Our Perspectives

Here's to being called Ms. Cookstove for years to come


Members of the Ethiopian government look at cookstove technology on a UNDP-supported experience sharing visit to India. Photo: UNDP Ethiopia

For the past few years, I’ve proudly been referred to in our office as ‘Ms. Cookstove’.

I joined UNDP to work on the carbon market, specifically the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) capacity building programme for Eastern and Southern Africa. When people talk about international carbon trading, they usually talk about ‘big’ emitting industries. But in 2010, I learned about the importance of seemingly ‘small’ but equally devastating emitters such as the traditional three-stone open fire cooking method, used by the majority of rural households in Ethiopia. Three billion people across the world use this method of cooking, which not only contributes to serious health problems, but also contributes significant levels of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

Although the international carbon market has collapsed, the issue of access to sustainable energy has remained a key development issue. When Ethiopia launched its Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy back in 2011, I was happy that an improved fuel-wood cookstove was identified as one of the four simple and easy solutions that could be used to reduce the country’s emissions.

This is doubly important given that 81 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas, where access to clean energy remains a challenge. Studies show that more than 70 percent of the country’s rural population still has no access to clean, renewable and affordable energy and 56,460 deaths per year are directly attributable to indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels. That is more than 150 deaths per day, more than 90% of which are children under five years of age.

UNDP is supporting Ethiopia’s efforts to develop this kind of energy. We have supported the Ethiopian government as it has formulated and rolled out its national cookstove programme, and the results are already impressive: recent data indicates that more than 8.5 million households now have improved cookstove appliances.

However, Ethiopia still needs to address a number challenges before it can ensure wider access to sustainable energy:

·         National regulatory and legal frameworks for rural renewable energy need to be strengthened.

·         Public awareness about the benefits of low-cost renewable energy household appliances is still lacking.

·         Existing small-scale renewable energy solutions are not affordable for most Ethiopians, and there is currently no financial support mechanism to help accelerate the dissemination of household renewable energy appliances.    

·         There aren’t enough enterprises that can supply renewable energy technologies (RETs) to rural communities.

To begin addressing these issues, UNDP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNCDF CleanStart will kick off an initiative to increase the roll out of small-scale renewable energy technologies. The initiative will implement strategies to address the above challenges, such as  supporting business incubators to promote greater entrepreneurship for investment in RETs.

With this initiative, we expect that by 2019 Ethiopia will distribute approximately 200,000 small-scale solar PV products and 600,000 improved cookstoves, which would prevent approximately 2 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Additional environmental co-benefits will include reduced deforestation; the conservation of biodiversity; maintaining ecosystem services related to watershed management; and the prevention of desertification. New jobs will be created as more businesses get involved in the clean energy market. Deaths related to indoor air pollution will decrease. The living standards of women will be boosted, since clean cooking technologies reduce the time spent on collecting wood, freeing time for other productive activities, education, and leisure.

Fast-tracking the population’s access to improved cooking technologies is a simple, unglamorous approach that has the potential to dramatically change lives. 

So here’s to being called ‘Ms. Cookstove’ for years to come.

Kidanua Abera Blog post blog series Climate change and disaster risk reduction Energy Environment Renewable energy Africa Ethiopia

UNDP Around the world