Clean Burn: Can a Stove Save Lives, Forests, and Africa’s Economy?
“Preparing food can be dangerous. The World Health Organization calls cooking “a threat to the lives of the great majority” of the world’s population because so few households have a proper stove, instead cooking indoors over open flame. In sub-Saharan Africa, preparing a meal is too often a slow, dirty process that fills the home with smoke equivalent to puffing two packs of cigarettes a day.”
Danish biotechnology firm Novozymes is trying to combat these threats by building stoves that burn ethanol, rather than wood, in Mozambique. The company announced an ambitious goal at the Clinton Global Initiative this week: to provide alternative cooking fuel to 20 percent of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, by 2014. The company, known for making biofuels, is partnering with the “food, energy and forest prevention company” CleanStar Ventures to offer an alternative ethanol-fueled stove and a locally-based system for producing the fuel.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent of homes burn charcoal or other biomass for cooking fuel, closer to cooking over a campfire than a kitchen range. To provide the charcoal for all those smokey ad hoc stoves, farmers have to chop down astonishing numbers of trees, which makes eating a danger to the planet, too. Already almost a third of Africa’s forests have been lost, mostly to charcoal harvesters.”