Cook stoves are the most common way of cooking and heating food in developing countries.
Developing countries consume little energy compared to developed nations; however, over 50% of the energy that they do use goes into cooking food. The average rural family spends 20% or more of its income purchasing wood or charcoal for cooking. Living in the city provides no refuge either as the urban poor frequently spend a significant portion of their income on the purchase of wood or charcoal.
Besides the high expense another problem of cooking over an open fire is the increased health problems brought on from the smoke, particularly lung and eye ailments, but also birth defects. Replacing the traditional 3-rock cook stove with an improved one, and venting the smoke out of the house through a chimney, can dramatically improve a family’s health.
Deforestation and erosion are often the end result of harvesting wood for cooking fuel. The main goal of most improved cooking stoves is to reduce the pressure placed on local forests by reducing the amount of wood the stoves consume. Additionally, the money a family spends on wood or charcoal translates into less money being available to be spent on food, education, and medical care; so an improved cooking stove is seen as a way of boosting a family's income.