Lack of clean cooking energy exposes women and children to increased risks in the midst of COVID-19

Lack of clean cooking energy

This story is part of a special feature by the Voice for Change Partnership and partner civil society organisations on Sustainable and Affordable Clean Energy, originally published in the Daily Nation (27 March 2020). Read stories from V4CP on Strengthening civil society capacity towards clean cooking solutions in Kenya, and from civil society partner CCAK on Recovery from rudimentary forms of cooking: focus on houshold air pollution.

In Kenya, 65 % of households (8.1 million people) use firewood as their primary cooking fuel. Out of this number, 71% of households use a woodstove as either their primary or secondary cookstove. A greater prevalence of these households (92%) are in rural areas. The use of firewood for cooking in Kenya has serious implications on public health. It exposes users to many health problems, especially lung diseases. An estimated 21,560 deaths are caused by household air pollution (HAP) every year (Clean Cooking Sector Study, 2019).

The uptake of improved and clean cooking technologies and fuels is still very low, especially in rural areas. A survey conducted by GROOTS Kenya in 2017 for Kitui County showed that 67% rely on traditional three-stone cooking stoves for everyday cooking. They cited high costs, technology suitability of improved jikos e.g. efficiency, ease of use and durability as some of the factors that determine the choice of the stove. In Kilifi County, a clean cooking context analysis found that 83% of the population use biomass, with a bigger percentage depending mainly on firewood and three-stones cooking method.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, restricted movement means that rural women and girls who mainly depend on biomass for cooking will face difficulties fetching firewood that is mainly sourced from nearby forests/areas.

GROOTS Kenya, in collaboration with SNV through the Voice for Change Partnership has been promoting increased adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels in Kenya through interventions at both demand and supply sides. Working with rural women clean cooking champions is one of the approaches that has brought attention to the clean cooking energy agenda to both policy makers and the public, with a few counties gradually picking up this priority for planning and budgeting. Such efforts need to be accelerated as air pollution is an ongoing global crisis.

GROOTS Kenya is a national movement of grassroots women-led community-based groups (CBOs) and Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Kenya, we empower women to be champions in development and effective leaders and agents of change in their communities. GROOTS Kenyan partnership with SNV is implementing the Voice for Change Program, The projects overall goal is to facilitate an enabling environment for increased adoption of clean stoves and fuels in Kenya.  GROOTS Kenya seeks to achieve this by supporting counties develop clean cooking plans entrenched into policy and working with member of the private sector and local women entrepreneurs to model alternative modern technologies and employ the champions model a cross counties in Kenya to increase voices demanding for implementation of clean cooking related policies and programs.

The Writer is the CEO of GROOTS Kenya, Ms. Fridah Githuku.

Email: chief_officer@grootskenya.org