Clean stoves in Ethiopia: how something small can make a big difference

Can you imagine if just cooking dinner put your family’s health at risk? That’s a reality for the billions of people worldwide who rely on open fire stoves to cook their food.

Each year, four million people die from diseases attributable to household air pollution from open cooking fires. Children are particularly vulnerable as exposure to the smoke can stunt the development of their organs and immune system.

Relying on open fire stoves also has environmental impacts, as the burning of fuel for stoves releases an estimated 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Collecting the firewood contributes to deforestation – as well as taking up the time of women and children who could be at school or earning money instead.

That's a long list of problems to come from how people cook their dinner!

The good news is that field research has shown that cleaner stoves can reduce indoor air pollution by 70 percent and produce a 74 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That means healthier people – and a healthier environment.

Bekelech and her coworker Birki with one of the clean, fuel efficient stoves they sell.

That's why World Vision started a pilot project in Ethiopia, trialling the impact that improved stoves could have in a community.

World Vision’s project distributed 2,500 fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly stoves to determine what kinds of stoves would meet the community’s needs best and are the most practical.

The project offers work opportunities to people in the community, like single mother Bekelech. Local community leaders chose Bekelech to participate in the stoves project and she was trained in how to make the stoves and run her own business. Now Bekelech employs two other women and sells around 100 stoves per year. One of her daughters is sponsored through World Vision and her son was able to go back to school. He has promised that once he gets a job, he'll pay for his mother to get the education she missed out on.

After two years in the pilot phase, World Vision conducted an evaluation to see the impact of the improved stoves. The locally made stove models were preferred by most participants, but all of the models had an impact. The evaluation showed that each of the four stoves trialled reduced the amount of carbon monoxide released during cooking by up to 53 percent, and that the amount of firewood needed was reduced by up to 49 percent. Community members said they also noticed a dramatic reduction in the time spent collecting firewood and their children missed less school.

Thanks to these successes, the project is currently being scaled up. World Vision hopes to have 75,000 clean stoves in communities across six Ethiopian area development projects by January in 2015.

Find out more about the pilot stove project:

How you can help

You can support World Vision’s work to improve environmental sustainability, health and income opportunities in communities around the world by sponsoring a child today.