by Willie Venter, for The Mpumalanga Mirror
An innovation in cooking and heating efficiency is set to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal significantly in rural areas.
Developed by Dr Deal Still of the Aprovecho Research Centre in the United States, and distributed by a South African company, it is envisaged that these stoves will drastically change the carbon footprint of Africa.
As most rural communities in Africa are dependant on the use of biomass fuels, it places great strain on the environment, as the demand for wood and charcoal is ever on the increase.
More than three billion people worldwide use biomass or solid fuels, such as coal, on a daily basis to fulfil their energy needs. This in turn leads to deforestation, especially in Africa.
Mr. Wikus Kruger, a sustainable energy consultant at Restio Energy says, “We were recently in Tanzania, where about 28 000, 20 kg bags of charcoal are sold on a daily basis in Dar es Salaam. This accounts for about 90 percent of the country’s cabron footprint. Carbon dioxide and epecially black carbon released by this cooking practice is one of the main causes of global climate change.”
Another drawback of using wood or charcoal fuels is that many people cook indoors, especially in the winter months, and are thus exposed to indoor air pollution as a result.
Kruger says this kills about 1,6 million people annually. “The majority of people exposed to indoor air pollution are women and children, who suffer froom this increased burden, which is both a result and cause of poverty. Women and children more often than not, have to travel long distances with immensely heavy bundles of wood to meet their families’ energy needs. This places even more of a health burden on them.”
The stove is a rather compact unit abot 60 centimetres high, and is approximately 40 centimetres wide, with a small aperture at the base where the wood is fed in. The heat is concentrated in a flue before heating a base plate upon which the pot is placed. Due to the heat being concentrated in the flue, and the stove’s ability to maintain it, makes for decreased wood use.
Says Kruger, ” The stove consumes 50 % less wood / charcoal. We very easily cooked 1,5 kg of maize porridge in 20 minutes using three small (30 cm length, 3 cm diameter) pieces of wood. The stove emits 60 to 70 % less moke and greenhouse gasses and retains its heat for hours afterwards.”
In South Africa alone, the scale of people using wood, charcoal and coal on a daily basis, is estimated at two million households, and this is increasing as electricity, paraffin and LPG prices continue to rise.
In countries where so many people are dependent on wood and coal, the nationwide adoption of these stoves could mean that the country’s energy footprint is reduced dramatically, the rate of deforestation is slowed down, and fewer people fall ill due to indoor air pollution.