Urgent action ‘needed for clean cooking, heating fuels’

The 'Istovu'
Copyright: Flickr/Russ Keyte, Cook Stoves for Africa

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  • Three billion people globally are exposed to smoke from inefficient cooking
  • Kenya could provide clean energy to 5 million citizens by 2020, an expert says
  • Experts call for partnerships to boost supply of clean and efficient cookstoves

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[NAIROBI] Urgent measures are needed to reduce exposure to smoke from traditional cooking and heating methods such as using solid fuels, which contribute to more than four million deaths a year globally, a conference has heard.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) organised the National Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, last week (4-7 February).

“Cooking is essential and should not kill,” says Radha Muthiah, the executive director of GACC.  “We need to form partnerships globally to ensure [the] provision of clean, affordable and accessible fuels.”

Muthiah adds that using clean, efficient and safe cookstoves can reduce fuel consumption and exposure to harmful smoke, provide economic opportunities for Kenyans and help reduce deforestation.

“Cooking is essential and should not kill.  We need to form partnerships globally to ensure [the] provision of clean, affordable and accessible fuels.”
Radha Muthiah, The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC)s

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 3 billion people globally are exposed to smoke resulting from traditional cooking and heating methods such as using firewood and leaky cookstoves.

Women and children are the most affected by the health problems associated with cookstove smoke, which contributes to more than 15,700 deaths in Kenya a year, says Muthiah, adding that 8,300 of the deaths occur in children mainly due to respiratory infections such as pneumonia attributed to smoke.

“Kenya could provide accessible, clean energy for at least 5 million citizens by the year 2020,” according to Muthiah. “This is our action plan’s vision and the ongoing market assessments and customer segmentations reveal that a significant number of Kenyans are willing to adopt clean cookstoves.”

Solomon Nzioka, an official from WHO country office in Kenya, says the WHO is concerned with the health impacts of indoor air pollution and is gathering data and raising awareness to help countries deal with the menace.

Donors have assured the GACC of their commitments, giving the alliance a financial boost, the conference learned.

GACC has invested US$3 million in grants and loans this year to support in its efforts to provide clean fuels to people globally.

In Kenya, the US government has awarded US$1 million to three local organisations to enable more Kenyans own and use efficient cookstoves, says Robert Gordec, the US ambassador to Kenya , adding that the US government has since 2010 committed US$125 million to the GACC.

Gordec calls for Kenya to bring together all stakeholders, including innovators and donors to help address the problem of lack of clean fuels.

Isaac Kalua, the founder and chairperson of Kenya-based Green Africa Foundation, tells SciDev.Net that there is an urgent need for measures to be put in place to ensure the sustainable provision of clean fuels to Kenyans.

 “We are losing people because of indoor [air] pollution and we therefore need urgent transition from traditional methods of cooking to modern technologies,” Kalua says, noting, however, that the affordability of the new technologies is a main challenge to providing clean fuels for all.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.