AUSTIN, Texas — Poverty and air quality prove to be a loop of cause and effect. One variable is capable of causing an increase or decrease in the other and vice versa. Stove quality is a major factor in the indoor air pollution of homes in poverty. Without clean sources of cooking, families in poverty may find themselves stuck in the cycle of worsening air quality. The Cookstove Project in Uganda aims to address the destructive impact of open fire cooking in developing countries.
The Impacts of Open Fire Cooking
Approximately 2.6 billion people worldwide still cook on open fires or “simple stoves” using polluting fuels such as kerosene, coal and biomass. The majority of these individuals live in poverty and come from low- and middle-income countries. Fossil fuel burning alone causes half of the world’s deaths. This high rate is due to fine-particle pollution and most of these deaths occur in developing countries where poverty rates are high. When individuals burn these fuels, the fuels release a number of health-damaging pollutants, such as smoke, that penetrate the lungs. According to a 2015 article, indoor air pollution from black carbon causes 4.3 million global deaths annually — a severe consequence for families in poverty who cannot afford clean cooking stoves. Many of the affected individuals are women and children who spend the most time around household cooking fires.
The Cookstove Project in Uganda
The Cookstove Project in Uganda has provided citizens with clean cooking stoves beginning in 2013. There are now 20 employees working in the Mukono and Nakasongola districts of the country. Since its beginnings, the initiative has helped in the creation of more than 10,000 cookstoves in Uganda. Because citizens must be able to maintain the cookstoves themselves, The Cookstove Project in Uganda uses local materials and the stoves are made to fit cooking pots in the home. In order to be sure that families know how to properly use the cookstoves that the project builds, workers ask the citizens to help build them. Families learn how to work and maintain the stoves and evaluation officers visit to address any difficulties arising.
Expanding into New Territories
The project has noted so much growth that, in 2019, The Cookstove Project in Uganda was able to expand its help into new territories. When the project expands, leaders look for individuals in the new community who are enthusiastic about The Cookstove Project in Uganda and care about their fellow citizens. The project then trains up to 10 of these individuals to be the area’s “Cookstove Masters.” The project has also created a new position, a Sustainability Advocate (SA), to help with the exit of the initiative from areas. Sustainability Advocates further ensure that households “are trained to maintain their cookstoves” and visit homes to help with issues if necessary. These measures allow for the work of the project to be self-sustaining.
The link between indoor air pollution due to inefficient cooking stoves and poverty in developing countries is undeniable and poses a serious threat to the health of low-income individuals who find themselves facing the effects. However, with careful consideration and the implementation of cleaner, sustainable cooking stoves by The Cookstove Project in Uganda, there is hope for a future with less indoor pollution in Uganda.
– Katelyn Rogers