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By Diane Small
Did you know that engaging in an act as simple as cooking dinner for your family can be deadly for many impoverished women around the world? An estimated 4.3 million people die every year from diseases related to air pollution in the home– this is more than the number of people who die from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – combined! Luckily, a Bhutanese and Danish-based group hopes to solve this problem by using existing technology to provide a combination of fuel cookies and smokeless stoves.
They are described as “the forgotten 3 billion” by WHO. These people make up nearly half the world’s population and still cook their food on open fires using firewood, coal and animal dung as their fuel. It may seem ‘rustic’, but doing this creates black smoke that causes myriad diseases ranging from pneumonia to strokes and lung cancer–and women are most affected.
After all, it’s women who are mostly tasked with the day to day cooking and while spending hours in front of the fires, they breathe in the toxic smoke. It is not surprising then that most of the 4.3 million deaths that happen per year are women and children in low- and middle-income countries.
The solution to this fatal problem is something as simple as a stove. Smokeless stoves will not only make it safer for people to cook but also help the environment by eliminating black carbon emissions. Stoves alone are however not a long-term solution. People living below poverty line are unable to cope with the high costs for purchase and maintenance of stoves. Therefore, providing an affordable and cleaner alternative is crucial.
And household air pollution isn’t just a threat to the people in front of the fire – it affects all of us. Burning biomass on open fires releases a huge amount of carbon and black carbon, which contributes to global climate change.
In the Kingdom of Bhutan alone, a small country located in the Himalayas, 70 percent of households use firewood and other forestry waste for cooking, exposing them to the harmful smoke on a daily basis. The cooperative organization Dazin, based in Bhutan and Denmark, aims to eliminate household air pollution through their inclusive clean fuel + stove solution. It works like this: rural people in Bhutan give their wood waste to Dazin, instead of burning it in an open fire. This wood waste is then made into condensed fuel ‘cookies’ – small, cleaner burning briquettes. The rural households get smokeless cookstoves on lease and enough fuel cookies to cover their needs. The surplus fuel made from the crowdsourced wood waste is sold at a competitive price to urban customers (restaurants, households, schools, etc.) ensuring economic sustainability and further development.
Dazin’s crowdfunding campaign launched on June 22nd with the goal of raising $40.000. The funding will initially provide 2000 people in Bhutan with stoves and fuel cookies in the upcoming winter. Dazin seeks to replicate the concept in other areas and reduce carbon emissions from residential fuel usage.
We think it’s an idea that’s smoking hot!