sana, quien velará por mis hijos?" ("I live to take care of my family. Wood smoke carries many diseases and some may even be chronic. If I am not healthy, who will watch over my children?") Messages about "not smelling of smoke" were found to be offensive - did not resonate. Messages about saving money with LPG did not resonate a) because LPG is perceived to be more costly than firewood, b) because of the relatively large outlay of cash to buy a tank of gas, and c) because cooks don't know how much gas they are using, so they worry that they are wasting it/don't have control over it.

The star of the 8-episode soap opera "My Neighbourhood's Smoke" was Doña Blanqui, the market lady who shares all of the town gossip. While gossiping, Doña Blanqui sets the stage for the plot lines, while other characters discuss the negative effects of cooking on a stove without a chimney and the advantages of using an improved cookstove. Doña Blanqui's friend Lupita works for a company that sells improved cookstoves, and, while promoting stoves to her family and friends, Lupita falls in love with Justo, her boss's son. The tone was that of a "wise, successful friend" - authoritative/informed, but friendly and helpful. The radio soap opera was an entertaining and engaging love story that culminated in Lupita and Justo's wedding. In addition to the drama, 4,500 radio advertisements were aired on 4 local radio stations; in total, nearly 100,000 listeners were reached.

The campaign created further awareness of and demand for improved cookstoves by using social media (@estufasmejoradas on Facebook) and stakeholder interviews on local cable and TV stations. The interviews were aired on two local cable stations, with a total of 540 TV spots aired, reaching at least 50,000 viewers. Information about the benefits of cookstoves and available outlets was also disseminated through flyers distributed and posters displayed throughout the targeted region - printed material that also included a telephone number to call for information. In total, 3,200 posters and 30,000 flyers with clean cookstove information were distributed.

The campaign's interpersonal communicators spoke directly to consumers (door to door) in specified neighbourhoods and venues during the campaign to create opportunities to ask questions in households, small groups, and markets. At the end of the campaign, soap opera listeners were invited to attend live finales, which included Lupita and Justo's wedding. During these events, local stove manufacturers were on hand to demonstrate and sell their stoves. Clean cookstove manufacturers demonstrated and sold clean cookstoves at 3 market events, with a total audience of approximately 1,500 people.

In total, an estimated 250,000 people were reached with cookstove messaging via the various channels, demonstrating how entertainment channels can be used to reach large numbers of people with health behaviour change communication. Click here to listen to the radio novela episodes and jingles and to access all campaign materials.

Development Issues: 


Key Points: 

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (La Alianza) is a public-private partnership hosted by the United Nations (UN) Foundation (Fundación Naciones Unidas) to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance's goal calls for 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient cook stoves and fuels by 2020. They are working with a strong network of public, private, and non-profit partners to accelerate the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in developing countries.

More than 5,000 deaths (all ages) were due to HAP in 2010. HAP is the second cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in 2010 in Guatemala. Lower respiratory infections are the first cause of DALYs in 2010, and HAP is one cause of lower respiratory infections. Emissions related to open fires also contribute to outdoor air pollution. In Guatemala, cooking with firewood is one cause of deforestation - as the annual wood deficit (wood needed/used but not replaced) is more than 5 millions tons of dry wood.

Global evidence indicates that less exposure to smoke from biomass fuels (wood, charcoal) reduces asthma, lung disease, some cardiovascular disease, and a number of other ailments. LPG stoves and improved woodstoves limit exposure to smoke, relative to non-improved stoves and open fires, so they are a healthier option for families. LPG is a clean fuel for cooking, and is widely available in Guatemala. In Guatemala, as household income increases, families transition directly from cooking with firewood to cooking with LPG (other fuels, like charcoal, have weaker penetration). Around 70% of households use firewood for cooking, and approximately 30% use LPG. Many families use both; a goal of this campaign was to convince families who use both LPG and firewood to cook with LPG exclusively.

Partner Text: 

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with the support of the Cluster of Improved Stoves

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