How effective is the global clean cookstove initiative?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets a woman demonstrating how to cook using one of the various cookstove models in Chennai, India. Photo by: Paul Cohn / U.S. Consulate Chennai / CC BY-ND

The global campaign championed by the likes of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Hollywood celebrity Julia Roberts may not be turning out to be as effective as its proponents envisioned it to be.

That’s according to Bloomberg editors, who in a May 14 blog post suggest some tweaks are in order if the public-private partnership Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is to successfully carry out its goal of helping reduce the number of deaths from indoor smoke.

The editors cite a recent study by a group of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors that analyzed the health benefits of the alliance’s efforts in Orissa, India. The study found that despite meaningful reductions in smoke inhalation during a household’s first year of using a clean cookstove, the health benefits diminish over time because villagers usually abandon the stoves once they are damaged.

The study should not discourage the alliance from further scaling up its operations, Bloomberg editors clarify. But they say it highlights the need to improve the alliance’s approach, including through more sophisticated testing of prototype stoves in real-life settings and introduction of incentives to encourage families to keep using the clean stoves.

“Otherwise, the innovative stoves of today could wind up in the same junk piles as models from efforts decades ago,” the editors argue. “Those castoffs are a reminder that, however well- intentioned, many assistance programs for the developing world can prove fruitless.”

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.

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