The way we cook has significant implications for global climate and development goals. In fact, it's virtually impossible to achieve these targets without changing the tools families use to prepare their meals. That's why we're in Maputo, Mozambique today, to learn about the clean cookstove project that's making a difference not just to local communities but also the planet.
We're meeting some of the technical experts behind the project, including Telma Alage, Technical Field Expert at CarbonSink Mozambique (part of South Pole), Florência Saide and Osvaldo Machava, local producers of cookstoves and project partners. Join us as we explore the impact of clean cookstoves and meet the people who are driving this important initiative forward.
Carbon finance is improving access to clean cooking solutions for communities around the world, from offering subsidies to helping small manufacturers to use more durable materials and scale.
Cooking is a fundamental part of life. Yet billions of people do not have a safe way to prepare their meals. According to the WHO, a staggering 2.4 billion people continue to rely on open wood fires and inefficient stoves to cook their food. This generates "black carbon" emissions which are up to 1,500 times more potent than CO2. Indeed, over 120 megatonnes of climate pollutants are produced from inefficient stoves and open fires each year. That is equivalent to the emissions released from burning over 260 billion pounds of coal.
Many people in Mozambique rely on inefficient open metal stoves to cook their meals. Swapping these poorly insulated stoves, which require large amounts of wood, with efficient, cleaner-burning alternatives would reduce the amount of fuel needed and slash emissions.
In addition to releasing planet-warming emissions, traditional stoves require large amounts of firewood or charcoal, which puts significant pressure on forests. In Maputo, Mozambique's coastal capital, it's no different. You first know you're getting close to the city when you can smell the salty sea air. But the second giveaway are the trucks loaded with bags and bags of black charcoal sweltering in the sun. This charcoal is mainly produced from cutting down the dwindling forests that surround the capital and is destined for use in people's homes. In Mozambique, less than 5% of the population have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies.
Lorries loaded with bags of charcoal line the roads leading into the centre of Maputo, Mozambique.
According to the Clean Cooking Alliance, if efforts are not increased, 2 billion people will still be without access to clean cooking in 2030, making it impossible to achieve global development and climate goals and undermining billions of dollars in nature-based investment.
This is where carbon finance plays a role.
Florencia explains that this job is the first formal employment opportunity for some of their employees. In addition to receiving training, they are set up with a bank account and receive important benefits, like social security and life insurance.
The use of traditional stoves and open fires for cooking contributes to the emission of harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon. Clean cookstoves, on the other hand, are designed to burn more efficiently and at higher temperatures, reducing the amount of fuel needed and the emissions generated.
Telma Alage explains why the stoves still use charcoal, albeit much less of it: “People enjoy cooking on charcoal for the flavour it provides. If we offered something else, they would be less likely to use it. The key to successful cookstove projects is listening to local needs and adapting the stoves accordingly."
At the Maputo project, the team proudly explained how almost every part of the stove is made here in Mozambique and nothing goes to waste. Even the shavings from shaping the metal stove bowl are melted down to make the handles, and any bits of broken clay that didn't survive the kiln are given to the municipality to fill potholes. But the team hopes to soon make the project even more circular: “We're hoping to upgrade and get a new machine that grinds the broken ceramics into powder so that we can add this back into the clay to increase the heat resistance", says Florencia Saide.
Each cookstove has a unique serial number so it can be tracked and its use monitored once it's been sold. The team uses an app which has been specially developed for the project to record data on how much charcoal is being saved. Over the course of a week, the team visits the new user of the cookstove and weighs all the charcoal they are using; from there, we can calculate the emissions avoided. Third-party audits and regular monitoring guarantee that the emission reductions are real, permanent and go beyond business as usual.
Each cookstove has a unique serial number, which the team uses to track the use of the stoves and calculate the emissions saved.
“Carbon finance has meant that we can improve the quality of the materials we use. These stoves are used everyday for cooking so upgrading them to more sturdy materials, like aluminium, has meant that the stoves now last much longer," says Osvaldo Machava. He's been managing one of the production sites of the Maputo cookstove projects for the past two years since leaving his job in accounting, which he swapped for something more active which contributes to a positive future.
He continues: “The main point, though, is accessibility: carbon finance means we can reach people who live in very rural areas and provide the option of paying in instalments for those who cannot afford the stoves. Then, next important is scale: currently our team makes 3,000 to 4,000 cookstoves per month, but with carbon finance we are looking to increase this to around 10,000 cookstoves. It's unlocked a lot of new possibilities."
“It's simple: carbon finance allows us to scale and reach more people," agrees Saide.
We met Isabel and arrived just as she was preparing lunch for her family on one of the stoves made by the project. She was keen for us to try a morsel, and in the words of our colleague, Nicolo, it was “some of the best chicken you'll ever try in your life!".
Not only are clean cookstoves a climate solution, they're also promoting a just transition to a low-carbon world by providing jobs, training, and social benefits to communities and improving household health.
Inefficient cooking methods often lead to indoor air pollution, which can cause respiratory illnesses and other health problems, particularly in women and children who spend more time near the stoves.
We were lucky to be invited to the house of Isabel Munguambe. She told us that the clean cookstoves produce significantly less smoke, which has made cooking much easier. It also saves her time and money – buying fuel is costly as well as time-intensive.
“An average family, which we consider to be five people, is able to save about USD 7.5 on fuel a month by switching to this stove. As the stove costs USD 8.5, it takes just a few weeks to recover the cost with the savings from the fuel!" says Telma Alage.
In addition to the benefits for the end-user, clean cookstove projects often involve the production and distribution of stoves by local entrepreneurs, creating jobs and generating income in the community. By supporting local businesses, clean cookstoves can help to build more resilient and sustainable economies.
“We employ 70 people at the moment, and for most of them, this is their first formal job. We provide training to assemble the cookstoves. We also provide social benefits, like social security and life insurance. We set them up with a bank account which opens a lot of doors, like access to microloans," explains Florencia Saide.
Ultimately global climate and development goals cannot be achieved without changing the way people cook. Governments and multilateral institutions need to support the adoption of clean cooking technology. In the meantime, carbon finance provides a way for companies to accelerate the uptake of this simple but powerful solution.
By transitioning to more efficient and sustainable alternatives, families can reduce their reliance on traditional fuel sources and promote sustainable land use practices. The benefits are clear: improved health, cost-savings and a cleaner environment for all.
A big thank you to the local team and partners who took us around the project for the morning.
Learn more about clean cookstove projects and how supporting them can help you achieve your sustainability goals.