Clean cook stoves promote sustainability of local resources
Clean cook stoves are helping to decrease the use of fuel wood and promote the sustainability of local resources. These stoves use 50 to 70 percent less fuel, usually in the form of wood or charcoal, the primary sources of energy for many impoverished people in the world.
With almost half of all deforestation caused by subsistence agriculture, the portion dedicated to wood fuel collection—5 percent—seems negligible in comparison. But, using wood for cooking or heating in an area with a lack of trees exacerbates local resources, and hampers the sustainability of these local environments.
Cook stove projects are implemented throughout the developing world, primarily to assuage the health perils of indoor air pollution, which leads to 1.6 million deaths annually. Cooking on an open fire inside the home, using traditional methods such as the three stone stove, causes indoor air pollution. In this system, a pot is balanced on three stones of similar height while a fire burns underneath. The smoke given off is trapped within the home, triggering health problems for a household. And, because heat escapes into the open air, this form of cooking requires more fuel.
“Many people believe that wood energy is a main driver for deforestation, though deforestation and forest degradation at a global level is rather a consequence of conversion of the forests for agricultural purposes such as large scale productions for pasture, oil palms, soy beans, or for subsistence production,” Florian Steierer, forestry officer of wood energy at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, told MediaGlobal News.
Steierer explained, “Clean cook stoves are part of a solution towards sustainable use of the natural resources for domestic heating and cooking.”
Sustainable harvesting allowed for 3.4 billion cubic meters of wood removals in 2005 alone, 40 percent of which was wood fuel removals. When properly sourced, there is little danger of forest degradation because foresters harvest less than or as much as regrows over the same period of time.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, fuel wood represents 91.5 percent of energy consumption. That, along with agriculture, is the biggest cause of deforestation and forest degradation in the DRC. Currently, the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) is taking an active role in providing cook stoves as a way of promoting sustainability.
A UN-REDD initiative is underway to bring cook stoves to 3 million DRC households. Meanwhile, the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, introduced by Hilary Clinton and led in part by the United Nations Foundation in September 2010, aims to have 100 million homes adopt clean cook stoves by 2020.
“If wood and charcoal are sourced sustainably—trees are not actually cut down but just trimmed for their branches or through coppicing or tree management with new trees planted after others are cut down—it will not result in any deforestation,” said Ewan Bloomfield, energy consultant of Practical Action, a United Kingdom-based charity that aids impoverished communities around the world with practical anti-poverty solutions, including simple cook stoves.
There are various types of clean stoves that are currently in use in the developing world. Rocket stoves, for example, have an L-shaped combustion chamber that partially combusts gas and smoke inside the stove. The Latin American version of the rocket stove has a chimney and is elevated from the ground, with a flat griddle for making tortillas.
Advanced biomass stoves are another variety of clean stove solutions. There are two types of the advanced biomass stove, the forced air stove and the gasifier, which run on “biomass,” a live form of solid fuel, such as wood or charcoal. The forced air stove has a fan that blows jets of air into a combustion chamber that thoroughly combusts the fuel. The gasifier stove burns fuel inside, propelling the flames upward and out of the stove, where a cooking pot would sit on top. These biomass burning stoves significantly reduce the emissions that cause millions of deaths and deteriorate health.
“It is unlikely that other sustainably sourced household cooking fuels that are competitive with wood and charcoal are going to be found in the near future for the majority of poor people in the world, at least in the short term,” Bloomfield said. “Cook stoves that use wood and charcoal still do have an important role to play.” Not only do these stoves promote health and wellness in the form of clean air, but they ensure an abundance of fuel to cook with and heat homes, while positively affecting the green life of their local environments.