Over the years, there have been a number of innovations to get households to cook or generate heat in a healthy manner
However, there are people who are stuck to the traditional methods of cooking due to a number of factors.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that at least two times each day four in 10 people in the world use wood fuel to prepare meals and heat their homes.
Most of these people are from poor households in low and middle-income countries. In fact, the WHO tags this group as ‘the forgotten three billion’.
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It is also estimated that every year 3.8 million people die prematurely from illnesses attributable to household air pollution due to the use of inefficient solid fuels.
Not only is using wood fuel unhealthy; it also endangers our forests, biodiversity, climate, economy and human security.
Mr Ebenezer Essilfie-Nyame of Abibiman Foundation making a presentation at the Falling Walls Lab in Berlin, Germany
Abibiman metal insert
The good news is that the Abibiman Foundation, an NGO, has come up with a solution to improve the use of traditional cookstoves.
The team, in partnership with other institutions and NGOs, has developed a metal device known as the ‘Abibiman metal insert’ that is placed in the traditional cookstove.
What the metal device does is that it improves airflow under the wood fuel and this results in a more complete combustion of the wood fuel, giving more heat and less smoke.
Thus less fuel is needed for traditional cookstoves, which means deforestation will be reduced, thereby protecting the environment.
Additionally, for poor households, it will reduce air pollution and its associated killer diseases and less money in buying wood fuel.
Making a presentation at this year's Falling Walls Lab in Berlin, Germany, the Chief Operations Officer of the Abibiman Foundation, Mr Ebenezer Essilfie-Nyame, said "the device, when tested by the approved clean cookstove centre using standards by the global alliance on clean cookstove, showed that it reduces wood fuel usage by 63 per cent, cuts smoke emission by 89 per cent and decreases cooking time by 15 minutes per meal".
The Falling Walls conference provides a platform for the latest breakthroughs from science and the humanities.
The Falling Walls Lab, which is part of the conference, gives participants the opportunity to present their research works, business models or social initiatives in three minutes. A jury made up of distinguished experts from science and business assesses the presentations.
Cooking with the metal insert
Affordable, easy to use
Giving more benefits of the metal device, Mr Essilfie-Nyame said it could be made from scrap metal by local artisans, thereby making it cheap to produce and affordable.
Asked why the team did not go for a device that would completely eliminate the use of wood fuel, Mr Essilfie-Nyame, said: “Most communities are still used to the traditional methods of cooking and it also gives the food a special aroma and taste that one would not get when one uses modern methods of cooking.
That's why people love to eat at ‘bush canteen’, love charcoal-grilled tilapia. So coming up with an innovation that still gives people the chance to stick to their traditional way of cooking while at the same time reducing wood usage and protecting their health is a win-win situation.”
He said the metal insert was "breaking the wall of household air pollution" and that when more people used the device, it would prevent illnesses and protect the environment.
The foundation has so far deployed more than 4,000 units of the device to rural households in Africa and India.
A sample of the Abibiman metal insert