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6. BioLite Campstove

BioLite Stoves make cooking on wood as clean, safe & easy as modern fuels while generating electricity to charge phones, lights and other electronics off-grid. According to the BioLite website, there is “No fuel to buy or carry. These stoves cook your meals with nothing but the twigs you collect on your journey, eliminating the need for heavy, expensive, polluting petroleum gas.” They are “Quick to light, fast to boil and easy to use. By converting heat from the fire into usable electricity, our stoves will recharge your phones, lights and other gadgets while you cook dinner. Unlike solar, BioLite CampStove is a true on-demand source.” The organization is investing in using the same technology inside the BioLite HomeStove to bring clean, safe energy access to families across the developing world, with prototypes being tested in Africa and India. The cooking stove burns more efficiently, with less smoke, less wood consumed, and still produces electricity to charge LED and small electronic devices. Their website is


What trees are valued for their wood? How are they felled and brought in? Are the trees private property, or are the forests owned by the government? By a company? Or is all wood imported into the country?

What are different types of wood used for (e.g., charcoal, firewood, boards, house posts, shingles, carving, furniture, handles for tools). From where is the wood collected or bought? Is firewood augmented with dung or some other substance? Why?

Are houses made of wood, stone, or brick? What type of wood is used in house construction and how is it prepared? Is stone readily available? How and from where is it quarried? Are bricks made locally? What is the status of brick makers? bricklayers? carpenters? stone quarriers? Are these respected professions?

Are wooden objects considered more valuable than those made of other materials, as metal or plastic? What other objects are made of stone? Are these sold or bartered? Are these mainly decorative pieces or do they have utilitarian use as well?

Is bamboo available in your area? If so, are there different types with different uses? Where is it harvested or is it only available commercially? How is the bamboo cut and processed for use?

Investigate and talk about some of the following processes: making charcoal, sawing timber, splitting boards, brickmaking, preparation of stone, etc.

What objects are made of plastic? Are these made within the country, or are they imported? Is there provision for recycling of plastic items?


Do people own their homes or apartments? or are they renters? What is their responsibility to the owner? and the owner’s responsibility to them? How and when is the rent paid? What type of rental contract is drawn up? Does this need to be renewed after a certain period of time?

When a person moves into a house or apartment, what is furnished in the line of appliances or furniture? Where are such items available, and do they remain the property of the buyer when the property is vacated?

How are breach of contracts settled? How much notice needs to be given for an owner to ask a renter to move? or for the renter to tell the owner he is vacating? Is this always followed? What are the obligations of the one vacating and returning the property to the owner, as cleaning, repairing, etc.

How do people use the land around their dwelling? Is there room for a garden? If so, are flowers or vegetables planted? Is some of the space occupied by animals or chickens?

Are there restrictions as to how the space can be used? or how the dwelling can be decorated (paint, flower boxes, etc.) Is there a patio? What activities happen there?

Is there a space for storage of items like bicycles, children’s toys, lawn mowers, etc.? What arrangement is there for hanging laundry out to dry?


Do people own their homes? or are they renters? What is their responsibility to the owner? and the owner’s responsibility to them? How is the rent paid (by a portion of the crop harvested, or by a monetary payment)? Where is the residence located in relation to the fields?

What crops are planted? Draw up a calendar showing the events in the yearly agricultural cycle, noting time of field preparation, planting, weeding, and harvest for the various crops. How are crops stored? Which are grown for family consumption? which for cash crops?

Observe, participate (as possible) in and record how field work is done, tools used, labor patterns, etc. Take pictures if appropriate.

What kind of buildings are constructed in the fields? Do members of the family stay in their fields for part of the year? Who stays and for how long and why? How often are crops planted on the same piece of ground? Is there a rotation of crops? How do people decide where they will make their fields? How are boundary lines marked?

How valuable is land ownership? Is land passed from one generation to another? How can more land be acquired? Who holds the records of land ownership for the area? Who holds the title to land, and what do the title “papers” look like? How are infringements challenged and decided?

Can land be rented or leased? What portion of any produce must be given to the owner? Can land be purchased? Can the purchaser obtain a clear and permanent deed?


Why do people hunt? What proportion of the food supply is obtained through hunting? How is the meat or bones divided? What is done with the hide?

What weapons and what methods (e.g., tracking, lying in ambush) are used in hunting? Are baits or decoys used? Traps? Is hunting an individual or group activity? Who participates in the hunt? Are there any restrictions (e.g., abstinence from sex or certain foods) on individuals before a hunt? Is there a particular territory within which a person or village may hunt?

Which animals are hunted? Is hunting a regular or intermittent activity? Is any type of game conservation practiced? Is this locally monitored or regulated by an outside agency?

Which birds are considered edible? How are they hunted? Are the eggs of any birds collected and eaten?

Do some make their livelihood by fishing? Are fish caught for home consumption alone or are some sold or bartered?

Describe all methods of fishing and sketch or photograph nets, traps, and other fishing equipment. Is fishing done from a boat or from the shoreline? What bait is used?

Is fishing done by both men and women? Are some methods used more by one than the other?

If possible, go fishing with some of your new friends. Have someone tell you about their fishing experience. Do they tell tall tales about the “one that got away?”


What wild animals are found in the country? In your immediate neighborhood? Do people fear them? Are there stories about them? What traits are attributed to various animals? Do certain animals have special significance for the clan or ethnic group?

Do animals have souls? What happens to their souls at death?

What birds are found in your area? Are any harmful to crops? How are they frightened away? Are some birds bad or good omens? Are people aware of birds that are not detrimental? Do they know where nesting sites are? Are there organizations to protect birds and preserve their habitat?

