Burning biomass is critical to the lives of half the world’s population, providing essential food and warmth. Unfortunately it is also a major cause of poor heath, with about 1.6 million deaths each year caused by smoke from cooking. It also contributes to deforestation as areas are stripped of trees, and to climate change as greenhouse gas emissions mount up.
At the heart of the problem are the many inefficient and polluting stoves used across developing countries. Local initiatives have made progress in designing and distributing better stoves, but have not reached the numbers that are needed. But now the Aprovecho Research Center and SSM, their Chinese manufacturing partners, have mass-produced an affordable stove (US$3.50 to US$12 ex-factory), which can be sold around the world. Using smart design to make them light, durable and fuel-efficient, SSM had sold over 70,000 stoves by 2010, the majority to India, but also to Africa and Latin America.
People and the planet are reaping the benefits, both in their immediate lives - savings of 40% on fuelwood and 50 to 60% on carbon monoxide emissions – and in the longer-term. ARC’s analysis suggests typical saving of 1 to 2 tonnes/year CO2 per stove. Yet as impressive as the success so far, is the potential of mass production to provide good stoves for millions of customers.