By Ashok Gadgil, Debra Stein, Solutions
Nearly three billion people across the globe cook every day using open, three-stone fires, or rudimentary stoves that burn biomass such as wood, agricultural waste, animal dung, and charcoal. Cooking with these traditional cookstoves is inefficient and grossly polluting, harming health and the environment, and contributing to global warming. In many places worldwide, women must walk for hours to collect firewood, risking their safety and sacrificing energy and time that could be used to earn a living. While often overlooked as a major contributor to the global burden of disease, cooking over open fires indoors is the largest environmental health risk in developing countries, and exposes women (and the young children near them) to amounts of smoke equivalent to burning 1,000 cigarettes inside the home. In Darfur, Sudan, where about 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes by conflict, the situation is particularly dire. Each day, Darfuri women face the difficult choice between risking sexual assault during treks to collect firewood or selling a portion of their family’s meager food rations for cash to purchase wood. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove, developed by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and volunteers from UC Berkeley and Engineers Without Borders, is a metal stove that reduces the need for firewood by more than half, owing to its improved combustion and heat transfer efficiencies. LBNL has partnered with a nonprofit organization, Potential Energy, and a number of aid organizations to disseminate more than 22,000 Berkeley-Darfur Stoves to Darfuri women. Several hundred thousand more are needed.