The Central American countries are aiming to gradually replace wood-burning stoves in kitchens across the region with more energy efficient units, but officials must overcome habits and tradition to make the project bear fruit.

The goal is to reduce the use of traditional wood-burning stoves from 50 percent to 35 percent by 2020, officials said.

An estimated 20 milion people, or about half of the region's residents, use traditional stoves to prepare meals, a study prepared by the World BAnk and the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, or ESMAP, found.

Advanced biomass stoves would reduce wood consumption by up to 66 percent, the study concluded.

Governments across the region, however, will have to provide economic incentives and assistance to help families upgrade to energy efficient stoves.

In Nicaragua, for example, an advanced biomass stove would cost a rural family the equivalent of nearly four months of income. EFE