Cookstoves aren’t just a cost-saving, old-fashioned way of cooking for those of us that choose to live self-sufficiently.
Nearly three billion people around the world rely on fires for cooking, often in poorly designed stoves with the worst kind of fuel (damp wood, coal, animal feces, etc.). These open fires, usually maintained inside the home, release toxic pollutants into the air at levels far higher than the recommended limits set by the World Health Organization, resulting in severe health issues for those in constant exposure. As a result, scores of people (estimated in the millions by at least one study) die every year from indoor air pollution.
These people, living in poor or impoverished countries, have no choice but to turn to cookstoves for food. Many lack the luxury of an education system to show them the hazards of smoke and poor fuel, forcing them into a vicious cycle of deteriorating health. However, this may be changing.
In 2010, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves began. Under the banner of the United Nations Foundation, the goal of the alliance is to get clean cookstoves and fuel into 100 million households in need by 2020. It has been an enormously difficult undertaking, but significant progress has been made in just the last year.“The Alliance has grown considerably during the past year with now over 1,000 partners in the public, private, and NGO arenas actively engaging in the sector,” executive director of the Alliance, Radha Muthiah, said in a recent online posting. “We continue to build the evidence base for health, environment, and gender interventions, with some very promising early results from our child survival studies around the world.”
The goal of the Alliance isn’t just to throw money at the problem. Rather, it looks to educate the millions of people affected via awareness campaigns specifically targeting each country. These campaigns include information on basic chimney maintenance, ventilation, and how certain fuels contribute to negative health effects. And it seems to be working so far.
“We are now closer to achieving a set of global standards that will help us deliver high-quality, effective, and independently tested products,” Muthiah said.
Read about the Cookstove Alliance here to learn more and find out how to get involved.