The thick black walls, the hailing smoke that meander into the skies through the kitchen roof, emanating from traditional tripod, announcing the day’s preparation of meals is no longer winning hearts. This is due to growing concerns of exploitation of fuel wood for cooking and the attendant effects on the environment.
In Ghana, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (2012) report indicates that Ghana is losing its forest very quickly. It says Ghana’s forests cover had dwindled from 8.2 million hectares at the beginning of the 20th Century to only 1.6 million hectares. This information is horrifying and need to prick the conscience of Ghanaians to appreciate the urgent need for all to find alternatives to cooking.
According to experts as recorded in the SPORE magazine, more than three billion people, (majority of them from Asia and sub Saharan Africa) still cook without clean fuels and efficient technologies, contributing to 90 per cent deforestation in Africa. According to the FAO, 60 per cent of charcoal and 35 per cent of wood fuels are consumed globally.
The article “the risks of increasing consumption, written by Romainloury, (SPORE), Africa lost 75 million hectres of forest area between 1990 and 2010.
The concern is that much as the environment is being depleted through indiscriminate felling of trees to acquire fuel wood, the same spate of effort is not made to find alternatives to adopt new cooking technologies to reduce degradation on the environment.
The traditional forms of cooking on tripods and stones over the years do not compromise on quantity of wood used since the more the quantity of food cooked, the more wood and charcoal used and these actions affect health of all, especially women, children and the environment.
The situation in Senior High Schools in the three regions of the north is no better, as most of these institutions cook on a large scale to feed the students, using similar methods of cooking.
These methods of cooking, impact negatively on the environment. According to WHO, 4.3 million people suffer and die from household pollution every year with 13,700 people dying annually due to indoor pollution in Ghana while 600,000 deaths occur in Africa due to cardio vascular diseases and cancers.
Globally, indoor pollution is noted to be the third leading cause of deaths. Estimated health, environmental and economic cost of traditional cooking and the use of solid fuels cost about US$123 billion annually according to the report.
Heavy in-door pollution damages the eyes and lungs. However, the use of improved cooking technologies leads to reducing emissions and disease burdens.
It is for this reason that as a nation, all must rise to the call for more environmental and healthy livelihoods through the use of culturally-appropriate clean and efficient cooking technologies that meet every traditional user’s needs to accelerate efforts to increase access to clean, modern cooking fuels to achieve the goals for the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All).
EFFECTS OF UNCLEAN COOKING STSTEMS
Underscored in the SDG Goal two that stresses on good health and well -being of women and children, smoke inhalation through cooking from these old methods hinder the achievement of this goal if no actions are taken to improve the current situation. The practice is a worry because women in the three regions of the north of Ghana, who consume about 70 per cent of their primary energy needs on solid fuel, charcoal and wood, continue to do so for the lack of alternatives.
To this end, women and girls spend close to four hours or 30 per cent of the day searching for the resource from farms, mangroves and forest areas for their cooking, with negative implications. It is not only the quality time lost by these girls in school, gathering fuel wood for their families, but the women could instead use that period to carry out income earning activities to support the family.
Unfortunately unpaid work in terms of collection of fuel wood and cooking, remain a major cause of gender inequality in the country especially in the three regions of the north.
To improve the situation of the girls and the quality of education as in goal four, there is the need for more families to adopt improved ways of cooking to reduce cooking time.
In the midst of the growing environmental violations and indiscriminate wood use for cooking, the country’s progress in charting the path to ensure SDG seven that seeks to guarantee access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, is still bedevilled with challenges because families are unable to afford the high cost of new cooking technologies and therefore rural communities find it difficult to patronize the new cooking systems.
Even though the government of Ghana in 2016 distributed over 20,000 LPG gas cylinders as part of efforts to promote clean cooking, the continual use of gas has been bedevilled with challenges, because beneficiaries are still unable to refill the cylinders and discontinue use due to high cost of liquefied gas. It has therefore led to most rural communities reverting to the use of wood for fuel.
To this end, there is the need for Ghana to set out clear targets and make investments move towards sensitising communities and institutions in respect of implementing policies to achieve SDG seven which links to the other 16 SDG goals.
This is because when the time in cooking household meals is reduced through the use of improved cooking systems, the burden on families who go out and spend lots of time to collect and buy the wood will reduce, thereby promoting zero hunger which goal two seek to solve.
Mr Dramani Bukari, the Officer in charge of Energy at SNV, who spoke to the Ghana News Agency said to address all the SDG content, Ghana must implement policies and strategies on clean cooking systems.
He noted that even though Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves and its counterpart in Ghana took a stand to promote clean cook stoves, Ghana is yet to take its first step on its planned target of 2 million clean cook stoves by 2020.
He noted that even though the Global Alliance counterpart in Ghana intended to distribute about two million cook stoves, it was not an official position accepted by the government of Ghana and noted that the sector was crucial given the level of life associated with indoor pollution and its attendant impact on women and children.
He said the time women and children spend in search for wood could be rechanneled to other activities to earn income and to reduce poverty.
Mr Bukari said in spite of the fact that there were civil society organizations like Ghana Alliance for clean cook stoves, there was the need for a coherent policy for the sector to streamline and coordinate activities of partners to optimise impact.
Responding to questions on the growing number of caterers on the school feeding programme and cooking in other educational institutions where the use of large quantities of fuel wood for cooking is inevitable, he suggested to government to provide improved stoves to schools so that it would help reduce emissions, and check atmospheric and thermal levels.
Coming from an advocacy organisation, he said LPG should not be the only alternative for cooking for people living in communities, hence improved stoves with less concentration on heat and reduced smoke that use less wood should be promoted.
He stated that most people live below the poverty line in the rural and some urban areas and therefore cannot afford to purchase and use LPG mentioning ‘Agyapa’clean cook stoves, among others that were on the market.
Mr Bukari therefore called on the government to come out with clear policies and support manufacturers with funding to produce low cost improved stoves at the community level .
According to him, it would be ideal if the District and Municipal Assemblies include in their mid- term development plans, budgets and strategies, the implementation of clean cook stoves in communities.
Feature by Fatima Anafu- GNA Journalist at Bolgatanga.