SEI – Improved cookstoves in Central America: health impacts and uptake

October 2, 2015 · 0 comments

Improved cookstoves in Central America: health impacts and uptake, 2015.

Authors: Fiona Lambe (SEI) and Caroline Ochieng (SEI)

Approximately 20 million people in Central America  – more than half the region’s population – continue to rely on traditional biomass to meet their household energy needs. 86% of these are located in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

This discussion brief summarizes a desk study carried out by SEI and commissioned by the World Bank. The study distils recent research linking cleaner cookstoves to health gains at the household level and offers in sights into what type of technical solutions can have an impact in Central America. It also provides a snapshot of the sector in terms of technologies being adopted and their potential for improving household health.

Every year 37,000 people in the region die prematurely – most of them women and children – because of exposure to household air pollution. As in other parts of the world there is a long history of improved cookstove programmes in the region. However, many of these initiatives have not been adopted in a sustained way, mainly because of poor performance of cookstoves in the field, the availability of free wood, the absence of quality standards in improved cookstoves, and the lack of attention to the needs of the end user and specific socio-cultural contexts.

In a preliminary effort to fill these gaps, the authors review cookstove options in the region in terms of the potential emission reductions and health benefits they can offer, in light of the 2014 World Health Organization’s guidelines on indoor air quality.

They also identify the improved cookstoves that households are actually taking up, and analyze the factors that appear to support uptake. A summary of the results is followed by a discussion of the challenges involved in introducing improved cookstoves, both in terms of the behavioural shifts needed at the household level to do so and in establishing sustainable local markets for them.


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