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Lifesavers: Why efficient cookstoves help us all

By News

Cooking with wood fuels is labour intensive. The wood must be found, cut, carried and dried before a person can prepare their meal. Very often, women are responsible for this vital work – and it comes at a great personal and global cost. 

Life-long exposure to wood smoke can be deadly. At least 3.2 million people die every year from respiratory illnesses linked to household air pollution, 450,000 of whom are under five years old. This is particularly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of households rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking.

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, women and children spend approximately 20 hours a week collecting wood for cooking in developing countries. This time-consuming labour takes away people’s capacity for studying and recreation, often creating educational inequities between the genders.

But burning wood fuels also comes at a global cost. Every year, 2 percent of the world’s emissions are released from these cooking activities – that’s approximately one gigatonne of CO2e. What’s more, when trees are cut and sold for charcoal production, it can destroy local biodiversity and reduce a forest’s capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. All the while there is an economic and subsistence need to fell trees, these practices will continue.

Our solutions

We wanted to work with best-in-class cookstove operators, BURN and C-Quest Capital, to complement our flagship portfolio projects. Both operating in Africa, these project developers are leading the production and distribution of efficient, clean cookstoves.

Clean cooking programme

Respira works with C-Quest Capital on its Malawi project. C-Quest’s TLC-CQC rocket stoves are approximately three times more efficient than traditional open fires. Not only does this reduce the need for firewood, but also saves women and girls up to two hours a day during which they would otherwise be occupied with collecting firewood and cooking over smokey fires. In its 10-year lifespan, the project expects to issue 30.7 million carbon credits corresponding to avoided greenhouse gas emissions. 

Efficient cookstoves

We work with BURN on its Kenyan cookstove project. Since 2017, BURN has distributed more than 600,000 of its Jikokoa cookstoves to households throughout the country to reduce reliance on charcoal. In one year, a Jikokoa cookstove emits four to five fewer tonnes of greenhouse gases than an open fire. Considered together, the stoves distributed in BURN’s Kenyan project prevented more than 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere in 2021.

Burn and C-Quest Capital each bring benefits on a local and global scale. Every day, these projects support households in Kenya and Malawi by replacing wood fuels and reducing the length of time people are exposed to toxic fumes while preparing food. At the same time, our flagship portfolio partners deliver strong climate action by preventing carbon emissions from wood fuels entering our atmosphere. In a climate emergency, we can’t choose between the local and global. We need projects to cater to both.