Nearly three billion people around the world use traditional cookstoves and fuels. According to the World Health Organization, the resulting air pollution leads to an estimated four million preventable deaths per year.
In Ghana, about 70 percent of households cook by burning biomass including wood, charcoal, and crop residue in open fires. Despite significant public and private investment over the last decade in efforts to encourage the use of clean cookstoves, new approaches are needed to achieve substantial improvements in air quality and health.
This project aims to increase the adoption of innovative clean cooking technologies that reduce household air pollution. It takes a new, comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to address the problem that:
- Integrates behavioral approaches to understand and overcome obstacles to adopting clean-cooking technologies.
- Deploys an array of clean technologies, rather than providing households with a single option.
- Aims to transition entire communities to new cookware and energy sources in order to achieve significant health benefits that cannot be realized through the transition of only a few households in any given community.
- Examines broader infrastructural and regulatory barriers to adoption in order to facilitate transitions based on community needs.
The project focuses on a region in Ghana with nearly 30,000 people with the hope of dramatically and measurably improving public health and contributing to women’s empowerment, economic development, and better environmental quality. If successful, this effort should provide lessons that can be applied throughout Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Darby Jack, PhDColumbia UniversityRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Darby Jack, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Columbia University Medical College. He studies environmental health risks in developing countries, the health impacts of climate change...
Kelsey Jack, PhDUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kelsey Jack is an Associate Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research lies at the intersection...
Dr. Kwaku Poku AsanteKintampo Health Research CentreRead Full Bio arrow_right_alt
Kwaku Poku Asante is the Director of the Kintampo Health Research Centre in Ghana.
Nearly three billion people around the world use traditional cookstoves and fuels. This practice produces one-quarter of all black carbon emissions, leading to an estimated four million preventable pollution-related deaths each year. This tally includes half a million children under the age of five. Women are significantly affected as well due to exposure in the home, and because the burden of collecting firewood and other fuels falls primarily on women and girls.
About 70 percent of Ghana's population generates energy for cooking by burning biomass and other solid fuels in open fires. Air pollution is a top risk factor for death and disability nationally, with household air pollution accounting for the annual loss of more than 450,000 disability-adjusted life years — a measure of the number of years lost due to early death, disability or bad health — in Ghana, according to the Clean Cooking Alliance.
Governments, foundations, and the private sector have invested significantly in efforts to encourage the use of clean cookstoves over the last decade, with a focus on promoting improved stoves or clean fuel to individual households. But these investments have not achieved the expected health benefits. In addition to the challenges associated with promoting the adoption of new, clean cookstoves, households that receive even the cleanest fuels through carefully-monitored health studies are continually exposed to pollution levels in their community that exceed air quality targets.
This project emerged from the Columbia World Projects Forum on energy access. Learn more about our work on this topic.
- 3 billionPeople globally who use traditional cookstoves and fuels
- 1/5Proportion of all black carbon emissions that result from traditional cookstoves and fuels
- 4 millionEstimated preventable annual deaths per year from pollution
This project offers a new approach to bringing clean cooking technology to communities in Ghana with the goal of building on past research and work to reduce pollution levels and improve health outcomes. The project’s design is based on more than a decade of research in Ghana conducted by the project leads, Dr. Darby Jack, Dr. Kelsey Jack, and Dr. Kwaku Poku Asante. The project includes several innovations specifically designed to address past challenges in implementing clean cooking technology. These are:
Integrate New Behavior Change Approaches. In recognition of the need to account for individual, household, and community-level decision-making when offering clean cooking options, project staff are conducting a needs assessment in partnership with households and communities, and developing and integrating new evidence-based behavior change approaches to integrating clean cooking technologies. This approach considers decision-making within the home and at the community level to encourage exclusive, sustained use of such technologies, while also acknowledging the crucial role played by public and private actors to support markets and supply chains.
Develop a Portfolio of Clean Cooking Options. This project explicitly acknowledges that during the transition from biomass combustion (or traditional cooking) to clean cooking, a single stove-fuel combination approach has not been successful. Instead of focusing on a single “silver bullet” technology, this approach aims to develop a portfolio of clean options — fuels, stoves, and practices — that together can replace traditional open fires and enable exclusive, sustained use of clean alternatives. This portfolio approach builds on a number of recent studies, including a set of 11 case studies commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which show that a household almost always uses multiple technologies to meet different energy needs.
Transition Entire Communities. This approach aims to transition entire communities toward clean alternatives. Prior Columbia University research in Ghana, India, and elsewhere suggests that even households that embrace clean fuels are exposed to high pollution levels if neighbors continue to cook with traditional biomass fires. Therefore, a community-centered model is necessary to achieve significant health benefits.
Identify Broader Energy System Changes. The project attempts to identify broader energy system changes that support and sustain household- and community-level transitions. This entails a careful review of the current regulatory, infrastructural, and financial environment and the potential for targeted investment to encourage an energy system that favors clean cooking.
The project draws on an interdisciplinary team of academics and practitioners with the goal of substantially reducing household air pollution in communities in the Kintampo North and South Districts in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana. While the project focuses on identifying and assessing solutions that are scalable in Ghana, the intention is that the general approach can be applied in other countries working to facilitate clean household energy transitions.
If successful, this project will support the transition to clean household energy technologies for nearly 30,000 individuals and contribute to material improvements in public health. It will also support improvements to women's empowerment, economic development, and environmental quality in Ghana and throughout Africa.
In Partnership With:
- Kintampo Health Research Center
- Government of Ghana
- Clean Cooking Alliance