Lessons from Ghana: The Power of Clean Cookstoves
It doesn't matter where in the world you are, one thing remains the same: Women do what is necessary to nurture and support their families. A poignant example of this is cooking.
For billions of people, mostly women, the simple act of cooking a meal for their families comes with enormous health and safety risks. In many homes, women have to cook using large amounts of charcoal, wood, and dung on open, smoky fires. The smoke from these fires is responsible for over 4 million deaths a year, and women can face grave dangers when collecting wood and other materials to use as cooking fuel.
This week in Ghana, I met women who take responsibility for cooking both for their family and for income generating purposes.
Lydia lives in Tema, Ghana, where she brews pita (Ghanaian beer) in two large pots over a huge indoor cooking fire. Sales of this potent beverage are her main source of income. She is responsible for the household’s domestic work, tending to her five children, and supporting the family financially because her husband, blind for many years, has been unable to work.
Lydia shows great determination in her work, and although she saw the value in clean cooking solutions, she has not been able to use them. While there is an LPG refilling station nearby, she is unable to adopt an LPG cooking option yet due to affordability, accessibility and supply barriers. She needs a clean stove both for her household needs and for her business. She is willing to pay but would like the support of a payment plan to facilitate the transition. The bottom line: Lydia knows that gas would be more efficient, cleaner, and better for her family's health, but she requires a consistent, reliable, and affordable supply of stoves and fuels that fit her needs.
The inextricable link between household and commercial cooking in Ghana became even clearer when I met with Faustina. Her means of cooking for her family and her business represent where Ghana is going, it is a clear and bright future with universal access to sustainable energy and economic growth.
To support her children and veteran husband, Faustina uses an industrial size LPG stove to produce beverages and snacks that she sells nearby. Using this clean cookstove, Faustina can cook for hours – making more products to sell without inhaling hazardous smoke all day.
We can learn from these women and the need to support clean cookstoves for small-scale businesses that take place in the home. Many factors must be taken into account as we work with a variety of local enterprises, networks, and organizations to build awareness for clean cooking, improve affordability, and enhance access to better solutions so that all households can transition to improved fuels.
While inefficient stoves and fuels pose challenges, clean stoves and fuels bring opportunities for healthier, more prosperous families. Ghana provides a powerful lesson of how clean cookstoves and fuels can transform lives.