Three billion people across the developing world, mainly in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other developing Asian countries, still rely on traditional biomass, coal or kerosene for cooking on primitive stoves or open fires.
The total economic benefits of half of all the people using solid fuels worldwide switching to LPG for cooking are estimated at around US$ 90 billion per year compared with net intervention costs of just US$ 13 billion – a benefit-cost ratio of almost seven.
The socioeconomic cost of the use of polluting cooking fuels is enormous:
exposure to indoor air pollution from cooking this way causes the premature deaths of up to four million people annually from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as ill-health and the loss of productivity among millions more. They also damage the environment.
The switch from traditional biomass, such as wood or dung, to LPG can have a profound impact on society, especially on lives of lower-income families. Be it through improved health, efficient cooking or replacing the time spent collecting firewood by more productive activities.
Since household cooking is primarily the responsibility of women in nearly all societies, and the entire household fuel cycle is often the responsibility of women in developing countries whose households rely on biomass fuels, switching to LPG can have a profound impact.
Cooking For Life 20-20-20
In many parts of the world, women have to face extreme hardship, simply collecting fuel, spending up to 20 hours a week, sometimes walking 20 kilometres a day, carrying loads that can weigh 20 kg.
In communities where LPG cooking stoves have been introduced, women have reported decreases in time preparing meals due to greater stove controllability faster cleaning and no need to collect firewood. In some regions, this can represent more than four hours, each day.
Every day, about half of the world’s households cook with solid fuels, biomass or coal. The simple stoves found in the developing world are often not much more than open fires. Burning these fuels in such basic stoves typically produces substantial health-damaging air pollution. In many cases, these stoves are not vented to the outside and release their pollution directly into the living area. Switching to LPG has a dramatic impact on indoor air quality.
In areas of fuel scarcity, family diets can be obliged to shift to higher consumption of less nutritious but faster cooking foods, and the risk of infectious disease transmission can increase due to insufficiently cooked food and improperly boiled water. LPG can contribute to improved nutritional intake for all family members.
What are the health benefits of switching from biomass to LPG?
Wanjiku Manyara, Executive Director, Petroleum Institute of East Africa on What are the health benefits of switching from biomass to LPG?
Women’s Earning Potential
In addition to the increased earning potential of women resulting from decreased time collecting fuel and cooking, LPG availability presents other opportunities in women-run micro-enterprises. Although other fuels, such as diesel, can of course be used to energise women’s income generation activities, LPG offers unique advantages, and its higher cost can be more easily justified in a commercial context. The entrance of women into the market can have a positive feedback effect whereby money earned will be invested in household items to further aid in the completion of household tasks, freeing more time for money-generating or leisure/community activities. Empowering women and improving their status are essential to realising the full potential of economic, political and social development.
Gender equality matters
Gender equality matters if energy sector development is to contribute to economic growth and broader development goals. Access to clean cooking energy is a particularly gendered issue because women are primarily responsible for cooking in virtually all cultures.
Modern stoves and fuels can save women’s time and effort both in fuel collection and in cooking.
Women perceive this as the major advantage of LPG. Norms about responsibilities for care and housework mean that women in nearly all countries work longer hours than men, with a “triple burden” of market work, housework, and family care.
Women and girls suffer the most.
In addition to the effects of air pollution, they lose precious hours every day, collecting firewood – time that could otherwise be spent studying or working productively. As this report documents, head loads of 20 kilograms are not uncommon, as is having to walk distances of up to 12km. And they may face perilous physical risks while collecting this firewood.