Cleaner Cookstoves for a Cooler Planet

injera, ethiopia cooking soot in the kicthenNearly 3 billion people lack safe and efficient cooking gear. It’s time to make the problem in the kitchen sexier.

Half the world’s households prepare their meals over open fires or with jerry-rigged cookers fueled by scrap wood, coal, combustible waste and dung. Fatal burns are common and foraged fuel dangerously degrades indoor air quality. The World Health Organization reports that toxic smoke from inefficient stoves is the fifth biggest health risk in the developing world, killing 2 million people annually. This shocking statistic puts unsafe cooking nose to nose with HIV/AIDS on the global killing field, with women and children most vulnerable. Who knew?

For decades, aid advocates insisted that more efficient stoves using cleaner fuels could eradicate the problem in underdeveloped communities where electricity was unreliable and fuel supplies scarce.  Now safe-stove news is popping up relative to refugee camps and “Occupy Wall Street” outposts. In the ‘90s, American inventor Peter Scott helped design low-cost portable “rocket stoves” which run on electric, gas or solar power and include powerful filters to limit harmful smoke. The New Yorker christened Scott the movement’s Thomas Edison, adding, “The average cooking fire produces as much carbon dioxide as a car, and a great deal more soot. Cleaning up these emissions may be the fastest, cheapest way to cool the planet.” But why isn’t this idea selling?

home cooking biogas stoveCould be that home cooking just ain’t sexy. Or maybe the market’s too fragmented to profitably produce and distribute the stoves.

Perhaps the project – like any new A-list eatery worth its salt – just needed some high-caliber patrons and a dishy face to front it.

Enter US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2010, she introduced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private coalition aimed at getting 100 million cookstoves out to the developing world by 2020. Next Julia Roberts stepped up as the Alliance’s global ambassador.  The Alliance stresses that clean stove roll-out can significantly reduce childhood death from pneumonia,  and Roberts notes the broader benefits, “The impact goes beyond people’s health. Burning these fuels produces carbon dioxide, methane and black carbon, which contribute to climate change. Cutting down trees for fuel causes natural habitats to dry up, forests to disappear and soil to erode.”

Smartly linking the initiative to climate change opens the possibility of using carbon tax as a means of financing investment. Global aid agencies could also promote the use of efficient cookstoves by direct-delivering units alongside  humanitarian food aid. USAID already supports the project, pledging $50 million over the next five years.

Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Alliance, predicts that the emergence of middle-income countries such as the Next Eleven (N-11) will invigorate this sustainability movement. The N-11, which includes Egypt, Iran and Turkey, was identified in 2005 by Goldman Sachs as having a high potential of becoming the world’s largest economies in the 21st century.

growing countries economies

To read more about the program, and to get directly involved in igniting this critical change, visit The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves website.

Top image via ethiovision

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9 thoughts on “Cleaner Cookstoves for a Cooler Planet”

  1. Helen Haile says:

    Dear Karin,

    As far I see this article is indeed addressing the problem of kitchen/cooking/stoves that affects many places in the developing world , and no more offending/irritating matters – of course of the usage of one word i.e “sexier” which is not welcomed by any society across the Eastern world. For this , noting it you have apologized and this is very noble of you and touchy .

    In my opinion the reaction of the writers (Sheik Abdalla, Mrs. Ominachi, Peter) appears to have precipitated as a result of some the past articles posted on this web site ( Green Prophet )- which I believe too to always has been with negative outlook towards developing countries particularly to Africa’s developmental projects. For example – What my country (ETHIOPIA) at present time is struggling is for poverty reduction , economic emancipation and etc- so that its citizen get at least what you have Cleaner Cookstoves , health care etc. by tapping its own God given natural resources.

    I love you Karin – I see no wrong doing from your side and we love to continue seeing your articles . God bless you.

    Miss Helen
    Addis Ababa – ETHIOPIA

    1. Thanks for the support Miss Helen.

  2. Laurie Balbo says:

    To Sheik Abdalla, Mrs. Ominachi, Peter:

    I wrote this in hopes of bringing attention to a problem that affects many places in the developing world, one that gets little media attention. I believe that problems surrounding unsafe cooking equipment could so easily be fixed by people in wealthier nations (and, as the article explains, it seems good work is underway). Bundling this serious health issue with “environmentalism” might catch the attention of a wider audience who might work to solve the problem with more speed.

