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Ending the climate crisis means creating a society that is going in the right direction at the right speed by 2030, a rate of change that will lead to zero net emissions before 2050. That means halving emissions by 2030 and then halving again by 2040. Regeneration starts now.

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Richard and Gladys Eken standing beside ceramic liners that they make for clean cookstoves.

The Gyapa cookstove is made in Ghana, which has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. It is the cocreation of ClimateCare and Relief International. The liners and claddings are made by local ceramicists and metal workers, providing local employment. Over 4.1 million Gyapa cookstoves have been made, saving users more than $75 million thus far. It reduces smoke and energy use by 50 to 60 percent. Richard and Gladys Eken make ceramic liners that are designed to create more complete combustion of charcoal or biomass.

Credit: Relief International Gyapa™ Project

Clean Cookstoves

Call to action:

Replace all dirty cookstoves with culturally appropriate clean cookstoves that reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions and prevent illness and death from air pollution.

Each year, household cooking and heating accounts for over half of the world’s black carbon emissions and an estimated 4 million premature deaths from indoor pollution–related illnesses. Limited access to clean cooking disproportionately affects women and girls, preventing them from participating and benefiting equally in the economy and society. Black carbon has nearly a thousand times the warming impact of carbon dioxide per unit of mass. Even though black carbon only stays in the atmosphere for a few days, when it returns through precipitation, it accelerates the melting of snow and ice and damages plant health and soil. Since the 1950s, governments and development agencies saw clean cookstove projects as providing a genuine solution to the joint challenges of air pollution, gender injustice, and climate change. Despite the immense potential of clean cookstoves in theory, in practice, few improvements in air quality, health indicators, and gender equity have been found. The problem lies not with the idea of clean cookstoves, but rather with their implementation. Although international organizations, foundations, and development agencies have access to capital, they have not been able to effectively understand diverse local requirements related to cooking. Any movement to ensure long-term access to improved clean cookstoves must be driven by local leaders, entrepreneurs, and women who understand the cultural, socioeconomic, and user needs of their communities.

Action Items

Individuals

Learn about clean cookstoves. Cleaner cookstoves typically replace existing stoves that burn the dirtiest fuels (wood and coal) with technologies that use locally produced alternatives such as wood pellets, solar, or electricity. Advanced biomass stoves are another option that can cut emissions by up to 95 percent by forcing gases and smoke from incomplete combustion back into the stove’s flame. Unfortunately, without further investment, these options are still more expensive and require more advanced pellet or briquette fuels.

  • Here is a World Bank guide to understanding the differences between various types of improved cookstoves.
  • Here is a more detailed report “The State of the Global Clean and Improved Cooking Sector” by the World Bank, which provides a comprehensive cookstove typology on page 13.
  • If you are able to replace your fossil-fuel stove, you can find regional businesses that provide such a service.
  • If you already have access to a clean cookstove, consider supporting a nongovernmental organization that is helping communities to make long-lasting transitions.
  • The Clean Cooking Alliance sector directory provides a comprehensive database of organizations that are working on access to cleaner cookstoves.

Support and uplift women leaders and entrepreneurs. Because the clean cooking sector disproportionately impacts women and girls, it is essential that their voices and leadership determine how the clean cooking transitions take place. Support companies that prioritize local women leadership in the home-fuel transition.

  • The Kenyan clean cookstove company, BURN, prioritizes the hiring of women and commits to having a minimum 60 percent female team.
  • Greenway Appliances is the largest clean cooking company in India and is led by Neha Juneja, who has reconfigured her supply chain to take manufacturing into communities that are using the improved stoves.
  • Solar Sister trains and supports women entrepreneurs to deliver clean energy and cookstoves directly to homes in Nigeria.

Install closed-loop systems for heating and cooking. When possible, if electric cook stoves are unavailable, consider biogas generator options that turn waste (animal or compost) into fuel for cooking. Biogas is a mixture of gases that results from the breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen. You can experiment with making your own biogas generator or sourcing one for your home from existing contractors. Switching from natural gas to biogas in your existing stove can be achieved with a few simple modifications.

