4. Energy and the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa
Household perceptions of improved cookstoves
Around 2.7 billion people globally and 80% of households in Sub-Saharan Africa rely on solid biomass fuels for cooking and heating. This results in high levels of exposure to household air pollution (HAP); the second most common cause of death in eastern, central and western sub-Saharan Africa. Top-down technology-oriented initiatives seeking to promote the uptake of »improved« cookstoves (ICS) have had limited success to date. Drawing on participatory cooking events in the UK, Malawi and Zambia plus in-depth field-based research in Nigeria, we discuss our use of participatory engagement activities that gave voice to (and encourage emic understandings of) end-user priorities regarding fuel and cookstove use. We argue that such approaches can be effective in promoting two-way knowledge sharing between ICS producers, promoters and end-users. We also suggest that community-wide participatory approaches used in sanitation initiatives have potential to be adapted within ICS interventions to help deepen understandings of locally specific cooking preferences and integrate community and scientific knowledges about the causes of health issues linked to solid fuel use.