Covid-19 disruptions in the clean cooking sector

The government signed into law and introduced 14% Value Added Tax (VAT) on previously exempt items.

In Summary

•Air pollution is associated with lack of clean cooking approaches, that are still prevalent in most parts of Kenya.

•The experience goes a long way in giving evidence to policy makers to prioritise the acceleration of access to clean cooking solutions in the country to cushion Kenyans, especially women and girls to such pandemics. 

A girl cooks with firewood.
A girl cooks with firewood.
Image: FILE:

Covid- 19 has shown the need to adopt a clean cooking solution in Kenya given that among the prominent conditions for vulnerability to the pandemic were people with severe underlying respiratory health conditions caused by air pollution.  

Air pollution is associated with lack of clean cooking approaches, that are still prevalent in most parts of Kenya.

The experience goes a long way in giving evidence to policy makers to prioritise the acceleration of access to clean cooking solutions in the country to cushion Kenyans, especially women and girls to such pandemics. 

This should in effect push up the demand for clean cooking technologies, but which must be accompanied by a conducive policy environment that encourages adoption, and thus reduce exposure to in house air pollution.

Preliminary studies carried out directly linked Covid-19 and air pollution indicating that people with severe underlying respiratory health conditions caused by air pollution were more likely to be affected by Covid-19 and are less likely to recover.

This linkage suggests a heightened risk for women across all age groups and children who cook using traditional technologies and fuels as they are exposed to high concentrations of pollutants while using these unclean technologies.

Reducing air pollution exposure often realises immediate health benefits.While the government has been supporting the clean cooking sector through the reduction of the import duty on solid biomass stoves and inputs used for their manufacture and assembly; a zero-import duty for cookstoves and their raw materials for 2019/2020 among others, recent happenings will reduce the gains already made.

The government signed into law and introduced 14% Value Added Tax (VAT) on previously exempt items.

These items include taxable supplies incurred on construction of the assembly, manufacture, or repair of clean cookstoves, among others. The introduction of VAT on these clean cookstoves will in turn increase their cost to Kenyans who cannot afford alternative sources of energy for cooking.

This will further affect the universal energy access goals as envisioned in the SDG 7 and the Kenyan SE4ALL action agenda. The increase in the demand for clean cooking occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic will easily be cancelled by increased costs on the clean cooking solutions.

Research carried out by the Clean Cooking Alliance shows that the use of open fires and solid fuels for cooking is one of the world's most pressing health and environmental problems.

Additionally, the report indicates that women and children are disproportionally affected by this massive global challenge, suffering from toxic smoke, time poverty, and the consequences of deteriorating environments.  In light of the above, efforts to expand and improve access to clean cooking must be comprehensive and expeditious.

There is a great need to support and prioritise the sector by embracing clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels, this way, we can transform the way Kenyans cook, saving lives, improving livelihoods, empowering women, and protecting the environment simultaneously.

With a continued focus and targeted implementation efforts, clean cooking can directly deliver gains across 10 of the SDGs and contribute to an enabling environment for achieving the entire Agenda 2030.

 The writer is CEO, Clean Cooking Association of Kenya