Household air pollution (HAP) has been ranked as a top global health priority for the past 15 years.
Around 3 billion people heat their houses and cook by burning biomass fuels in open fires with incomplete combustion. Most of them live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The choice of burning biomass fuel is not only determined by cultural traditions, but also by socioeconomic factors, such as limited income and poor living conditions. In the next decade, the majority of the poorest people will have limited opportunities to switch to clean fuels and will depend on ‘improved’ cookstoves.
In this context, FRESH AIR aimed to reduce HAP by evaluating the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of proven interventions in three rural areas of Uganda, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam. The interventions took place in households where traditional cooking and heating methods were used.
First of all, all participants attended awareness-raising training on the damaging effects of biomass smoke. The training included explanations of behavioural interventions.
In all FRESH AIR countries, a questionnaire was used by locally trained healthcare workers. The questionnaire was the same for all countries, but translated into the local language.
The FRESH AIR team offered each household a choice of 4-5 different cleaner cookstoves. Cleaner cookstoves burn biomass fuels more efficiently with lower emissions. Their cost varies; the cheapest use local materials (including anthills made of soil and sand), whereas the more expensive can convert heat to electricity.
All stoves were made locally and selected according to their affordability, availability, type of biomass fuels, the surrounding environment, cultural tradition and cooking habits – because to cook rice at high temperatures for 15 minutes is different from cooking matoke in banana leaves, which is cooked at low temperatures for 3 hours. Local clean-energy partners EnDev (Uganda), World Bank (Kyrgyzstan) and SNV (Vietnam) advised in selecting the right cookstoves.
FRESH AIR impact
Many external factors, including weather, lack of electricity and political events, impacted on the results of FRESH AIR interventions, but dedicated people and excellent communication helped to overcome these obstacles. Households that have received cleaner stoves thanks to FRESH AIR are satisfied. The FRESH AIR team will publish research outcomes in the following months.