Is fish available for eating? Is it river fish or ocean fish? Is it caught locally, or is it bought in the market place? How is it transported to local markets? Would it be safe to eat?

Find out the names of various fish found locally. Are there different names for the live fish and the same fish prepared for market or for eating? Which fish are especially valued for food?

Are various types of fish prepared in different ways? Are they eaten at different times of the year or times of day?

What insects bite or sting? Which are poisonous? What remedies are used for bites or stings? Which insects are ruinous to crops or possessions? How are they controlled or eliminated?

What insects are edible? How are they obtained and prepared for consumption?

Make a list of the local names of these creatures. Supplement your descriptions with sketches or photographs wherever possible.


Does your village, town, or city have a “downtown” area, that is, a main shopping center? Or are there big shopping centers scattered throughout? How far is it from where you live to one of these centers?

Is going to the mall or to a downtown area a special occasion? Do people dress more formally when they go? Do they go here for special reasons, like business or events, or do they sometimes go just to have a good time?

Are the shops under one roof? Situated on a main plaza? Located on a jumble of interconnected streets?

What kinds of shops are located in the center you have chosen? Are the same types of shops found in other centers, or does each center have a “specialty?” Is there more variety found downtown than in local shops?

Are any of these connected to a Western franchise? If so, how familiar does it look to you, and how much has been added in deference to the culture? Are the products of these international shops considered more prestigious than local items?

Are larger shops more frequented than the smaller neighborhood shops? How has the local economy been affected by the arrival of megashops?

Are there special venues for events located downtown, like the opera, musical programs, or plays? Would businesses have special events for their staff at downtown sites rather than at a local venue?


What things have you observed around the house and neighborhood that help the residents accomplish tasks? Find out what they are called and what they are used for (e.g., field or garden work, food preparation, weaving, hunting, home maintenance, car repairs)? Note especially tools which are new to you.

Who uses what tools when? Are there role expectations or restrictions on which sex uses which tools?

Try to use some which are appropriate to your sex and role. Are they easy to use? Mimic the instructions people give you while you are using the tools.

Are the tools bought commercially or home-made? Are some of them used for a quick job and thrown away? or are some of them permanent items? When they break, who fixes them?

Are there specialists available for certain jobs? What jobs do they do? Where are they located? How are they repaid for their labor? How is the price negotiated and by whom?

Do they only work in their store or shop, or will they come to the home to do work that is needed? How are they contracted? Who does the negotiations? What else needs to be negotiated besides the price?

Is there a period of time in the day when work is not usually done, as a “rest” time? What is the expectation of the local people? How graciously do they respond to an interruption? Would the request be acted on at that time, or put off to after the “rest period?”


What kind of arrangements are made for storage? If there are cupboards, are they locked? Do they have doors, or are they open? If open, are they curtained off?

Is there a specific room for storing foodstuffs like flour and sugar, grain from harvest, other non-perishables? Do these need to be protected from rats, mold, rain, thieves? If so, how is this done?

Where are dishes, pots and pans and other daily-use items kept? Is this a different place than where seldom used items are stored?

Where is fresh produce stored? Is there electricity and a refrigerator? Or does fresh produce need to be used the day it is bought? If there is a refrigerator, is it still considered best to buy fresh produce daily?

What kind of receptacles are used? baskets? tin boxes? plastic containers? Find out what they are called, what is kept in them, and where they are kept.

Where is clothing kept? After washing, are they mended and ironed immediately, or as needed? Are they then hung in closets, or folded into cabinets or boxes?

What is done with bedding each morning? At the change of seasons? How often does it get changed? How are heavier items like quilts and blankets freshened?

Where are larger items like bicycles kept? Are such storage areas included in the living complex? Are rental storage facilities available? How accessible and affordable are they?


Living areas

How are the rooms arranged? around a courtyard? in a linear fashion?

How many rooms are there in this house? Are they interconnected? Does one key give you access, or does each room need a key?

How many people live in the house? are they a single family unit, or an extended family?

What kind of furniture is in the room in which you are seated? Note floor covering, curtains, and other decoration on the floor, walls, or ceiling. Is there anything that surprises you?

What other rooms are in your host’s home? Are there rooms that are off-limits to a visitor? If you can see into other rooms, what other furniture is there? Does the furniture tell you what the room is used for? Do rooms seem to be multi-purpose or have a specific use?

Do the furnishings in the house give you a clue as to the economic status of the occupants?

Where do the children play? indoors? outdoors? Is this a secure area?

Working areas

Where is the kitchen located? What kind of stove is used for cooking? What kind of fuel is used for cooking? Where and how is this available?

Where are the dishes, utensils, pots and pans stored? Where are supplies like flour, sugar, onions, etc. stored?

Where do the dishes get washed? What is used to scour pans? Are spotless pans a thing of pride? Are the dishes drip-dried or dried with a towel?

What do you think their standard of cleanliness is in comparison with yours?

Where is cleaning equipment kept, like brooms, sweepers, etc. What kind of equipment is used for cleaning? Does the type of building determine this?

Is there electricity? For how many hours a day? Hot and cold running water? Otherwise, how is water heated? Is this done only when needed, at certain times of the day?

Where is the laundry done? Are bigger pieces (sheets, etc.) sent out to be washed? Is the laundry at home done by hand or by machine? What kind of soap is used? Where are clothes hung out to dry?

Is there a special area for chopping wood? for preparing vegetables or meat for cooking? for keeping seedlings for planting in the garden? for keeping animals?

When you return home:

Draw a diagram of the house with any special observations about the various rooms and use of space. Add to this as you visit more homes.

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