  • Here is a report by IRENA describing the environmental, health, and socioeconomic benefits of using biogas fuels in improved cookstoves.
  • This blog post outlines the various types of biogas stoves and a comparison to regular LPG stoves.
  • This piece on installing home biogas in Australia outlines some of the benefits of transitioning to home biogas and cooking systems.
  • Homebiogas (U.S.) allows people and businesses to turn their own organic waste into clean energy, on-site.

Write to prominent aid organizations. Multilateral organizations and foundations play a key role in providing technical and financial assistance to local communities and thus can be instrumental in the cleaner cookstove transition. Consider writing to these organizations to identify cleaner cookstoves and reduction of black carbon emissions as an important issue.

 

Share recipes and cooking techniques. One of the big barriers to adopting cleaner cookstoves universally is the fear that the diverse culinary traditions that have developed as a result of fossil-fuel stoves may get lost in the process. If you have adapted your recipes to use a cleaner cookstove, consider sharing your recipes online. You can start a food blog or video channel to encourage others to make the transition while still maintaining cultural traditions.

  • This collection of recipes from around the world includes dishes such as sweet potatoes with malakwang sauce, marotok, and beans and foufou, which are often cooked on open fires or using firewood but can be cooked on improved cookstoves as well.
  • In Senegal, cooking mafé has been a way to sustain community around age-old traditions of cooking and has transitioned well to preparation on improved cookstoves. Mafé is a rich, peanut-based stew served with vegetables such as cabbage, okra, or eggplant, served with steaming rice.

Speak up about the importance of clean cookstoves. Write an op-ed to a newspaper or post on social media advocating about the climate and gender-based potential for clean cookstoves. Creating public awareness of the risks of kitchen smoke and the benefits of its absence can meaningfully shift minds about the urgency of the problem.

  • This feature by Marc Gunther for Ensia outlines the importance of transitioning to cleaner cookstoves for public health and climate, as well as the key factors that lead to successful transitions, including affordability, ability to maintain stoves, and cultural relevance.

Groups

Clean Cookstove Businesses

Undertake rigorous design and testing suited for local needs. The success of cleaner cookstoves depends not on their ability to perform under carefully monitored laboratory settings, but rather the challenges of everyday life. Clean cookstove companies should take time to understand the nuanced needs of users and ensure that local manufacturing and materials hold up to design standards. Test stoves in the field, both for technical and sociocultural performance, and incorporate feedback early on. Happy early adopters are critical to long-term shifts in communities.

  • This paper shows that clean cookstove interventions have often failed to achieve their stated aims because designers do not involve user preferences of features.
  • This paper describes why clean cookstove initiatives have failed in India due to the misalignment between the priorities of donors and companies and the actual users.
  • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, an industrial designer with stove design experience was guided by a social anthropologist in stove dissemination to investigate the cultural practices of the users. They discovered that few families were willing to sell their fire stoves due to spiritual practices. Based on such knowledge, they designed modifications to stoves to create a fuel usage and operation sequence that matched everyday patterns of use.
  • This paper provides a testing protocol that includes examples of objective measurements and observations, as well as survey questions to understand the usability of a designed cookstove.
  • This paper designs a “user journey” to illustrate the cook’s experience with clean cookstove technologies and finds that studying the particular user experience points to pressure areas where most support is needed in the process of change.

Provide local repair services. Many clean cookstove projects fizzle out in the long run because they are difficult to maintain. Wear and tear is a natural part of use. Companies should ensure that technical assistance and spare parts are easily accessible to customers who have purchased their stoves.

  • This paper suggests that the lack of maintenance and repair/replacement of improved cookstoves at the community level is often a barrier to their long-term adoption. Encouraging the decentralized production of parts and encouraging women to create repair networks can also open up opportunities for earning livelihoods.

Innovators and Designers

Leverage funding and grant opportunities. Many funding sources are available for innovators and designers in the clean cooking sector. Grants are available for innovation, business growth, research, capacity building, training, national alliances, and other initiatives that help advance and catalyze the clean cookstoves and fuels sector. Find out what your organization and business can qualify for to scale your impact.

