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Improving Health and the Environment – One Cookstove at a Time

Fellowship Focus, Spring 2012

By David Young, Program Coordinator, AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships    



When the majority of people in the United States prepare a meal, they usually don’t think in terms of how much energy their cooking requires. They turn a knob on their stove and their pot of water slowly begins to boil. Yet, according to a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approximately 2.7 billion people in the world still depend on biomass such as charcoal or wood to cook their meals, often using traditional three-stone fires that are inefficient, produce dangerous amounts of indoor air pollution, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Ranyee Chiang, a 2010-12 Fellow at the Department of Energy (DOE) and a contributing author to the IPCC report, has been deeply involved in an international collaborative effort to build and disseminate clean, efficient cookstoves to households in developing countries.

In December 2011, Chiang traveled to Uganda to support a field study comparing the three-stone fire with a clean stove developed by Makerere University and manufactured by Ugandan tinsmiths. She worked with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to investigate efficiency, emissions, and household acceptance.

Chiang recalled that the human aspects of the trip presented both challenges and rewards. While miscommunication between the study team and the local families sometimes caused difficulty with data collection, she also appreciated having time in between installing indoor air pollution monitors and measuring fuel use to talk and sing songs with children from the village. “These moments were enormously touching and moving,” and “added a lot of value to the experience,” Chiang reflected. After encountering the people the cookstoves affect, she appreciates better the local to global connection of the cookstove initiative.

At the international level, multiple NGOs, small businesses, universities, laboratories, and governments are currently partnering through the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The alliance is working toward establishing standards for the cookstove sector and facilitating partnerships and activities that lead to the widespread adoption of clean cookstoves.



On a local level, the goal of the cookstoves initiative is to develop markets for manufacturing and distributing the stoves and to position the technology as both desirable and affordable by saving time and scarce resources, improving health, and reducing costs.

To further these goals, Chiang has taken the lead within DOE for the clean cookstoves initiative, gathering input from R&D communities and preparing funding opportunity announcements. She continues to advocate for the use of clean technology to improve the food preparation, environment,s and health of people across the globe.

The study performed in Uganda is ongoing, and Chiang and colleagues will return this month to evaluate fuel use and emissions of the new stoves, and to document adoption rates and response to the technology.

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