Understanding Improved Cookstove Projects
They're good for reducing emissions, labour, and improving health
When considering projects for carbon offsetting, improved cookstoves are an increasingly popular choice. However, understanding how exactly improved cookstoves avoid emissions may not be so clear. Quite simply, a carbon credit is generated when the emission of one tonne of carbon is avoided through reduced wood consumption. An improved cookstove can typically reduce between 1.5 and 4 tonnes of carbon per year, per household. These reductions are the basis upon which carbon credits are generated from improved cookstove projects.
In developing countries, large proportions of the population do not have easy access to energy, which means the collecting and burning of wood is essential for cooking. Whether it be via the most basic fire, lit within a ring of placed stones, or a basic clay stove, traditional methods use between 5 and 12kg of wood per day. Unsustainable methods of harvesting wood are also a major contributor to deforestation and forest degradation which has a direct impact on climate change. The income generated by the sale of carbon credits supports the transition towards more sustainable cooking and heating practices brought by improved cookstoves
Beyond reduced emissions, it is important to consider the human benefits of improved cookstove projects. It is estimated that an average household using traditional cooking methods spends on average 5 hours per day collecting wood. This is traditionally a duty of the women and children who, especially in tropical climates, will gather in the cooler times of the day – dusk and dawn. Cases of physical and sexual violence towards women and children during these gathering tasks are a very concerning effect – one which can be significantly reduced by the implementation of improved cookstoves that may reduce such tasks because they burn wood more efficiently; or increasingly negate such tasks by the delivery of biomass from agricultural waste, or alternative fuels by the project developer.
Furthermore, the effect on health from using traditional cooking methods cannot be overlooked. In fact, documented deaths occur from lung damage, especially within the woman and children populations who have the highest exposure to the smoke: “black carbon”. A final point to note is that any formal education children may have access to can be impeded by the requirement to perform the wood gathering tasks.
Many improved cookstove projects are heavily invested in educating local populations in effectively implementing improved cooking solutions, providing local improved healthcare and child education programmes. Gender equality and quality of life for children have seen vast improvements as a result of the funds that improved cookstove projects have delivered.
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