EPA Spends $1.5 Million on a ‘Stove Intervention’ for Africa

‘Stove use behaviors,’ ‘actual cooking events’ to be analyzed

Lady preparing food on stove in hut, Rwanda / AP
August 3, 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spending $1.5 million to bring a "stove intervention" to Africa.

The project, conducted by the University of Colorado, is attempting to change how people living in the Sahel of Africa cook and light their homes to be more energy efficient.

The EPA grant argues the project is necessary because the population in this region, which lies between the Sahara Desert and the vast Sudanian Savanna, is "projected to continue to grow at alarming rates," meaning more carbon emissions from when Africans cook.

"For this study, we will leverage an existing stove intervention study of 200 households in the region; randomly selected rural households received pairs of improved wood cookstoves," the grant said. "We expand that intervention study to assess stove use behaviors and emissions for an entire year and add urban households and commercial cooking activities."

The project also seeks to change the types of garbage disposals Africans use.

"In addition, we will assess other non-cooking combustion emissions, including lighting, heating, and trash disposal," the grant said. "Household surveys will be given at multiple time points to assess use of, demand for, satisfaction with, and impacts of cooking and lighting technologies across the intervention as well as the urban area."

The researchers will then analyze carbon emissions from "actual cooking events."

"These surveys will be supplemented with direct observations of cooking related behaviors to aide in assessment of time use (e.g., time spent cooking and gathering fuel) as these are not accurately determined through surveys," the grant continued. "Using the next generation of novel, inexpensive air quality monitors, we will continuously monitor concentrations of CO2, CO, NO2, and VOCs in the households throughout the year as well as seasonal subsets of direct emissions measurements from actual cooking events."

The project began last June, and is expected to run until May 2017. The research has cost taxpayers $1.5 million.

The EPA grant said that the goal of the project is to "develop a better understanding of the social, physical, and climatological determinants" of carbon emissions in the region.

The project will also create a database that will track emissions from cooking in the region.

"The study will result in new knowledge about the links between human behavior, as related to cooking and lighting practices, and air quality and climate," the grant said under the project’s "Expected Results."

"One-of-kind emissions measurement database will be created and allow for more in depth understanding of the parameters that affect emissions," it said. "The population of this region of the world is projected to continue to grow at alarming rates, which will result in ever increasing emissions from cooking and lighting."

"Therefore worsening air quality conditions and associated health impacts will occur; this study seeks to find and evaluate potential solutions," the grant said.


Update 12:25 P.M.: Following publication of this article, the EPA told the Washington Free Beacon the project is an important use of tax dollars because "environmental and health impacts dealing with our planet's air, climate, and energy expand beyond the borders of any one country."

"This requires research in these fields to be viewed and addressed at a global level," EPA spokeswoman Catherine C. Milbourn said.

These projects "include modeling on multiple scales to help us improve our understanding of the link between household emissions and global climate change in the United States and around the world," she added.

Milbourn continued:

More than three billion people in the world face an increased environmental health risk from burning solid fuels and inefficient cookstoves. Exposure to household air pollution (including cookstove smoke) leads to roughly 4 million premature deaths each year and is the 4th worst health risk in the world. This funded research seeks to reduce these impacts for all people, worldwide, by increasing the use of affordable, reliable, clean, efficient, and safe home cooking and heating practices.

This funding was dedicated to research supporting the protection of public health, addressing environmental impacts from cookstoves such as deforestation, and addressing emissions of black carbon and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Health studies show that exposure to cookstove smoke contributes to a wide range of illnesses such as pneumonia and low-birth weight in children, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blindness, and heart disease in adults.

Published under: Africa , Energy , EPA