Story of Change: Clean cookstoves for schools in Ghana

October 2019

Blog

This is a story of how two Ghanaian civil society organisations (CSOs) worked with champions within local and national government to develop a clean cooking strategy and improve children’s and caterer’s quality of life in schools. Thanks to this cooperation between community-based CSOs and champion female policy makers, government and civil society are improving lives by introducing clean cookstoves across Ghana.

Setting the scene: Open fire cooking at school

If you enter a school kitchen in Ghana, you will most likely find caterers cooking on an open fire.

They will tell you that they spend large portions of their incomes on firewood and charcoal for cooking, and that the resulting smoke poses a health risk to both themselves and the children. According to Miss Mavis Amisah, a caterer for the Nsawam Adoagyiri Cluster of Schools, “the smoke makes me cry every day because it enters my eyes while fanning the fire. I end up breathing all the smoke –  which may kill me one day”.

Miss Mavis Amisah is not alone. In fact, cooking in patriarchal societies has long been the job of women and young girls, and lack of access to clean cooking fuels means that women rely on firewood, crops residue and cow dung for cooking. They travel long distances looking for fuel wood, leading to loss of their productive, working and school hours. On top of this, more than 18,000 premature deaths[1] in Ghana are attributed to household air pollution, in large part due to traditional cooking.

This is the story of the Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Fuels (GHACCO) and the Organisation for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS). These two Ghanaian CSOs realised that the school system and caterers lack awareness of, resources for and access to cleaner cooking options. They decided to do something about it.

 

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Miss Mavis Amisah, frying fish for school meals on open fire at a basic school.

Building capacity

Both Ghacco and Orgiis participate in the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme in Ghana. Through V4CP, their staff and volunteers developed their capacities to advocate for change by generating and strategically using sound evidence. This bolstered their confidence and advocacy for clean cooking both at the national and district levels, and their engagement with the private sector.

Armed with sound evidence on the health implications of the use of traditional cookstoves, and a results-based advocacy plan, they set to work to identify clean cooking champions within multiple levels of government.

National level actions

With GHACCO’s ambitions and energy high, they decided to catch the attention of no other than the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development herself, Mrs. Hajia Alima Mahama.

After hearing their story, Hon Minister Alima Mahama was shocked to learn of the impact of cooking over open fire on women and children and vowed to do something about it. Thanks to GHACCO’s engagement, she joined the Global Leadership Council of the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) in November 2017.  

GHACCO and partners, including SNV, ORGIIS, CCA and another NGO, World Education Incorporated, had highlighted the issue. But they are also problem-solvers. As soon as the opportunity arose, they raised the need for school caterers to adopt clean cooking with the minister. GHACCO urged her to request increased funding from CCA and World Bank for clean cooking interventions, and offered its support to design a clean cooking programme both at national and district level (which falls under her ministry).

Alongside engagements with the minister, with support of V4CP, GHACCO and ORGIIS also designed and implemented a sensitisation and training of caterers and municipality staff on the environmental, health and economic benefits of clean cooking. The private sector was strategically involved in the campaign, as manufacturers of improved stoves showcased their stoves at the community level. This sparked the awareness and expansion of the market.

District level actions

But having the support of the national government would not be enough on its own. A lot of power lies with the District Assemblies, since they appoint the school caterers, decide on their payments, and are responsible for clean cooking interventions at the district level.

This is where ORGIIS members decided they would focus their efforts, specifically in the Kassena Nankana West District and the Kassena Nankana Municipality.

ORGIIS engaged with district assembly members to prepare them for the likely clean cooking directives from the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, which would be released as soon as funds become available.

Additionally, ORGIIS specifically engaged female assembly members to ensure the uptake of clean cooking in the medium-term development plans of the districts. Seeing  unclean cooking disproportionately impacts women and girls, it was powerful to have female champions highlighting this issue. ORGIIS built the assembly members’ capacities in clean cooking issues. This resulted in the female Assembly members calling for similar presentations for other women organisations in the district.

According to Mr. Alhassan Abdul Baqi, Assistant Planning Officer for Navrongo Municipal Assembly working to streamline clean cooking into his municipality:

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“ORGIIS has built the capacities of staff and Assembly members to serve as change makers in the community. It has provided platforms for the Municipal Assembly to talk about clean cooking, supported the Municipal Assembly to develop a clean cooking strategy, and supported its mainstreaming into development plans of departments. Progress towards mainstreaming clean cooking in the Municipality is far advanced and very soon it will be completed.”

            – Mr Abdul Baqi, Deputy Planning Officer, Navrongo Municipal Assembly.

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Impact at scale

“Our efforts have born more fruit than we could have imagined”, said Mr. Raymond Kusorgbor, GHACCO’s National Programme Officer. Just two years after the initiation of their efforts, GHACCO and ORGIIS are already witnessing the impact in their communities and beyond.

At the national level, Hon. Minister Alima Mahama had supported the start of a pilot project in 10 schools in the Northern and Southern parts of Ghana, which was implemented by World Education Incorporated and GHACCO with the support of CCA. Thanks to the success of this pilot, there are plans to scale up the program by extending it to 100 schools throughout Ghana.

In fact, the impact is seeping from the schools across the wider communities. After the GHACCO campaign, one of the school’s headmasters, Mr. Edem Gbeckor-Kove, started a part-time job after school to share the benefits of clean cooking with his community. So far, he has distributed 100 improved stoves in the community in just 2 months.

At the district level, much has changed as well. At a stakeholder conference organised by ORGIIS, for the first time, the assemblies voiced their desire and willingness to develop a clean cooking strategy which will guide the implementation of clean cooking activities in the assemblies. The Assemblies requested the support of ORGIIS in drafting this strategy in line with the Medium-Term Development Plans so as to enable them to draw activities from it annually for implementation.

According to Mr. Alhassan Abdul-Baqi, deputy Planning Officer for Navrongo Municipal assembly, “clean cooking issues are now discussed at sub-committee meetings, Executive meetings and General Assemblies Sessions. Also, clean cooking is now part of the Municipal Chief Executive sessional address. Access to affordable energy services is an essential prerequisite to achieving economic growth and poverty reduction in the Municipality.”

According to the Executive Director of ORGIIS, Mr. Julius Awaregya,  “the Assemblies realised on their own - upon our engagement with them - the need to develop clean cooking strategies. They have developed a work plan demonstrating their commitment to operationalise the clean cooking strategy, which when fully developed, will help attract the needed investment and keep the Assemblies focused on turning words into action.”

Thanks to ORGIIS’ continued community engagement, there is increased awareness in schools and communities on the need for clean cooking, and community members engage with their municipal and district representatives on the issue.

Conclusion

By connecting community knowledge with government champions, the clean cooking movement in Ghana is gaining ground. GHACCO and ORGIIS, in collaboration with national and district level officials, have successfully attracted investment to clean cooking, reduced health challenges related to the use of unimproved cookstoves, and increased public awareness on the gendered impacts of unclean cooking. With a vision to improve the lives of many, civil society and government are supporting each other to make clean cooking a reality.

Who we are

The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) strengthens the capacities of CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

 

[1] Clean Cooking Alliance, Ghana, https://www.cleancookingalliance.org/country-profiles/focus-countries/1-ghana.html


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