Cleaner wood-burning as a transition renewable technology in remote communities in Brazil?

When we talk about the future green economy we think about sophisticated renewables such as solar photovoltaics and wind turbines that can be installed in energy plants generating huge ammounts of energy.

Ceará is a developing region of the 6th largest economy in the world and this can be seen in the recent investments in renewables in the northeast Brazil. This state is counting with more than 15 wind energy parks and the first comercial solar plant of South America.

Arrival of foreign invesments in wind turbine technologies to Pecém harbour

Experiencing a social and economical change, Brazil from nowadays is a great place for investors in the building and energy sector since many opportunities are there. Northeast of the country in special, namely the state of Ceará is still a region with lacks of water supply and energy infra-structures that have being neglected during a long time by the federal government. Political and economical power is concentrated in South east of the coutry and resources are not very well distributed by Brasilia.

Transition technologies may assume a crucial role to balance social diferences and can be created by communities interested in their energy independence. In fact, there is a trend for a accomodation and low income people that are now starting to have some financial capacities want to be supplied with conventional technologies.

“People and wood-burning” – Eco-efficient wood stove installed in Sr. Manuel house “km60” (Limoeiro Norte / CE)

An example of this is the threats to the Brazilian building heritage in traditional mud construction very popular in the meanlands of Bhaia and Ceará. Sand construction is a mellinar technique to build households that was used by remote communities as a social event to erect their own houses with their families, a tradition called “motirão”. Nowadays, people wishes to have a concrete house since “it looks more rich” and adobe or taipa construction is more associated to poor people – the paradigma of development.

Develpment paradigma in rural buildings in Limoeiro Norte/CE

Traditional mud construction in “km60” (Limoeiro Norte/CE)

But the main topic I would like to bring up today is related to one of the most ancient technologies that is still being used by billions of people worldwide specially in developing countries. Half of the world population is still relying on biomass and charcoal for residential heating and cooking and remote communities of Ceará are on the world-map of wood-burning stoves.

In Ceará there is now a project being developed by a Brazilian NGO (IDER) supported by international development cooperation organizations and the government that created a model to improve the efficiency of traditional stoves and consequently reduce the impacts of wood-burning concerning deforestation of Bioma Catinga and Amazonia.

Charcoal stove used by Sr. António in “km60” (Limoeiro Norte/CE)

In Brazil residencial wood-burning is consuming 36% of energy regarding the households energy system and in the north of the country around 30% of the population is using wood cooking stoves specially in rural communities. In Ceará wood is also the most common solid fuel in the ceramic industry that is devastating a part of the “Bioma Catinga” and Amazonia and it has also been used intensively in restaurants acroos the state well know as “Churrascarias”.

Indoor eco-efficient wood-burning stove

The last few days our group of researchers in the technical school have been interview people in a isolated commutity located in the semi-arid region of Sertão where every year they experience the dry season and long summer of Ceará state.  A low income population with limited acess to the energy system was the element of our study. The purpose was to evaluate the daily habits of this people as mix of social and technical engineering project with the goal to know more about the usage of wood-burning stoves and renewables in such a context.

Interviews about occupacional health issues in “km60” (Limoeiro Norte / CE)

Trip was long and took us 3 hours to reach Limoeiro do Norte where we had a really pleasant lunch time close to the river eating fresh fixe. Our job was carried out in “km 60” around 20 minutes by “jeep” from the small city.

Researhers time on the warm Ceará

Day was cool under the 36ºC ambient temperature and dry atmosphere and we have been in contact with 15 families that talked about the performance of their new stove, the eco-efficient stove designed by IDER team. People that is currently using the improved cooking stoves are quite satisfied with the high energy performance of the stove, however, it is very important to guarantee that this kind of project ideas involve indoor climate studies in a semi-arid region with extremely high temperatures.

Indoor climate measurements at Sr. Manuel househould in “km60” (Limoeiro Norte/CE)

Wood-burning for residential heating and cooking is under a world debate and important is to point out that improved stove solutions are from great relevance regarding the climate discussion. Cooking stoves are affecting directly the health of women and children in the developing countries being this the most common energy transition technology in remote villages around the planet.

Publications about wood-burning stoves and indoor climate:


About divingincommunities

Low cost traveler and engineer learning and working with commuties around the world; Enjoy very much to meet different people and cultural exchange!
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