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Clean Cookstoves in Uganda: Challenges and Solutions.

a group of children carrying firewood
A group of children carrying firewood. Photo by Nelly Salvatore of Green Lens Uganda

In Uganda, traditional cookstoves have been used for cooking and heating for many years. However, these stoves are often inefficient and produce high levels of smoke and pollutants, which can cause respiratory diseases and other health problems, particularly for women and children who spend more time indoors. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels is responsible for over 4 million premature deaths per year, with women and children disproportionately affected.

The time and effort required to collect firewood is a significant challenge associated with the use of traditional cookstoves in Uganda. Often, women and children are responsible for this task, which involves walking long distances and carrying heavy loads. This not only consumes valuable time but also exposes them to various risks and challenges.

For women and children who are responsible for collecting firewood, the journey can be dangerous and physically demanding. They may have to walk long distances through forests or other remote areas, which can put them at risk of attack or animal encounters. In addition, carrying heavy loads of firewood can lead to injuries and health problems, particularly for young children.

Additionally, the time spent collecting firewood detracts from other crucial activities, such as attending school or engaging in income-generating activities. This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and limit opportunities for women and children, further exacerbating their struggles.

Young girls carrying heavy loads of firewood
Young girls carrying heavy loads of firewood. Photo by Nelly Salvatore of Green Lens Uganda

To address this issue, several organizations have been working to promote the use of clean cookstoves in Uganda. These stoves use cleaner burning fuels or have improved designs that reduce emissions and fuel consumption. However, there are still challenges to the widespread adoption of clean cookstoves in Uganda.

One of the main challenges is the cost of clean cookstoves. While they can save households money in the long run by reducing fuel consumption, the upfront cost can be a barrier for low-income households. Another challenge is the lack of awareness about the health and financial benefits of using clean cookstoves. Many households may not be willing to invest in a new stove without more education.

Despite the efforts to increase the adoption of clean cookstoves in Uganda, they may not be easily accessible in all parts of the country, particularly in remote or rural areas. A report by the Uganda National Alliance for Clean Cooking (UNACC) revealed that as of 2020, only 15% of households in Uganda had access to clean cooking solutions. This is a significant concern, especially considering that the government has set a target of achieving universal access to clean cooking by 2030.

To address these challenges, several strategies can be employed. One is to provide subsidies or other financial incentives to make clean cookstoves more affordable for low-income households.

Education campaigns and training programs can also help to raise awareness about the benefits of using clean cookstoves, as well as how to properly use and maintain them.

Local production of clean cookstoves can also increase availability in remote or rural areas. To ensure the sustained use of clean cookstoves, the design approach must incorporate user feedback. The design process should take into account the needs and preferences of the end-users to ensure that the resulting product is user-friendly and meets their expectations. Incorporating user feedback can lead to greater acceptance and adoption of clean cookstoves, as users are more likely to use a product that meets their needs and is easy to use. Therefore, design teams must prioritize the inclusion of user feedback in the design process to create cookstoves that are effective, efficient, and widely accepted.

A girl Child with a bundle of firewood
A girl Child with a bundle of firewood, Photo by Nelly Salvatore of Green Lens Uganda

Several organizations have researched clean cookstoves in Uganda to better understand the challenges and opportunities for their adoption. The Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC) located at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology at Makerere University has evaluated the performance of different types of cookstoves, finding that clean cookstoves had lower emissions of particulate matter and carbon monoxide than traditional stoves. CREEC provides technical assistance to cookstove manufacturers to improve the performance of their cookstove designs with regards to fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and black carbon.

Aprovecho Research Centre, an organization based in Oregon, United States, has conducted extensive research on the design and performance of clean cookstoves for the Ugandan market. Their research efforts have helped to identify effective and efficient cookstove designs that reduce harmful emissions and improve energy efficiency. Aprovecho has also developed equipment known as the Portable Emissions Monitoring System (PEMS), which measures a range of emissions including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide from cookstoves. By providing accurate and reliable data on cookstove emissions, the PEMS helps to inform the development of cleaner, more efficient cookstoves that can reduce the harmful health and environmental impacts of traditional cookstoves. The PEMS is available at CREEC and cookstove manufacturers can access this equipment at their cookstove laboratory.

The Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) is a global organization that works to promote clean cooking solutions. In Uganda, the CCA has partnered with the government and other organizations to promote the adoption of clean cookstoves. They have provided funding for research and development, as well as for education and awareness campaigns. Other organizations, such as GIZ and SNV, have also supported the Ugandan clean cookstove industry through funding and technical assistance.

Green Lens Uganda is an organization committed to promoting the adoption and continuous use of clean cookstoves in Uganda. Green Len’s approach involves the development of educational research-based visual content, such as photography and documentary films, to raise awareness about the benefits of using clean cookstoves, as well as the importance of proper maintenance and usage. By providing this information, Green Lens Uganda aims to encourage more households to adopt clean cookstoves and to ensure that they continue to use them effectively over time. Green Lens Uganda’s efforts align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which prioritize environmental conservation, climate change mitigation, and public health improvements.

In conclusion, traditional cookstoves in Uganda pose health risks and challenges for women and children who must walk long distances and carry heavy loads to collect firewood. Clean cookstoves can reduce these risks and also benefit the environment. However, cost and awareness hinder their adoption. A solution requires a multi-faceted approach including subsidies, education, and local production with user feedback. Collaboration between various stakeholders is essential. By adopting clean cookstoves, households and communities can enjoy significant health, environmental, and economic benefits.

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