News & Media
News and Media
Across sub-Saharan Africa, families cook on smoky biomass stoves that threaten their health and contribute to climate change. A new SEI report shows how to spur a switch to clean, efficient ethanol stoves.
Globally, an estimated 2.4 billion people rely on biomass fuels – wood, charcoal, dung cakes – for cooking, with serious health, socioeconomic, climate and environmental consequences. Yet despite the benefits of well-designed, efficient ethanol stoves, take-up is often low.
SEI researchers set out to find out why, taking a novel approach: Rather than asking what about the households affects their stove choice, they surveyed more than 1,000 families in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique, asking what about the stoves makes them more or less attractive.
“To date, research regarding the determinants of stove choice at the household level has focused mainly on socio-economic attributes, such as income, age, gender and education,” says SEI researcher Fiona Lambe, “while the role of product-specific attributes, such as safety, indoor smoke, usage cost and stove price, have been given less attention.”
Lambe presented the team’s findings April 14 at the European Parliament in Brussels, as part of “Clearing the Smoke: Promotion of CleanCook Ethanol Fuel Stoves in Developing Countries,” an event sponsored by MEP Christofer Fjellner for EU Sustainable Energy Week.Reaching out to African families
The study involved a stated preference survey to investigate household-level preferences of cooking fuels and stoves; researchers polled 200 households in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 564 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and 402 in Maputo, Mozambique.
The research team applied an alternative methodology, discrete choice analysis, which is commonly used in transportation studies, to assess the trade-offs among attributes affecting household cooking choice. There were focus group discussions as well as individual interviews.
The survey revealed that cost – both of the stoves, and of ethanol – is a major factor for low-income families; in Ethiopia, for example, ethanol stoves might dominate the market if their price were cut in half. Similarly, if ethanol is considerably more expensive than charcoal, the cleaner stoves are a tougher sell. For wealthier households, meanwhile, the key considerations are safety and minimising smoke.
SEI researcher Takeshi Takama, lead author of a new report on the project, says the findings will be particularly valuable to stove project operators designing clean cooking stoves and to policymakers setting subsidies for fuels and stoves.
“This shows the policy design should depend on the target market,” he says. And to the extent that Africa’s poorest families are targeted, affordability must be the priority. “The stove cannot be too perfect and expensive.”Download the SEI research report: Will African Consumers Buy Cleaner Fuels and Stoves?