| Boiling Point No. 13 - August 1987 |
I am very happy to receive many good materials that dealt with smoke and health.
As you know, in Tiom, the tribes are living in closed huts full of smoke. They must do this, because the altitude is high. For combating cold, for expelling mosquitos they must burn fuel inside their house.
So not difficult to say that 80% of deaths caused by ARI (Acute Respiratory Infection).
Thank you once again for your great help. I hope many successes in your work for the people in developing countries. God bless you!
N.B. Do you have a friend in Nepal? I want to contact him/ha, cause I know that Nepal is a highland country. I want to ask many things to them, esp. about their daily living, housing condition, plant suitable for that place.
Mr. Joseph Leitman of the Household Energy Division, Energy Dept. of the World Bank, has written as follows about our comments on his article 'Residue Utilization: A Recent Example from Africa' in BP 12:
"Let me briefly attempt to rectify some of the misstatements made
(a) The primary goal of the agricultural residue densification project in Ethiopia is to provide a household fuel as a substitute for charcoal, not for industrial or electric power generation;
(b) The quantities of residues to be used were very carefully determined to be surplus to any current end uses. Therefore, the assertion that provincial kitchens will be deprived of fuel is erroneous as they are not using these particular residues to begin with. In fact, in the project areas, most are torched in the field, thus constituting a complete waste,
(c) In fact, by substituting briquettes for commercialized charcoal in urban areas, the project aims at conserving, the natural forest cover for rural dwellers by protecting them from the 'urban shadow effect' caused by the consumption of inefficiently carbonized charcoal; and
(d) Finally, had the minimal effort been made to discuss editorial concerns with me prior to the article's publication, the editor would have discovered that the project did design ' a small, low-cost briquetting unit using locally available materials and employing and supplying local people' in the case of cherry coffee residues."
Unfortuantely, the article was received very late and we did not have time for full research nor did we feel we could publish it without some questioning of some of your statements. Readers can now judge for themselves. Ed.
I don't know whether you would be interested in further corroboration of the findings in the report summarized in Boiling Point No. 12 on charcoal in Malawi. I have recently done a study on the potential economic advantages of using a newly introduced charcoal stove for urban households here in Zimbabwe. Charcoal is not a common domestic fuel here, and the only source is the company who run extensive wattle plantations in the eastern highlands. Although the charcoal is a byproduct, and the timber so used would otherwise be burned to waste, the price of charcoal in Harare, currently around Z$4 per 5kg bag (say #1.50) is about four times what it would need to be to compete with paraffin, currently the cheapest cooking fuel for lower-income urban families. I am not surprised that changing to large company operated centralised production of charcoal would double the present price in Malawi; Zimbabwe experience suggests that the increase could be greater than that, and reinforces the conclusions that you draw from the Malawi report about the much wider benefits to be gained from smallscale traditional methods of charcoal making, improved, as they can be, by redesigning the kiln.
Yours sincerely, Brian MacGarry Development Education Centre, ZIMBABWE
Cooking is invariably a hazardous business. Where modern gas and electric stoves are in use, children are told not to pull at pot handles and parents try to minimize the risk by not leaving pots in dangerous positions where children could pull down scalding pots on themselves. However, used with care, modern appliances do not pose a daily health hazard to those around them.
The millions of people around the world using wood for cooking, face a far more dangerous situation. A catalogue of hazards could include children falling over three stone fires and suffering burns and scalds that are difficult to treat and often very slow to heal, fatigue and exhaustion suffered by those engaged in carrying fuel from increasingly distant and depleted forests and lung and eye problems suffered by women cooking over smoky fires enclosed in kitchens.
Stove designers can certainly help by following some simple guidelines.
1. New designs should be basically stable and difficult to topple over.
2. Pots can be protected with pot shields in single pot designs which will also improve efficiency.
3. Chimney designs remove all the smoke from the kitchen but are often impractical due to problems with maintenance, non-portability, higher cost and low efficiency compared to simple single pot designs. Well designed single pot stoves will considerably reduce smoke even without a chimney.
4. Sharp metal edges that could injure somebody knocking into the stove should be avoided. Rough cut edges can be folded over neatly by the metalworker constructing the stoves and this must be specified before work commences.
Improved stove designs are invariably shielded fires and this fact alone goes a long way in reducing the risk of injury. Careful design can further improve safety. However, until poor families have the money to invest in safe cooking stoves, many of these safety problems are likely to remain.
The following is an extract from a letter by S L Keiley containing all the technical points he makes:
I was distressed with the summary of my report on charcoal in Malawi. It would seem to me that your readership should be given a digest of a report and not just some erroneous editorial observations. I should think you would want the facts right.
For instance, the report was prepared and paid for by the World Bank. The report was not "mainly related to the need for fuel supplies for the larger industries." Rather, it is a study of the role for charcoal in the country with separate sections on the industrial market and urban household cooking market. And, the industrial market is for Malawi based companies, not non-Malawi-based companies.
The comments on the undesirable social effects are inaccurate and misleading. First, the displaced traditional charcoal makers are intended to work on a regular basis for more money in the proposed charcoal cooperative, or in the planned agro forestry activities. The net effect is employment generation, not shrinkage.
Second, the real cost of charcoal would not go up, but rather it would be formally recognized as goods, and services would be costed at real market value. Trees are not free goods.
Third, the rural poor do not now buy charcoal, nor does the report address the question of charcoal for the rural poor. In fact, as I recall, the rural poor use firewood, as it makes no sense for them to make charcoal. Thus, the notion of a doubling of price of charcoal for the rural poor is a specious issue.
Fourth, the beneficiaries are the urban people who consume charcoal. The concept is to make charcoal available to them at an affordable price on a sustainable, long-term basis. If this is not done, there will likely be fuel shortages, high prices, and all the problems of desertification.
As to the question of mound kilns, it is generally accepted that it is ill advised to use them to make charcoal for industrial use. The possibility is quite high for stone or dirt contamination, or brans. This would cause problems which brick or metal kilns largely avoid. The Cassamance or improved mound kiln would be sensible for the charcoal intended for the urban market. Nevertheless, technology choice alone does not solve the overall problem of sustained, long-term supply of charcoal from limited forest resources.
S L Keiley President EDI Enterprise Development Inc
Readers wishing to study the report in full (PP63) should contact Enterprise Development Inc, 1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 707, Washington DC 20036.