    There is no other “agenda”. The piece is about stoves, and women/children’s health. It’s not about rivers, dams, or water scarcity. It’s not about a specific country or political group. It contains no accusations, and in no way criticizes or detracts the most excellent efforts of African people to solve very difficult problems relative to natural resources on that beautiful continent.

    I apologize for my use of the term “sexy” – I used the word to suggest that this topic is not quite “eye-catching” enough to get more coverage:it’s sloppy American jargon that I now see can cause offense.

    Your collective comments on how Middle Eastern nations affect Africa are powerful: perhaps better writers than me will explore this in future Green Prophet postings.

    1. Blame me: I added sexy to the sub head.

  3. Peter Okura says:

    Hello Karin Kloosterman

    You pretend as if you care for “devastating impatcs of regions” and You call your organization ” Green prophet” . This appears not true !!! Have you ever denounced any middle – eastern counties for burning up fossil fuels Co2 emitter which devastates the entire region ? It is one factor of global warming. When we African go green and and build a dam you create lots of noise. You are “prophets” — Can you tell what East African countries people achieve say by 2020/5 ?. I tell you they will be self sufficient with green energy, no matter obstacles you disseminate – with their sweat and blood.

    Peter , Kampala UGANDA

  4. Abdalla says:

    Dear Karin,
    Ethiopia is an ancient country of thousand years history . Proud , peaceful and kind people and neighbors. When they try to use bit of their Allah given river resources . You and your fellow colleagues disseminate unfounded and biased articles. In the 1980’s when millions Ethiopians perished in drought and hunger only few helped them. Our brothers and sisters in the middle-east ( for who you appear to be spokesman here) never cared. Has anyone in Egypt , or the middl-east shared them any resources resources ? Ethiopia contributes 85 % of the Nile waters and no-one wants these peaceful people to use its waters – and organization like you propagates as if “not sustainable”. One thing is certain you can not deny their sovereignty rights which is in their own hands. You really offend not only the Ethiopians but rest whole humanities. I do follow from time to time in the web and and know how the Ethiopians and the Africans react. They have good reason. The un-ncessary word you stated ” sexier” is astonishing – those people in Ethiopia are struggling for a “basic” need. I am an across the sea neighbor and always feel dismayed for negative attitude portrayed by some organizations in the West and in the middle-east.

    Sheik Abdalla
    Yemen

  5. Ominachi says:

    Sheik Abdalla !

    I agree with you. I never trust and take as genuine all the articles posted on this site as well as the other so-called “advocacy” organizations names ” River International” ” Survival” , etc – who in most people are believed to be Anti developing countries in Africa , Latin America , and South East Asia. Their policy makers , reporters may have truly hidden agenda/assignment. This has been witnessed on a number of times.
    Mrs. A.h.Ominachi
    W.D. University
    Osaka, japan

  6. Abdalla says:

    Dear Writer,

    The picture exhibited in this article is of Ethiopia’s – which represents the backward condition of house and kitchen of the majority of the people of Ethiopia, and you say now ” It’s time to make the problem in the kitchen sexier” LOL !!!Whilst the Ethiopia people struggle to tap their resources like Gibe , and Nile rivers – your organization along with others so-called ” advocacy groups” like ” Rivers International “for quite long time was/is trying to denounce Ethiopian peoples efforts – what a paradox ! . What shameful!

    Sheik Abdalla
    Yemen

    1. Sheik Abdalla,

      We love Ethiopian people and want to help them. We want to show the world how some Ethiopians have to live so we can make it better, for them, for the planet. We did not mean to offend you or the Ethiopian people. We meant sexier in terms of saving the planet. If you read the story Laura explains why. My organization is not against the Ethiopian people, we do not have any agenda expect to support sustainable ideas for the Middle East, for the planet. I know the Ethiopia dam issue is always a sore spot with Ethiopians when we bring it up here, but such a dam could have devastating impacts on the region. We have never denounce Ethiopians ever. I love Ethiopians. They are sweet, gentle, kind and have an excellent way of dancing.

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