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When clean cooking is about more than washing up

World Vision
21 January 2013 by Kirstin Donaldson
When clean cooking is about more than washing up

Sometimes, after a long day, a lot of us see the task of making dinner as a bit of a chore.

Flicking on the gas burner, I fumble in the pantry for that packet of pasta languishing at the back and retrieve half an onion from the veggie bin, cobbling something together.

In some of the communities where World Vision works, making dinner requires a bit more effort.

Women and children can spend hours a day searching for, collecting and carrying wood for cooking fires, which transfer heat to food very inefficiently and emit smoke filled with pollutants that are damaging for your health.

We’re not just talking about a few of the poorest people in the world – 2.5 billion people still depend on burning biomass fuel for cooking.

New research estimates that 4 million deaths a year can be attributed to disease resulting from smoke inhalation from open cooking fires.

What can be done about all of this? People obviously need better cooking solutions.

More efficient, or ‘clean’ stoves can help reduce smoke, and reduce the amount of firewood required – also freeing up family members for other activities, and reducing harm to the environment.

But getting them right is a real challenge. What people cook and eat varies enormously around the world.

Lots of stove projects in the past haven’t worked because they didn’t meet users’ needs – they wouldn’t fit large pots on them, or people couldn’t make flatbreads because heat was too concentrated on one part of the pan.

World Vision has been working in Ethiopia with communities to trial lots of different stoves, so we can establish which ones best meet people’s needs.

Sometimes our most efficient stoves in terms of fuel aren’t favoured by local women, who prefer other models because they’re portable, or reduce smoke more, or are more affordable.

Trialling the models in local people’s kitchens means we know what works in that context (uneven floors, wind, damp wood in the wet season, kids running around) and that, in turn, makes our work more effective.

You can read more about our research on stoves, as well as this article I wrote for a sustainable development magazine.

Kirstin Donaldson is the Senior Policy Officer for Food Security at World Vision Australia.

 

2 Responses

  • Vivian in Sydney says:

    Before reading this I wouldn’t have even thought about stoves and their impact. I’m interested to know what kind local those communities in Ethiopia prefered?

    • Kirstin Donaldson says:

      Thanks for your comment Vivian, I’ve been interested to learn more about this issue through my work as well. In Ethiopia, we trialled a few different sorts of ‘rocket’ stoves, which are made to direct heat upwards through the stove and boil water very efficiently. Many local people preferred the model manufactured locally as it was a bit cheaper, although we had a few issues scaling up production to meet the demand! Others opted for the slightly more expensive but sturdier imported model called a StoveTec. But importantly, the local staple food in that part of Ethiopia is a large flatbread called injera (sort of like a huge savoury crumpet) which requires a low, even heat over a large surface to cook. Thankfully, a stove has been developed specifically to meet this need, so many families have actually opted to have more than one stove. Others might start to purchase their injera from others who have that specific stove, so we’re hoping that these stoves might also generate some income for local people as well… HOpe this helps!

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