Woman in Ethiopia making dung cakes

Far more funding required for access to clean cooking fuels, report warns

Image credit: Dreamstime

The lack of funding dedicated to boosting access to electricity and clean cooking fuel is “shocking”, international organisations have told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Sustainable Energy For All was established by the UN in 2011 to help ensure universal access to reliable, affordable energy by 2030.

Data shows that more than three billion people today use traditional solids – such as firewood or animal dung – as their main source of fuel for cooking.

Dry animal dung is cheap, sustainable, burns efficiently and reduces pressure on precious local wood resources. It has been used as fuel since prehistoric times, and is still used across Asia and Africa now. In many parts of India, for instance, cow and buffalo dung is hand-rolled into disc shapes and dried into ‘dung cakes’ to be used as fuel for cooking.

Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy For All, described the lack of international support for putting an end to unclean cooking fuels as “shocking”.

“The problem is becoming bigger rather than smaller,” she said. “The levels of finance for clean cooking are so far away from where they would need to be to produce progress.”

According to a report by the organisation, nearly 90 per cent of Bangladeshi citizens do not have access to clean cooking, and more than 70 per cent of Nigerian citizens use wood as their main cooking fuel, accelerating local deforestation.

The report calls for a “frank new dialogue around bold market-based strategies that can deploy clean fuels and technologies for cooking.” The focus, Kyte said, has been on designing more efficient stoves, rather than providing cleaner cooking fuels.

“[Without that], the millions of women and children who suffer and die every year from dirty cooking fuels will not diminish.”

The report also flags up the insufficient funding allocated to electrification; annual funding across the 20 countries most lacking power is less than half of the $45 bn required to achieve universal access by 2030. Just one per cent of the money went to ‘decentralised’ solutions such as household solar systems, despite their potential to deliver affordable electricity to remote communities.

These technologies are the “most economical solution to meet the needs of the majority of unconnected people by 2030”, said Paul Smith Lomas, CEO of Practical Action, a development charity which contributed to the report.

“To make these technologies more available to communities, and to achieve universal access, national policies must also better understand and support local businesses, banking and markets.”

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