The dissemination of clean and efficient cookstoves in the developing world produces a triple dividend of improved health, environmental protection, and socioeconomic development with significant local and global implications.
Socioeconomic development: A clean and efficient cookstove reduces fuel costs and helps break the cycle of poverty, malnutrition, and disease.Less time spent cooking for women can shift some of the burden of labor away from children and provide women more opportunity for economic productivity. Giving women more time out of the kitchen creates opportunity for the family and for society.
Health: A clean burning stove provides a comprehensive preventive health intervention akin to smoking cessation for the whole family with significant ramifications for child survival as well as the prevention of chronic diseases.
Environment: While governments struggle to agree on fossil fuel regulations, efficient cookstoves provide a direct solution to reduce the potent yet quickly reversible warming effects of black carbon. Inefficient biomass fires for cooking and heating in the developing world are a major contributor to black carbon emissions (which in total account for 40% of current net warming).In a Copenhagen Consensus paper, climate scientists suggest that clean cookstoves will help slow warming trends in the near-term and buy much needed time for curbing greenhouse gases.
What kind of stove accomplishes the triple dividend? Modern biomass (usually wood) cookstoves fitted with highly efficient combustion chambers and proper ventilation have become the standard way to achieve the triple dividend of the improved cookstove.A collaborative design process with local users helps to assure that the cookstove suits local cooking practices.Dissemination models vary widely but many involve stove gifting by development agencies or charities while others attempt a market-based approach.Lab and community testing, as well as ongoing monitoring and evaluation, are necessary to demonstrate that the cookstove program model is effective in achieving the triple dividend.
What about a stove powered by gas or a liquid fuel? It is true that upgrading to kerosene, liquid petroleum gas, or ideally a biogas converted from local crop residues would be highly efficacious at improving health and reducing emissions; however, the lack of available small-scale energy conversion technologies, reliable distribution channels, and secure pricing for liquid fuels makes outright switching unrealistic in many developing world communities.