It is not just the human health impact of cooking on an open flame that is so devastating. The overdependence on fuel to power inefficient cooking leads to massive environmental degradation and binds vulnerable communities to a life of grinding poverty.
Please CLICK on the tabs below to see how traditional cooking methods affect global health, environment and poverty.
One person dies every eight seconds from cooksmoke-related illnesses (1). That’s roughly every time you blink your eyes. Yearly, this is roughly the same amount of people as the population of New Zealand.
If such a sizeable mortality rate isn’t bad enough, household air pollution causes lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and cataracts. Excessive smoke exposure is the leading risk factor for these diseases – and blindness from cataracts – among non-smoking women in developing countries (2).
Inhaling vast amounts of smoke and black carbon is incredibly detrimental to human health. In fact, when people cook on rudimentary cookstoves and open fires, they are often inhaling carbon monoxide and other pollutants at levels up to 100 times higher than the recommended limits set by WHO. Traditional cooking methods also increases the risk of house fires – in South Africa alone, it is estimated that there are 45,000 house fires and 3000 deaths annually as a result of using paraffin as a fuel source (3).
Many people in developing countries depend on local forests to provide them with wood to fuel their stoves. There often exists an illegal black market trade in charcoal, which is an incredibly inefficient fuel source – one kilo of charcoal often requires 8-12 kilos of wood, which is wholly destructive to the natural environment.
Green House Gas Emissions
Traditional cooking methods are hurting the environment. Burning coal, charcoal and wood causes the emission of black carbon – which results from incomplete combustion – and is a major contributor to climate change.
The rapid loss of Africa’s forests is devastating the natural environment. With wood as the main source of fuel, the pressure on forest resources is mounting.
The adverse effects of traditional cooking methods overwhelmingly affect women and children, who often need to venture outside of their towns to search for fuel, exposing them to dangers ranging from snake bites to potential assault and rape. The time it takes for them to source fuel (up to three hours a day in some cases) reduces possibilities for further education, business opportunities and family time (1).
The United Nations estimates that roughly 21% of the global population still live without electricity. This keeps people locked into a life where they must continually prioritise the pursuit of energy over other activities (2).
The rapid growth in global population means an increase in demand for unsustainable energy sources, driving up prices. This exacerbates the problem, compounding the cycle of poverty in developing countries.