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Improved cookstoves in rural Senegal – Health effects and the missing market

Three billion people worldwide use solid fuels and inefficient stoves to meet their daily heating and cooking needs. The resulting household air pollution causes over four million deaths annually, and the drudgery of solid fuel collection and preparation restricts opportunities for
education and employment. Use of fuelwood, in particular, exacerbates pressures on local forests, and its inefficient burning contributes to global climate change. These challenges are uniquely pressing in Senegal, where over 95 percent of the rural population relies on fuelwood.                              

As a remedy to this plight, the international community has increasingly turned to improved cookstoves (ICS). ICS are designed to reduce
emissions from biomass burning, yielding health benefits by lowering household air pollution exposure. ICS can also reduce fuel requirements, which eases environmental burdens. The United Nations recognize the vital role that ICS might play in achieving global access to energy in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 that calls for universal access to clean fuels by 2030.

However, questions remain about which stove types are in fact clean. Recent research casts doubt on the idea that biomass cookstoves
sufficiently lower emissions to deliver both health and environmental benefits. However, truly clean solutions - such as biogas, electricity, and LPG – remain expensive and require sophisticated supply chains. High-end biomass gasifier stoves, which would also qualify as clean, are expensive and thus hardly affordable in poor areas. Cheaper simple improved ICS might reduce woodfuel consumption, but are hardly clean enough to avoid smoke induced diseases. In sum, the cost-benefit tradeoffs between various cooking technologies remain poorly understood.

Against this background, our study will address three key knowledge gaps. First, in the study’s impact arm we aim to identify the effects of two different ICS technologies (one simple ICS and one more advanced ICS) on socio-economic and health outcomes. A particular focus is on the role of kitchen ventilation for smoke exposure.

Second, in the adoption arm, we aim to understand how strategies to promote ICS in real-world settings affect adoption and use. More specifically, we will try to bridge the gap between supply and demand of ICS by establishing contact between producers and cooking equipment sellers on rural weekly markets. The latter will furthermore be incentivized to directly sell ICS to villagers.

Finally, a biogas arm will evaluate sustainability and affordability of abiogas technology promoted by the government of Senegal, as well as thetechnology’s net benefits in low-income contexts.
Methodologically, our evaluation will feature two large Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), in which the random assignment of treatments allows to isolate causal impacts. First, in the impact arm, two household groups will be provided with either a simple or a more advanced ICS at no cost. They will be compared to a third (control) group, which does not receive any treatment. In addition to
self-reported indicators for fuel-related outcomes (consumption, collection, and cost), health and time use, we take objective measurements of primary cooks’ health, and of household fuel
consumption. Furthermore, we objectively monitor stove use, and primary cooks’ exposure to fine particles (PM2.5), as well as fine particle concentration in the main cooking area during 24 hours.

Second, in our adoption arm, we will randomly assign an information treatment to half of a sample of vendors on weekly markets. We then compare sales strategies and sales numbers of treatment vendors to those of vendors that did not receive the information treatment.

Finally, we will evaluate the national biogas program using a difference-in-differences approach combined with matching methods. In addition to our quantitative approaches, we will apply qualitative methods in all three study arms. Specifically, we will employ a combination of pre- and post-intervention focus group discussions to inform survey design and develop contextual understanding.

Project homepage

Project start:
01. January 2017

Project end:
30. April 2022

Project staff:
Dr. Maximiliane Sievert, Prof. Dr. Jörg Peters, Luciane Lenz, Dr. Gunther Bensch, Erin Litzow, Ousmane Ndiaye, Faraz Usmani, Prof. Dr. Marc Jeuland

Project partners:
Duke University, Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Energies Renouveables, Centre de Recherche pour le Development Economique et Social, Energizing Development, Environment for Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, Ministère de l’Énergie et du Développement des Énergies Renouvelables du Sénégal, RTI International, Université de Gaston Berger, The World Bank, World Health Organisation