BIOFUEL

Households turn to green cooking to cut costs and deaths

Use of fuelwood and charcoal however remains high.

In Summary

•Some companies are however working towards reducing this danger, offering alternative green cooking solutions at affordable fees.

•For instance, KOKO Fuel, an ultra-clean renewable bioethanol has come up with a technology that helps to provide safe cooking and helps to save on cost as it goes for as little as Sh30.

"Energy saving jiko reduces the amount of charcoal use and the emission of carbon monoxide that has kills a million people in a year."
"Energy saving jiko reduces the amount of charcoal use and the emission of carbon monoxide that has kills a million people in a year."

Kenyan families are turning to green cooking solutions to cut costs and reduce health hazards, even as air pollution-related ailments remain among the leading causes of death.

The latest data from World Health Organization (WHO) shows at least  2.6 billion people in the world still cook using solid fuels, a contributing factor to at least 600,000 annual respiratory deaths. 

In Kenya, respiratory infections and tuberculosis is the third cause of death after HIV/Aids and cardiovascular diseases.

According to the Ministry of Health, 76 out of 100,000 deaths are respiratory-related. 

Even so, many families in the country are still using dirty energy to cook, a move likely to hike these deaths. 

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Economic Survey 2021 shows the sale of fuelwood and charcoal almost doubled from 2,100 cubic meters in 2019, to 4,100 cubic meters in 2020.

These cooking practices lead to the production of high levels of household air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants that penetrate deep into the lungs.

Some companies are however working towards reducing this danger, offering alternative green cooking solutions at affordable fees.

For instance, KOKO Fuel, ultra-clean renewable bioethanol has come up with a technology that helps to provide safe cooking and helps to save on cost as it goes for as little as Sh30.

It is available from a dense network of KOKO Fuel ATMs inside local shops a short walk from all homes.

The customers can purchase the fuel in small daily quantities that are often preferred in the informal sector while the agents add a profitable line of business.

“Customers have a smart canister which is linked to their account via a computer chip,” KOKO Networks senior manager, corporate development, Ed Agnew said.

He added that the canister is docked into the ATM and the customer information is pulled up on screen and fuel credit can be topped.

Last year in December, they had more than 300, 000 household subscribers on their clean fuel and carbon platform in Kenya.

They are doing this with their clean fuel platform that delivers major outcomes for households, public health, air quality, carbon emissions reduction and tropical forest protection.

Customers can purchase the fuel in the small daily quantities that are often preferred in the informal sector, while KOKO agents add a profitable new line of business.

Giraffe bioenergy, a developer of large-scale cassava bioeconomies in Kenya producing both food and fuel to secure livelihoods, is another company helping to save on cost and health implications.

It converts cassava into sugar then ferments it to cooking grade fuel for use in the home.

The Ethanol Cooking Fuel (EFC) is a safe and affordable alternative to charcoal and kerosene.

It also does not result in air pollution and is comparable to liquid petroleum gas as a clean cooking fuel but at a more affordable price.

“The households that are using Ethanol Cooking Fuel save money when they switch from charcoal and kerosene which are detrimental to their health,” CEO of Giraffe Bioenergy, Linda Davis said.

Davis added that local production of ethanol from crops like cassava, which can grow in marginal land, can further decrease the cost of EFC making it an even more attractive fuel to achieve Kenya’s goal of universal access to clean cooking by 2028.

According to data by Giraffe bioenergy, eight to 10 per cent of early deaths in Kenya are attributable to indoor air pollution from charcoal and wood cooking.

This excludes the unqualified but likely substantial negative effects of Kerosene cooking on lung function, infectious illness and cancer risks as well as burns and poisonings.

Even as KOKO and Giraffe bioenergy are providing safer ways of cooking, other companies like Biogas International have come up with a technology that can convert polluting water hyacinths into biogas.

In partnership with the Swedish drug manufacturer, Astra Zeneca and the Institute for Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cambridge, they produced a Flexi Biogas device for household use.

It has not only served to eliminate the use of charcoal and wood in households thereby endangering a zero carbon emissions approach in household waste management, but also provides families with the added benefit of enjoying the fruits of their labour sooner, considering gas allows for faster cooking.   

The high cost of LPG however remains a concern for thousands of housholds.

The commodity's prices have been on the rise following the government's move to introduce VAT through the Finance Act 2019 Clause No. 13, where LPG was removed from the list of Zero-rated supplies. 

According to the Petroleum Institute of East Africa(PIEA), the move has made gas out of reach for many households who will now resort to other sources of fuel.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority also notes that VAT on Liquefied Petroleum Gas(LPG) has the potential to roll back the gains made in ensuring access to clean cooking energy.

“Making cooking gas out of reach will mean that more than 8,649 Kenyan children will continue to die annually of preventable pneumonia because of inhaling toxins from smoke as their mothers cook with charcoal and firewood,” PIEA General Manager Wanjiku Manyara says.

She notes that these children will get sick and die before they celebrate their fifth birthday.

On April 21, 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta recommitment to the World that Kenya was on course in converting 100 per cent of Kenyans using firewood, charcoal and kerosene to LPG by 2028 .

The government has also committed to eliminating indoor pollution (from cooking with charcoal and firewood) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent by 2030.

However, making gas expensive makes these a dream in futility as it will be completely derailed, Manyara notes.