Hyacinths and Sawdust Used to Combat Cooking Pollution
A brew made from sawdust and water hyacinth flowers may help reduce the millions of lives lost across the developing world from the fumes of ramshackle cooking equipment.
Those are the ingredients being used by Green Energy Biofuels, a Nigerian renewable energy developer, to produce a bioethanol that substitutes for more polluting fuels such as kerosene, charcoal and wood. While the project is small — work will start next year on a $65 million plant after a trial produced 4 million liters (1 million gallons) of fuel — it’s one of a handful of programs across Africa to demonstrate that cleaner cooking can be economically viable.
Similar developments have won the backing of institutions such as the World Bank, World Health Organization and International Energy Agency. They estimate about 3 billion people still make meals with inferior fuels, leading to 4 million deaths a year from explosions and smoke inhalation. Cooking accounts for about a fifth of global emissions of black carbon, or soot, making it a target of climate-change campaigners ahead of a UN conference on the issue starting Nov. 30.
“I saw this as a huge gap in the market — energy for domestic use,” Femi Oye, founder of Green Energy Biofuels, said in a phone interview. “Our product is trading below the price of the government-subsidized kerosene and the market is growing very well.”
The African Development Bank’s new president has outlined plans to address unsafe cooking fuels as part of an initiative dubbed the “New Energy Deal for Africa.” He intends to help 700 million people gain access to clean cooking energy over the course of a decade by setting up intermediary financing facilities to lend to low-income households.
“About 600,000 people die each year in Africa from unsafe cooking methods such as kerosene and biomass,” Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, said in aphone interview. “Fifty percent of the people are women and then other half are mostly children under the age of five.”