By Rosario Loayza and Alessandro Galimberti
Traditional cooking stoves consume a lot of energy and emit harmful fumes, leading to high rates of premature deaths. Improved cooking stoves are addressing this issue, making it possible for poor households to save money and reduce illnesses related to emissions. Looking at the example of Maputo, Mozambique Rosario Loayza and Alessandro Galimberti explain the benefits of such efficient kitchen appliances.
A challenging context that requires innovative solutions
In developing countries, the energy used for preparing food accounts for about 90% of all household energy consumption. In total, around 3 billion people still rely on biomass using open fires and inefficient stoves causing harmful pollution due to incomplete and inefficient combustion. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in these countries more than 4 million people die prematurely from illnesses attributable to household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. More than 50% of the deaths are children under the age of 5 who develop pneumonia caused by emissions from cooking. Exposure to such emissions is particularly high among women, babies and young children who tend to spend more time near their stoves.
Improved Cookstoves (ICS)1 are efficient, cleaner and safer solutions that reduce both fuel consumption and the production of harmful emissions that cause the illnesses mentioned above. But ICS do not only help improve people’s health, they also provide new economic opportunities. In poor communities, they give families the chance to save some of their income and use it for small investments or for better education, thereby enhancing their chances of earning better salaries. The women save time when using an ICS, providing them with the benefit of being able to work elsewhere and earn extra income. Finally, ICS’s more efficient combustion technology allows for a more advantageous use of the local biomass, which, in turn, contributes to the reduction of forest degradation as well as greenhouse gases (GHG).
Promoting improved cookstoves: Energising Development
In this context, promoting the use of ICS has become one of the targets of todays’ largest worldwide energy access programme: Energising Development (EnDev). EnDev is a joint impact-oriented programme between Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Australia, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Sweden, with co-funding from the European Union. It cooperates with governments, NGOs and the private sector in 26 partner countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Additional donors can easily join the programme thanks to its dynamic organisation, making EnDev an example of successful donor harmonisation.
In Mozambique, EnDev is engaged in the densification of the electricity grid, micro hydropower plants, pico photovoltaic systems and also ICS. The programme works with various implementing partners by supporting their production and distribution chains, thereby contributing to the construction of local know-how and experience rather than directly subsidising product prices. The approach in the ICS sector includes actions such as: product marketing, awareness raising, improving local production of the stoves, introducing new technologies as well as establishing and scaling industrial and semi-industrial production facilities to ensure high quality technologies that comply with EnDev and international standards.
EnDev also furthers the engagement of the private sector and local NGOs by reducing market entrance barriers and creating rural commercialisation networks for renewable energies. Through these diverse lines of action, the programme offers a comprehensive answer to a complex reality.
Charcoal production one of the driving forces of forest degradation in Mozambique
Fuel wood collection and charcoal production constitutes one of the driving forces of forest degradation in southern Africa and especially in Mozambique. There is a strong relationship between wood fuels production and forest degradation (Pereira et al. 2001, Argola 2004, Marzoli 2007). Charcoal production and firewood sales take place mainly in areas surrounding the cities and along the major roads. This confirms that urban consumption of charcoal and wood causes great impact on the forest ecosystem.
The consumption of wood fuels (firewood and charcoal) was estimated at about 9.3 and 5.5 million tons/year in the rural and urban areas, respectively, reaching 14.8 million tons at the national level (Sitoe et al. 2007). These estimates are equivalent to a per capita consumption of 1–1.2 cubic metres per year. This figure is higher than the volume of annual allowable cut for commercial timber, raising concerns about the sustainability of wood fuel production (Sitoe, A., Salomão, A. and Wertz-Kanounnikoff, S. 2012). It is estimated that only 10% of the firewood and charcoal that enters the cities of Maputo and Matola is supplied by licenced producers (Pereira 2001).
The production of charcoal is associated with a greater environmental impact than firewood production, especially in peri-urban areas (FAO 2010), and it is considered one of the main causes of deforestation in Africa (Cuvilas et al. 2010). This happens because charcoal is usually produced from a tree’s main stems or large branches, and requires tree cutting (Girard 2002). The charcoal industry that supplies urban centers operates over large areas, and relocates when the production areas have been depleted (Pereira et al. 2001).
Mozambique’s need to decrease health risks and high expenses related to charcoal use
Mozambique’s need for ICS can be estimated at over 4 million households of which 1.2 million are in urban areas and 3.2 million in rural areas.
The capital city of Maputo has approximately 1.2 million inhabitants, with at least 800,000 living in informal settlements, i.e. slums where 80% of households rely on charcoal and use inefficient traditional cooking stoves, emitting harmful pollutants. In Mozambique, exposure to indoor air pollution is the third leading cause of death after malaria and AIDS-related illnesses. To make things worse, the price of charcoal has rapidly increased over the past years and can currently absorb up to 25% of a monthly family income.
Although the majority of these families use electricity for lighting, they continue to use mainly charcoal for cooking. A study of the costs of different sources of energy, conducted in the city of Beira (Egas 2006), revealed that charcoal was the most expensive source (compared to electricity and gas) per energy unit. The initial investment to purchase an ICS remains the main obstacle for the transition.
Creating sustainable markets and access to ICS through carbon credits
In this context, carbon finance2 is one of EnDev’s strategies to promote the development of a sustainable market for cleaner and more efficient cookstoves. The aim is to change the funding dynamic for these projects, helping them transition from a traditional focus on donor aid to a more sustainable one that attracts investments from the private sector.
In order to increase ICS affordability for low-income households, EnDev has successfully linked carbon credit trading companies with programme implementers in Mozambique since 2013. The AVSI Foundation3 is one of the organisations that combines the commercialisation of ICS with the generation and trade of Certified Emission Reductions (CER’s) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM, within the framework of UNFCCC4) and under the Gold Standard mechanisms. The project’s emission reductions have been certified and sold through global carbon markets, thereby making higher quality and more efficient stoves affordable for low-income consumers through the discounts they get when they agree to hand over their CER rights to AVSI.