Harmful smoke and ash rising from homes and street-food stalls is a common sight in Kenya, where the majority of people use charcoal to cook their food.
Addressing the need for a cleaner way to cook, Samsung’s recent partnerships with Green Development SA and Rural Development Solutions have helped to deliver 20,000 bioethanol stoves to residents of Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya, and the Kakuma Refugee camp, in northern Kenya. Samsung has stepped in to subsidize the costs of the cook stoves, allowing them to be sold at a reduced price of 1,995 Kenyan shillings (approximately US$19.80).
These eco-friendly stoves provide an affordable and sustainable substitute for the traditional method of cooking on charcoal. By using bioethanol cook stoves instead of charcoal, the risks to the environment and to physical health are significantly reduced.
Charcoal is the most popular fuel in the cities of Kenya: according to a study from the Stockholm Environment Institute, over 80% of the urban population rely on charcoal. In comparison to other popular sources of fuel – such as liquid petroleum gas and kerosene – charcoal is less expensive and safer to use.
However, producing and burning charcoal have considerable drawbacks for the environment. Production is very inefficient, with 1 metric ton of wood yielding just 100kg of charcoal. As a result, demand for charcoal has led to rapid deforestation, animal habitat destruction and soil erosion.
Moreover, when burned, charcoal also generates toxic fumes which contribute to global warming and have damaging effects on human health. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that over 4 million people around the world die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels (such as charcoal).
The Benefits of Bioethanol
Bioethanol is a renewable, clean energy source and an attractive alternative to charcoal and burns six times more efficiently.
In Kenya’s poorest regions, price is a major obstacle to replacing charcoal, but the lower cost of purchasing bioethanol could change this. Per day, it costs a total of 60 Kenyan Shillings (approx. US$0.60) to provide one family with three meals cooked on charcoal. By contrast, the amount of bioethanol required would cost just 20 Kenyan Shillings (US$0.20), making the eco-friendly fuel significantly more affordable for many households.
It is relatively inexpensive to produce bioethanol. A byproduct of sugar refinement, bioethanol is made by fermenting molasses that are wasted from sugar refineries. What is more, there are many sugar factories in Mombasa and so, in time, the production of bioethanol can help to stimulate the local economy by providing an additional source of income.
Samsung is committed to mitigating climate change and improving public health through its initiatives. Bioethanol stoves are already improving lives through their reduced impacts on the environment and on health. Perhaps this small change in Kenya will spark widespread interest in eco-friendly cooking methods.