Design cookstoves based on user preferences. The problems faced by cooks vary by culture, geography, season, fuel type, and local practices. Designing stoves that are particular to the context in which they are being deployed can be critical to their success.

  • In Nigeria, researchers found that cooking system choices were constrained by economic and fuel access considerations. Stove and fuel “stacking” (using clean cookstoves alongside dirty stoves) were widely practiced to meet changing prices in fuels. By designing to account for the stove-stacking phenomenon through a modular unit, innovators can ease users into clean stoves, instead of dumping a bulky stove that will fall into disrepair.
  • This paper describes the different design priorities for practitioners and users based on field data.

Investors

Mobilize funding to build scalable businesses. The clean cooking sector remains significantly underfinanced. According to SEforAll, global investments reached only 1 percent of the investment required to attain universal access to clean cooking by 2030. Local small and midsize cookstoves and fuels manufacturers and distributors are most likely to increase access to improved solutions. Investments in these businesses are needed to deliver affordable, appropriate, and high-quality clean cooking products worldwide. You should also consider financing the design and test phases of the business development process to support the creation of context-appropriate cookstoves.

  • You can find regional partners and stakeholders in Clean Cooking Alliance’s database. This includes alternative cookstove and fuel designers, manufacturers, distributors, organizations, and consultants making this transition possible.

Farmers

Turn biowaste and animal waste into fuel. Install a biodigester ,which creates a closed-loop system that reduces methane pollution by converting agricultural manure and waste to biofuel that can be used for cooking or heating. A biodigester is a closed, airtight vessel that converts organic material into a methane and carbon dioxide mixture through a process of decomposition in the absence of air. The biogas produced is carbon neutral because upon combustion it releases the same amount of carbon dioxide that the organic matter used to produce it absorbed while it grew. This is different from burning natural gas, which reintroduces carbon dioxide that has been locked away for millions of years.

  • The World Bank published a report on the lessons learned from on-farm biodigester programs in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and draws clear links between successful on-farm biodigesters and clean cooking technologies. While the biogas can be used for clean cooking, the remaining bioslurry can be used by farmers as fertilizers.
  • This U.S. EPA guide provides information about whether your farm can install an anaerobic digester.
  • This CORE document provides guidelines to installing biodigesters in ecological farming systems.
  • In Cambodia, ATEC provided farming families with prefabricated biodigesters that powered an attached twin cookstove with in-house-produced biogas.

Companies

Invest in clean cookstove initiatives. Support clean cookstove projects in your local community or in those communities in which your company does business or draws resources. You can also consider providing financial services to customers who are unable to afford the up-front cost of improved cookstoves.

  • Barry Callebaut, a large Swiss chocolate company, has invested in clean cookstove projects in Ghana, while working with farmers to grow cacao more sustainably.
  • Cummins collaborated with a research institute in Nandal (Maharashtra, India) to design an energy-saving cooking system for the residents of the village.
  • Grameen Shakti (Bangladesh) is an independent business that is focused on offering microfinance packages for improved cookstoves and biogas plants.
  • Emerging Cooking Solutions (Zambia) focuses on pellet production and distribution for improving fuel in existing charcoal cookstoves. They sell their improved pellets and their gasifier stove through employer loans, which allows employees purchase the stove through their company.

Governance

Run national campaigns. Support behavior change campaigns and interventions that raise awareness about the health and economic benefits that result from switching to cleaner cookstoves. Incorporate information about policies such as buybacks or subsidies to encourage communities to make the switch.

