SEATTLE — Traditional cookstoves in Nigeria, which pollute the air in households, are a leading cause of death and disability. In Nigeria, 83,000 people die prematurely from issues related to the smoke released by cookstoves.
Asake, a woman in Nigeria, routinely spends 14 hours a day inhaling smoke that she uses to dry fish with a kiln powered by an open fire. Her eyes water profusely and she wheezes heavily, but she insists that anyone who works with kilns is used to it. A very inefficient process, the kiln takes 18 to 24 hours to dry a single load of fish.
Seventy-five percent of cookstoves in Nigeria use solid fuels, which leads to environmental degradation and requires time and labor from women who must collect the biomass, decreasing their ability to pursue schooling or a source of income. The pollution from these cookstoves can contribute to chronic illnesses such as early childhood pneumonia, emphysema, cataracts, lung cancer, bronchitis and cardiovascular disease.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has a goal to install clean cookstoves in 100 million homes by 2020. The alliance has funded a national testing center to assess the quality of fuels and cookstoves in Nigeria, encouraged the Ministry of the Environment to implement incentives to adopt new technology and implemented a program to motivate women to switch to cleaner cookstoves.
Sadly, these efforts have faced many obstacles. Healthy cookstoves are often too expensive. Expectations for how food tastes and “stove stacking” — using a clean cookstove in addition to the old cooking method — are additional barriers to adoption of safer technology.
A possible solution is in the form of climate credits, a system that allows women using clean cookstoves to receive compensation for the reduced carbon emissions. A field study in India installed 456 sensors to measure household air pollution, allowing women to receive accurate compensation for reducing their household pollution levels.
This economic incentive to use clean cookstoves proved to be more powerful than health incentives, since money is a more immediate concern for many than long-term health consequences. To scale up this method, financing could come from developed nations that pledged to contribute to climate financing during the 2015 Paris Agreement. The creativity of this solution illustrates a commitment to improving the lives of people with unhealthy cookstoves that will not be deterred.
– Kristen Nixon