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Differences in firewood users’ and LPG users’ perceived relationships between cooking fuels and women’s multidimensional well-being in rural India

Abstract

Clean cooking fuels are generally assumed to bring health and other benefits for women compared with solid fuels, which suggests they should be preferred. However, despite the availability of clean cooking fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the scale of solid fuel use in rural India remains large. Here we examine women’s positions on fuel transition and multidimensional well-being through a qualitative analysis of data from focus group discussions with comparable groups of women who have versus those who have not transitioned to LPG. We show that women who use firewood believe their cooking fuel supports their well-being in several ways, and see no enabling relationship between LPG use and well-being. In contrast, LPG users—who were previous firewood users—claim LPG has enabled well-being. These results suggest that perspectives on the relationship between fuel and well-being shift after transition, due to the realization of new advantages. Understanding differences in the perspectives of women using different fuels is vital to unpack the dynamics of cooking fuel transition.

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Fig. 1: Relationships between capabilities and the cooking fuels.
Fig. 2: Outcomes of the relationships between the cooking fuels and capabilities among firewood users.
Fig. 3: Outcomes and possible outcomes of the relationships between the cooking fuels and capabilities among LPG users.
Fig. 4: Comparison of capabilities between the cooking fuels.

Data availability

For confidentiality reasons, the raw FGD transcripts are restricted. All the data behind the figures are publicly available as source data at https://doi.org/10.25919/5f6d34f11fa7a. https://doi.org/10.25919/5f6d34f11fa7a

Code availability

All the codes used for data analysis and visualizations in this study are publicly available at https://doi.org/10.25919/5f6d35259e92c

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Acknowledgements

Collection of data and foundational conceptual work by the lead author was funded by a PhD scholarship and fieldwork grant from The University of Queensland and the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation. Y.M. is grateful to C. Greig and E. van de Fliert of the University of Queensland for their guidance, and also to P. Rani and S. Kumar for providing logistic and interpretation services during the field work. Y.M. is thankful to CSIRO’s Data School FOCUS program team for providing a platform to learn the R language for data analysis. We thank J. Lacey and L. Poruschi of CSIRO for providing feedback on an early version of the manuscript.

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Y.M. designed the overall study, collected the data, performed the data cleaning, wrote the codes for data analysis and produced the figures. Y.M. and R.D. conceptualized the manuscript, performed the manual data analysis, developed the interpretation and wrote, edited and revised the paper.

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Correspondence to Yuwan Malakar.

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Supplementary Notes 1–4, Fig. 1, Tables 1–3 and references.

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Malakar, Y., Day, R. Differences in firewood users’ and LPG users’ perceived relationships between cooking fuels and women’s multidimensional well-being in rural India. Nat Energy 5, 1022–1031 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-00722-4

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