  • This paper suggests that creating public awareness around the possible benefits of clean cookstoves is likely to increase their uptake. Such awareness is especially effective when information spreads through word of mouth.
  • A #CookCleanforKenya campaign, run in 2016, provided information on the negative impacts of inefficient stoves and about the benefits of efficient cookstoves and fuels. The campaign invited Kenyans to share photos and videos of themselves with improved cookstoves to win a prize.
  • In Myanmar, the Myanmar Stoves Campaign has been running an awareness drive that goes into communities and provides coaching activities, product demonstrations, and user follow-ups through local business retailers.
  • The Campaign for Improved Cookstoves in Ghana, dubbed “Obaatan Baofo” or “Mother’s Helper,” encourages families using biomass and charcoal stoves to switch to improved cookstoves.
  • The “Fumbalive” or “cook and live” campaign in Uganda aimed at encouraging consumers to use improved cookstoves and energy-saving cooking practices. Field studies showed that it is critical to communicate the economic and time incentives to new users.

Utilize tools for modeling and planning cookstove transitions. Planning and modeling tools can be helpful in showing users the long-term benefits of switching to cleaner cookstoves. Benefits of Action to Reduce Household Air Pollution (BAR-HAP) is a resource in the World Health Organization’s Clean Household Energy Solutions Toolkit (CHEST). Users can model sixteen different transitions, from more polluting cooking technologies to cleaner ones. Cleaner technologies include both transitional options (which offer some health benefits) and clean options (which meet emissions levels in the WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion). Users can select a policy intervention that will be applied for each cooking transition, such as stove or fuel subsidy, financing, intensive behavior change campaign, or a technology ban. The tool quantifies and monetizes costs of implementing the intervention by the community and, for individuals, the costs of purchasing and maintaining stoves and fuel.

  • This paper describes how the low adoption rate of clean cookstoves, and the resulting lack of positive health impacts, stems from poor implementation strategies. The authors call for the creation and use of an implementation tool that will map existing effective implementation strategies and suggest possible pathways forward for new clean cookstove adoption.

Support internationally recognized clean cookstove standards and certification. In the absence of certification, consumers have a difficult time determining manufacturer claims about health, efficiency, and emissions reductions. Governments can strengthen regional testing centers and set higher performance standards for improved cookstoves and fuels.

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has created a Technical Committee 285 on Clean Cookstoves and clean cooking solutions.
  • Gold Standard was established in 2003 by the World Wildlife Fund and other international NGOs to ensure that projects that reduced carbon emissions were following best environmental practices and also contributing to sustainable development.
  • The Clean Cooking Catalog helps to drive the development of international cookstove standards and maintains monitoring and evaluation information relevant to key stakeholders.
  • This paper suggests the benefits of getting model cookstoves tested and rated in the context of their actual use and not just in labs.

Integrate clean cooking policies into national energy plans. Governments can use centralized and national planning efforts to support cookstove enterprises, run widespread education programs, and create testing and maintenance infrastructure to enable long-term use of improved stoves. By incorporating cleaner cookstoves into energy policy, governments also signal their commitment to businesses, who are more likely to enter into the market.

  • Bangladesh has a Country Action Plan for Clean Cookstoves that commits to 100 percent clean cooking solutions by 2030. The plan was formulated under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources and is seen as a solution at the intersection of environmental and energy concerns.
  • Under its Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the government of Nepal has prioritized the dissemination of improved cookstoves. The initiative is seen as a critical component of the national rural and renewable energy program.

Learn

Watch

Sustainable Energy for All: A webinar featuring five women entrepreneurs in the clean cooking sector, representing business models ranging from solar lighting distribution to biodigester programs. The speakers offered insights into how their roles as industry leaders are shifting as a result of COVID-19, and how they are devising innovative ways to remain operational during these unprecedented times.

As part of its ten-year anniversary celebrations, on July 20, 2021, Clean Cooking Alliance hosted "A Conversation on Clean Cooking" with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wanjira Mathai (vice president and director for Africa at the World Resources Institute), and Dymphna van der Lans (CEO at the Clean Cooking Alliance) about the progress made on clean cooking over the past decade and how to accelerate action on the road to 2030.

Did you know—using a clean cookstove can protect your health?”: An educational video highlighting the health risks of smoke from rudimentary cookstoves in Nepal, where it kills thousands of children each year, from the BreatheLife campaign of the World Health Organization.

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