Clean cooking stoves are a simple way to save lives across Africa, says ForAfrika

by Tia

One of the simplest ways to save lives across Africa is to ensure that more people are able to cook their daily meals over stoves instead of open fires, says Isak Pretorius, CEO of Africa’s largest humanitarian assistance organisation, ForAfrika.

The importance of ForAfrika’s push to ensure more people in African countries have access to cooking methods cleaner than an open fire was underlined by the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Summit on Clean Cooking in Africa, held in Paris in May 2024.

“We are very encouraged by the IEA’s resolve to make 2024 a pivotal year for achieving universal access to clean cooking and by the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) promise to allocate 20% of its energy funding for 2024 to clean cooking,” says Pretorius.

Some of ForAfrika’s largest clean cooking programmes take place in Uganda and South Sudan.

In Uganda, ForAfrika is “mobilising resources” so that it can complete more projects such as a recent one through which 1 077 households were trained in clean cooking methods, says Fred Mutenyo, Uganda country manager. The project, funded by the JAC Trust, an independent grant-making Trust focusing on climate change and displaced people, also saw 801 fuel-efficient stoves built, reducing the amount of wood burnt to cook meals.

Under the programme, ForAfrika Uganda provided local materials and community-based training facilitators. Beneficiaries were shown how to build inside stoves that have chimneys and that can take two pots simultaneously.

In South Sudan, ForAfrika plans to ensure 100 households adopt improved cooking stoves, says Mulegeta Berhanu, the organisation’s food security and livelihoods manager in the East African country.

This project is supported by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization and is aimed at reducing deforestation, carbon emission, respiratory health risks and gender equality, says Berhanu.

This, and all clean cooking projects contribute to the world achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the deadline for which is 2030, by working towards the seventh of these goals – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, says Berhanu.

More than 600 000 women and children die each year of the effects of biomass combustion and it is estimated that the health cost to African countries from this scourge is $700-billion, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said after the IEA summit.

“Indoor air pollution from household solid fuels is responsible for half of all deaths among children under five years of age from acute lower respiratory infections,” says Mutenyo.

In Uganda, the use of these stoves also leads to broader social and environmental issues, he adds.

“Women and girls often spend significant time gathering fuel, which could otherwise be used for education or productive activities. This also exposes them to violence. Additionally, the use of firewood and charcoal contributes to deforestation and environmental degradation.”

Uganda’s National Forestry Authority reported in 2017 that the country lost half its forestry cover over the 30 years to 2017, from 4.9-million hectares to 2.5-million hectares and that more than 90% of the population depend directly on forests for their energy needs, including firewood and charcoal.


Berhanu says household air pollution is highly prevalent and a major public health concern in South Sudan.

“Around 99% of all households in South Sudan use solid fuels for cooking, in both rural and urban areas. This puts children in South Sudan at risk of pneumonia-related deaths attributed to household air pollution,” he says.

Berhanu, like Mutenyo, also points to the safety risk faced by women and girls who travel long distances gathering firewood.

“ForAfrika’s power lies in its people. We are Africans, living and working in the communities we assist. We know their aspirations and challenges intimately. We’re very encouraged that a global spotlight has been focused on this very easy way to save lives,” says Pretorius.

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