Humanitarian Engineering for Development Workers ERE 496 student Kellie Floyd discusses solutions to help reach Millennium Development Goals 3, 6, and 7:
The article “Effectiveness of Improved Cookstoves to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. The Case of the Cassamance Natural Subregion, Western Africa”, written by six authors from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), in October 2013, was published in the Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection and online on SciRes in January 2014. The article presents the case study completed by UPM on a sample of households that received improved cookstoves in 2012-2013, to see what effect the improvement has had on indoor air quality. The cookstoves were installed by Alianza por la Solidaridad, a Spanish NGO, in 3000 households in the Cassamance Natural Subregion—part of Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. The study consisted of measuring carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particle matter (PM2.5) concentrations, before and after the installations. The cookstoves were Noflaye Jeeg and Noflaye Jaboot types; they are locally produced, but basically versions of the Rocket Stove (Figure 1 below). Both of these were installed in each household. They do not have chimneys. The main goals of the installations were to reduce fuelwood consumption, the required collection time, and indoor air pollution (Borge et al. 2013).
The study to determine how effective these installations were consisted of three main parts—monitoring before and after pollutant concentrations, household questionnaires (both of women and head of household), and collecting physical information such as kitchen shape, size, amount of windows/doors, etc. This information was combined to evaluate the improved stoves. Four graphs, shown below, depict the results of the study (Borge et al. 2013).
From these graphs, it is easy to see that after the improvements, there was a lowering of both CO and PM2.5 concentrations; however, some areas show a much better improvement than others. This variation by location is explained in the study as being caused by differences in ventilation and household size (affecting consumption). In some areas, such as Guinea-Bissau, the results were not clear enough to really be able to say that the installations improved indoor air quality, since the before and after levels are so close. The 24-hr mean CO concentrations were still higher than the WHO guidelines in Senegal and Gambia after installing the stoves, and the 24-hour mean for PM2.5 concentrations were higher than guidelines as well, in all areas. Although there were significant reductions in some areas, the variability by location and the fact that the improvements were not enough to make it under the guidelines suggests that these stoves are not adequate (Borge et al. 2013).
This report uses data from the World Health Organization and International Energy Agency, was completed by appropriate, qualified people, and completely depicts and explains both the methods used and results. I would say, therefore, that the report is very accurate and trustworthy. The report itself evaluates the level of improvement and concludes that although there was improvement seen, it was not enough to reach guidelines and be effective in addressing the MDGs. The variability among locations clearly influenced the results, and perhaps suggests that a solution that was more specific for each case would have been more appropriate, rather than this “one-size-fits-all” type of solution for the entire region. The areas where not as much improvement was seen probably could have benefitted more from a different option. As far as design, maintenance, required labor, and cost, the NGO installed and funded these stoves, and they are very simple in design and would not require much maintenance. So in that regard, the stoves were very appropriate. I would say that maybe the NGO went too far in trying to keep the solution appropriate, so that not as much of an improvement was actually seen.
The International Energy Agency reports that 40% of the global population relies on the traditional use of biomass for cooking—simple, inefficient technology such as the three-stone fire (IEA, 2010). Inefficient conditions result in pollution, including: carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and organic compounds. Indoor air pollution is a major cause of negative health effects, being the second leading cause of death in developing countries. It is predicted that it will become the first leading cause by 2030 (IEA, 2010). The World Health Organization has conducted many studies and linked the exposure to indoor air pollution and health effects; pneumonia, infection of the lower respiratory track, burns, eye diseases, and other lung-related diseases are some of the potential health effects. In many households in developing regions such as this region, pollutant levels can be 10-50 times higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2006). From this class, we have learned the importance of improving indoor air quality to improve health, efficient resource use, and decrease pollution. Improvements to indoor air quality can address the MDGs of promoting gender equality and empowering women (3), combat diseases (6), and ensure environmental sustainability (7). Women are usually the ones to cook in developing regions, and thus they are more exposed to the pollution and more likely to have the negative health effects. Improvements not only can improve their health, but also reduce the time and energy they must spend cooking, and thus give them opportunity to do something else to generate income or improve their lives (Fry et al. 2009). The improved stoves used in this case work to address these goals, and since at least some improvements were seen in pollution levels, we can generally say that the stoves installation contributed to reducing the negative health effects associated with indoor air pollution. The study did not evaluate, or at least did not report on, whether any improvements in terms of gender empowerment were seen.
We have discussed alternative stove improvements, such as the Loretta stove and Loretta-Rocket combination. The article specifically mentions that chimneys were not included, and this assisted in causing variation in results by location, because some households naturally had better ventilation than others. Thus, in order to not waste money and keep the improvements already made for all of these households, chimneys could simply be added. This would help unify the results and decrease pollution levels further, hopefully enough to make it below WHO guidelines.
1. Sota, Candela De La, Julio Lumbreras, Javier Mazorra, Adolfo Narros, Luz Fernandez, and Rafael Borge. “Effectiveness of Improved Cookstoves to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Developing Countries. The Case of the Cassamance Natural Subregion, Western Africa.” Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection 5th ser. 2.1 (2014): n. pag. SciRes. Web. 27 Apr. 214. <http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=42023#.U15Z1yjLjEl>.