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Improving Cook Stoves Helps Combat Global Climate Change

In much of Sub Saharan Africa, women and children suffer respiratory and other health issues because of the soot released from traditional cook stoves.

If you have traveled in rural Africa, you’ve seen smoke coming from the small houses and back yards of most families. In fact, it is not uncommon to see wood fires and stoves used throughout cities as well.  Cooking with wood as fuel contributes to family health problems, particularly for women and children. Cooking with wood fuel also contributes to deforestation as people cut trees to provide the fuel.

Now a new study finds that black carbon, which is mostly “soot” formed in the combustion of wood and fuels such as diesel and kerosene, is the second most important contributor to global climate change.

Efforts throughout Sub Saharan Africa and the developing world have thus far primarily focused on the health and the deforestation effects of burning wood.  The black particles emitted contribute to heart and respiratory disease.  Deforestation leads to land and water degradation and the loss of wildlife. Now, the contribution of millions of cook fires to global climate change is clear.

Soot released by wood-fueled cooking is contributing to global warming second to carbon dioxide, according to a new study.

Providing more efficient stoves is a priority of the Aid for Africa member African Rainforest Conservancy, which supports projects in the forested mountain and coastal areas of Tanzania.  Such stoves have cut wood fuel use in half. Solar cookers, which use only the sun to heat foods, are also in areas of Africa that have plentiful sunshine. Aid for Africa member Solar Cookers International supports solar cooker development in Africa and throughout the world.

Reducing soot emissions from wood-burning stoves and open cooking fires improves health, preserves forests, and now science suggests also helps protect the earth from warming.  As the second contributor to global warming, eliminating soot will go a long way to mitigating climate change.

Learn more about Aid for Africa members working to improve the environment.