Shifting the clean cooking paradigm with one simple step

Fire burning.

Traditional cooking on wood imposes a heavy toll on women who are generally the cooks in the household and children, who are exposed to smoke in the home. Also, the burden of firewood collection can often fall to women and children.

As a comparison, the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by the aviation industry equates to the accumulated smoke in developing world kitchens using firewood for cooking. In terms of health risks, smoke exposure has the same impact as smoking 10 cigarettes per day. Introducing cooking on fuel-efficient stoves can help to mitigate the problem. Modern energy such as LPG or electric cooking offers a solution in terms of convenience, smoke reduction and environmental benefits.

However, despite the benefits, there are a number of barriers in the transition to modern cooking energy. These include persistent cooking habits, (upfront) cost of clean cooking devices and fuels, the functionality of the stove, commercialisation of the supply and stove stacking -  using improved cookstoves along-side open fire cooking.

SNV recently tested an innovative cooking application invented by the NGO SUN 24, that addresses these blocks to a very large degree. This innovative approach involves placing rocks or a ceramic grate under an open wood fire. A simple, low-cost solution that will have no impact on cooking habits, ability to pay, technical functionality, commercialisation and stove stacking. Therefore, it has tremendous potential for upscaling and replication.

Bastiaan Teune, Global Cookstoves Coordinator for SNV explains "SUN 24 approached me and outlined their successes with the rock bed stoves. SNV has established testing capacities in a laboratory in Hanoi thanks to support from EnDev, and an experienced team who conduct many household energy surveys, therefore we were poised to bust the myth. To our astonishment, the lab and the field tests only confirmed the positive impact of rocks and grates”.

Graph of the thing in question.
Before and after comparison of the thing in question.

The data were scrutinised, and the results were statistically corroborated by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) scientists who concluded that a rock bed or grate under open fires reduces wood use by up 58% in lab tests and 45% in actual cooking. This application can reach the masses and shift the entire cooking paradigm: improved cooking can be offered cheaply!

The next step was to examine the dissemination by SUN 24, for which SNV Kenya has conducted a random household survey. These results, which look promising, will be published in an upcoming article.

In the meantime, SNV is committed to working with its partners to support this simple, yet incredible technology and bring this revolution to the cookstove sector!