Clean Cookstoves Must Be Rethought so They Actually Get Used in Developing World
Almost three billion people around the world—or 4 out of every 10 individuals—are exposed to high levels of smoke each day from traditional cookstoves. After water, indoor air pollution is the largest environmental threat to health in developing countries. Women and young children bear the brunt of these costs. Further, the reliance of the world’s poor on solid fuels for their cooking needs, in the end, affects us all through the release of carbon dioxide and black carbon that contribute to climate change.
Improved cookstoves and fuels, which emit less smoke and are more efficient, have great potential to improve respiratory health and stem the tide of climate change. In laboratories and under controlled conditions, they have been shown to reduce smoke exposure and greenhouse gas emissions. However, their effectiveness in the real world crucially depends on whether they are adopted and properly used when households make their own decisions about how to allocate time and resources.
In a recent working paper released by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, entitled “Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves,” we presented results from the largest randomized evaluation of an improved cooking stove program to date. The results were unfortunately discouraging: through four years of follow-up, we found that the stoves did not lead to long-run improvements in health and fuel use remained unchanged.