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close this bookBoiling Point No. 43 - Fuel Options for Household Energy (ITDG - ITDG, 1999, 44 p.)
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Field research programme on energy technology, health, and the environment

by Majid Ezzati,1,2 Daniel M. Kammen,1,2,3 Bernard M. Mbinda2

1. Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) Program, Princeton University, 5 Ivy Lane, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. E-mail: mezzati@princeton.edn.

2. Mpala Research Centre, P.O. Box 555, Nanyuki, Laikipia, Kenya. E-mail: GMC@AfricaOnLine.co.ke.

3. Energy and Resources Group (ERG), 310 Barrows Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050, USA. E-mail: kammen@princeton.edu.

The rural environment of developing nations is particularly appropriate for research on technology transfer, environmental change, and public health. In this setting, new energy technologies have directly observable local impacts on economic opportunity, human health, and the ecosystem (as well as on the global flux of greenhouse gases).

The focus of our ongoing research is to develop a new vision of 'household ecology' that considers the links between human activity, human environment - within and surrounding the home, cattle compounds, and fuelwood resources - and public health. Our work emphasizes the role of household energy technology (traditional and improved cookstoves) in shaping this ecosystem, the impacts of the latter on human health, and the local knowledge of these issues. Our research is organized around three themes: (i) Household choice of technology; (ii) Interaction between household activity and local environment (indoor and outdoor); (iii) Impacts of local environment on human health.


Figure 1: Cookstoves were introduced in workshops in which extension workers and local household members prepared meals and discussed the performance of the stoves.

MRC

Table 1: Stove-fuel combinations in the study group.

Stove Name

Material

Fuel


Body

Liner


3-stone

N/A

N/A

Firewood

Kuni Mbili

Metal

Ceramic

Firewood

Upesi

Metal

Ceramic

Firewood

Lira

Metal

Ceramic

Firewood

Metal

Metal

N/A

Firewood and Charcoal

Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ)

Metal

Ceramic

Charcoal

Loketto

Metal

Metal

Charcoal

Research objectives

The specific objectives of our research and their policy applications are as follows:

Household choice of energy technology and lessons for technology transfer

We study the various factors that will influence the household choice of technology along the following themes: economic factors versus cultural forces; scale of decision making: community level, household level, and intra-household (in particular gender issues).

We work with Ekero Jiko Sales, a community based development group for the introduction of locally designed and manufactured ceramic cookstoves (see Figure 1). Most improved (high efficiency and low emission) cookstoves use a ceramic liner to retain heat, as opposed to traditional 3-stone cookers which have little insulating property (see Table 1). Improved cookstoves are designed for both of the common fuels of the Kenyan society: firewood and charcoal.

In addition to observing the various aspects of people's participation and reaction during the workshop (including the participants' comments and questions, their use and examination of cookstoves, and so on) we asked groups of participants, sometimes divided based on gender or age, questions about the workshop process. We also asked individuals separately to choose a cook-stove amongst the available models and to explain the reasons for their choice (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Local community members choose amongst the available styles of cookstove and explain the reason for their choice.

MRC

The impacts of energy technology on indoor air pollution:

We study the impact of the various forms of household energy technology on the level of indoor air pollution resulting from smoke emission, and any improvements that may come about as an outcome of the introduction of improved ceramic cookstoves. We consider emissions under the conditions of operation by actual users by conducting day-long (14 - hour) monitoring of pollution level at different points inside the house. Mean daily suspended particulate levels of 1000 - 5000 ((g/m3) are common among those households which use firewood with maximum levels as high as 200,000 ((g/ m3) (see Kammen et al., 1999). During this period we also monitor wood consumption and the activities of all the members of the house especially as related to cooking. The first set of results from this analysis (Kammen et al., 1999) indicate that improved stoves (both wood and charcoal) reduce the average pollution level but there is a large region of overlap between improved stoves and open fire.

Indoor air pollution and health:

A central focus of our research is establishment of the quantitative relationship between the level of various toxicants in smoke (in particular suspended particulates and carbon monoxide) and respiratory and eye infections. This 'dose-response' relationship is fundamental to detailed assessment of the cost-benefit trade off expected from various technological interventions. We have provided training for two community nurses from Nanyuki District Hospital on the World Health Organization protocols for diagnosing ARI. They visit the communities at Mpala on weekly basis to collect clinical health records and provide basic medicine to the local communities. A first level analysis of these data indicates that average pollution is correlated with incidence of respiratory and eye infections and headache (see Figure 3), but the intensity of exposure may matter, making those who cook (and are exposed to very high intensities of smoke) subject to higher risk (Ezzati et al., 1999).

Project profile

Project Location

Mpala Ranch/Research Centre. Laikipia District, Kenya.

Duration

1996 - Present

Households in the study group

80 (400 - 500 persons)

Data collected

TSP, [CO], health status, technology use, time-activity budget

Contacts

M. Ezzati, D.M. Kammen, and B.M. Mbinda (see above addresses)

Funding (available until the end of 1999)

Summit Foundation, Compton Foundation, ASAL Development Programme Laikipia District, SSRC, CIS, CRS. Funding needed for the coming year

Indoor air pollution, household ecology, and health:

The presence of smoke in the house may affect human health directly, or by increasing or reducing the pest/insect population. Our work will highlight a more elaborate ecology of many of the species commonly referred to as 'pests', which are often considered simply as 'disease vectors' or examined via their consumption or alteration of human food supplies and fuel resources.

As for the environment surrounding the house, people use plants for house construction, fencing, fuelwood and, for medicinal purposes among others. There are strong indications that some uses - notably house construction, cattle compound fencing and fuelwood collection have the most important influence, particularly on the 'woody plants'. Therefore we put particular emphasis on these uses. Our aim is to investigate whether people use wood resources randomly among all available resources or do they select certain species (and why); and what the ecological impacts of their use are.

Research site

The research is based at the 55,000 acre Mpala Research Centre/Ranch in Laikipia District, Kenya, which is administered by Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the National Museums of Kenya. Mpala Research Centre and Mpala ranch together comprise two villages which house the staff of the research centre and the ranch, and more than five bomas - compounds - which house pastoralist households who take care of cattle in traditional homesteads.


Figure 3a: Exposure-morbidity chart for combined ARI, eye infection, and headache: children under 5. The best-fit line is provided as an indicator of the trend of data.


Figure 3b: Exposure-morbidity chart for combined ARI, eye infection, and headache: children over 5 and adults. The best-fit line is provided as an indicator of the trend of data.