Globally, 3 billion people rely on rudimentary cooking fuels. These include kerosene, biomass such as dung and crop waste, and wood-base fuels such as firewood and charcoal. In Africa, 80% of people rely on wood-based fuels as a primary cooking fuel source. Reliance on these cause major health risks such as lung cancer and pneumonia, that result in the premature deaths of 3.8 million people every year. In our pilot city, Beira (Mozambique), over 27% of households have reported respiratory problems due to charcoal cooking from 2014-19.
The main reason why wood-based fuels are so harmful is the lack of full combustion when burning; carbon monoxide and particulates are present in high concentrations in the smoke produced. Poor ventilation in household cooking spaces exacerbates the problem, often effecting the entire family. Improved cook-stoves are being successfully introduced into communities to decrease the amount of toxic smoke produced, however this doesn't get rid of the problem completely, and the majority of people haven't yet got access to these.
Alternative gas-based fuels have been proven to be significantly less harmful as complete combustion is easily achieved, however in low-income high density communities, these are very limited. LPG is barely available, and when it is, it is extremely expensive - upwards to ten times the price of charcoal. Biogas has seen a very positive uptake in our focus communities, however traditional systems are very costly and require a large footprint. Space is a commodity in the communities we are working with, and so our compact, portable solution is ideal.
Further to public health, charcoal reliance has a significant environmental and economic impact. Massive deforestation in the areas surrounding cities and towns decreases forest cover, crucial for decreasing global warming. Beira city sees 12045 ha of local forest cover destroyed every year to provide charcoal for use within the city.
The use of charcoal cooking in Mozambique has a significant economic impact by devaluing the countries wood resources. $700 million/yr of wood resources are used to create charcoal in the country, however charcoal sales can only realise $300 million/yr, devaluing the resource by 58%.
Massive deforestation dramatically increases soil erosion, increasing the frequency of flash floods and landslides, whist amplifying the damage caused by each event. Further, deforestation drives off native wildlife, a natural resource often used to drive GDP, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Taking Kenya as an example, Travel & Tourism (including associated activities) contributed more than 5.6% of GDP, with upwards of $7.9 billion generated in the country in 2018 The sector makes up 8.3% of Kenya's total employment. UNWTO found that 80% sales for international travel to Africa were for wildlife watching related activities.
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