Here's an article below that recently ran in the Vientiane Times about the importance of firewood. While most villages have, or soon will have electricity, almost all the homes still use firewood or charcoal for cooking and I don't think electric stoves will replace cooking using firewood. It's ubiquitous and will be for a long, long time.
When you travel in rural Laos it's hard not to see people, mostly women and older girls carrying wood back to their homes. You can see that the five girls above are heavily laden down with wood they've gathered from the forest for their homes. Sometimes they have to walk many miles over steep terrain, and let me tell you these baskets are heavy! While it is not easy work, the girls like you see in the photo above make the best of it, joking and singing, and strong bonds of friendship are formed in joining together in this important task for their families.
Below the article you can see a couple more of our photos with older women carrying wood on the "main road" in Muang Vaen, a fire keeping villagers in southern Laos warm and making a batch of lao lao over a traditional wood fire in a Tai Daeng home in northern Huaphan Province.
a traditional source of warmth
For thousands of years Lao people in rural areas of the country have depended on firewood to fuel their traditional household stoves and keep their families warm at night. Such wood is typically harvested from native forests near the villages and is not only used for cooking, but also heating and fencing.
Many households in remote rural areas of the country continue to use firewood for cooking because they are yet to receive access to the national electricity grid.
Xieng Khuang province in northern Laos is one of many places where local people still use firewood for cooking. More than 50 percent of villages in the province now have access to the national electricity grid, according to provincial authorities. Over 2,560 families in villages throughout the province can now access electricity supplied by the provincial branch of Electricite du Laos (EDL).
Mrs Chouthor Yang, of Nam Kha village in Phaxay district, Xieng Khuang province, said she goes to cut and collect wood every day for use as fuel for cooking and heating at night. Nam Kha village gained access to the national electricity grid early this month. “Now, our house is bright from light bulbs, but we don't use electricity for cooking,” she told Vientiane Times .
“Actually, we don't know how to use electricity for cooking, but we hope to soon use it to prepare meals at our house,” Mrs Chouthor said with a hint of a smile.
Residents of five villages in Phaxay district, Xieng Khuang province, have started cooking with electricity after they gained access to the national power grid earlier this month.
About 30 of the 347 households in Nam Ka, Naphiathang, Sua, Thangxiengneua and Navarn villages have stopped using wood as fuel for cooking, Deputy Head of Tangxiengneua village, Mr Khamfay Dalavong said.
The five villages gained 24-hour access to electricity when the small Nam Ka hydropower station was officially opened and connected to the national electricity grid on August 9.
Mrs Chouthor said she collects wood in the forest from 8:30 to 11:30am each day. “My sons and daughters like to burn wood during the wet season to keep warm in the morning and at night.”
In the winter, her children burn wood all day and night in front of the house to keep warm, she added.
“Burning wood provides fuel for cooking
and keeps us warm during the winter and wet seasons,” she explained .
By Khonesavanh Latsahao