Towards safe and sustainable cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa

10 Jan 2014 15:17:49.347


Researchers from The University of Nottingham are carrying out an in-depth investigation to try to find out why cleaner and safer cook stoves are not being adopted widely in Southern Africa. 

The team has been awarded a £685,000 grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Department for International Development and Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to find out why some communities in developing countries in Africa are not using ‘improved’ cook stoves which are now widely available.

It’s estimated that 2.7 billion people worldwide rely on burning biomass fuels like wood, charcoal and animal dung, and many cook on open fires inside their homes. This way of cooking is fuel inefficient and dangerous with women and children exposed to harmful levels of wood-smoke, a major cause of lung disease and early death.

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Legacy of open fires in homes

Traditional ‘open’ cook stoves are also estimated to contribute around a third of global carbon monoxide emissions with the black carbon particles and other pollutants in biomass smoke adding to global warming.    

Associate Professor of Engineering, Dr Mike Clifford, said: “We aim to unravel a mystery about why some countries in East Africa have successfully adopted improved cook stoves whilst in other countries like Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique uptake has been much less spectacular. Old cooking habits die hard for reasons of cost, lack of fuel and cultural resistance to change, but we can learn from successful cook stove projects like the ‘Jiko’ stove, which uses 50% less fuel than traditional stoves or open fires in places like Kenya and Uganda.”

Barriers to uptake explored 

Co-investigator Dr Sarah Jewitt from the School of Geography added: “We are using a multi-disciplinary approach with input from engineers, social scientists, nongovernmental organisations, stove manufacturers and distributors. This is essential if we are to fully understand the barriers to the uptake of new cooking technology”

They are joined by Research Fellow, Dr Charlotte Ray who will help to better understand socio-economic and cultural factors that influence stove and fuel choices in different parts of Africa. Other project partners include international development charity ‘Practical Action’, The Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, Hedon, the Household Energy Network, Ashden, and Universities in, Zambia, Malawi and Nigeria.

For more information, please visit the Barriers website.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Mike Clifford, Faculty of Engineering, on +44 (0)115 846 6134 

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