Clean Cooking: Talk does not cook rice
An increased sense of urgency, is what is needed. The Clean Cooking Forum in New Delhi, 24-26 October, was unanimous about the urgent need to help the 3 billion people that are still being exposed to harmful smoke from cooking every day. In line with our mission, SNV contributed to this inspiring forum to work with governments, donors and private sector in scaling up clean cooking solutions. Because the current pace is simply not good enough.
Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, started the conference off in the right mood: "Let's put our foot on the accelerator and drive the Clean Cooking market forward." Four days of presentations, discussions, networking and learning about cookstoves and fuels, markets and financing, standards and testing, adoption and impact. Even though the first initiatives on clean cooking started decades ago, “the sector is still in its infancy,” said Peter Scott from BURN Manufacturing in one of the sessions. Bringing the sector together in a Forum is important to exchange, learn from each other and be inspired to do more.
Representing SNV, I had the honour to moderate a session evaluating the role of national clean cooking alliances in strengthening the sector, with speakers from Ghana, Kenya, Latin America, India, China and Bangladesh. In a session about Results-Based Financing (RBF), our managing director Energy Tom Derksen presented the SNV Stove Auction project, an innovative way of using RBF to accelerate the clean cooking market. He emphasised that the sector needs more doing and less talking, quoting a Chinese saying ‘talk does not cook rice’.
The Energizing Finance report published last month by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) showed that financial commitments for clean cooking were extremely low and insufficient. The study was able to track just $32 million a year in 2013-14 in the 20 high-impact countries assessed, a shockingly low amount compared to the billions of dollars of clean cooking investments needed.
Rachel Kyte from Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) in her inspiring speech on the 2nd day of the Forum said “Nobody should have to make a choice between feeding your family and not poisoning your children.” This argument alone should be enough to convince those with money to increase their financial support in order to reduce household air pollution. We need more ambitious government targets, more ‘patient capital’, more investments in risk-taking solutions.
On the excursion to the ‘smart village’ Tajnagar after the conference, I have seen that LPG, much supported by governments as clean cooking fuels, is not the silver bullet in all situations. All three families we visited were still using their improved cookstove or even their traditional stoves despite having an LPG stove in the kitchen. Simply because the wood and dung fuel are available for free. Adoption of clean cooking solutions is one of our major challenges.
Very inspiring was our visit to the Bramhakumari Retreat Center in Gurgaon. With their large solar cooking system, consisting of 28 reflectors totalling 280 m2, they are able to produce 2000 meals in only one hour! In summer, the mirrors are able to warm the steam system up to 800 degrees, more than enough than what is needed for cooking. This system has been in use for the past 15 years, saving about 35 litres of diesel every day! Makes you wonder why we do not see this type of systems in many more places. Though the construction costs are significant (mainly labour costs for building the parabolic mirrors), the payback time is about 7 years.
In the final session of the Forum, Ghana reggae star Rocky Dawuni quoted Obama: “Yes we can, and yes we will.” Enough talking this week, we need to get our act together so that in 20 years’ time we will look back and know that we have done our share to bring clean cooking systems to the poorest.