<i>By Aneri Patel, Business Development Fellow, Impact Carbon</i>

In the neighborhood of Makindye located in Kampala, Uganda, Florence Kibuuka is cooking matoke (mashed plantains) with an improved charcoal cookstove. Florence proudly exclaims “the Ugastove product is so great that if I had the money, I would buy them for all my friends! This stove saves me 1000 Ugandan shillings (about 50 US cents) per day on charcoal compared to the traditional stove.”

Florence is the proud owner of a Ugastove, manufactured by Ugandan Stove Manufacturers Limited (Ugastove Ltd.), a local company that produces improved cookstoves.

These improved cookstoves burn biomass more efficiently, lower family expenditure, mitigate deforestation, curtail green-house gas emissions and can help to reduce the exposure of families and cooks to dangerous air pollutants in smoke from indoor cooking.

The stoves have a thick clay lining that retains the heat using 35-50% less charcoal, thus saving families an average of US $80 a year. The design was developed in consultation with US cookstove experts, which help manufacturers such as Ugastove produce these technologies using local materials and labor.

The problem
More than ninety percent of Ugandans rely on charcoal or firewood as an energy source, which contributes to significant destruction of national forests. Uganda’s National Environment Authority estimates that the country has lost two-thirds of its forests in the last twenty years and would lose it all by 2050 at present rates of deforestation.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Uganda estimates that already twenty-eight districts have lost their entire forest ecosystem while another nineteen districts have forest cover lower than 1%. In addition, in poorly ventilated areas, the toxic fumes from burning wood over a three stone fire can reach 200 times the level that the EPA considers safe for breathing.

Risks include pneumonia, lung cancer, cataracts, low birth rate, and death – World Health Organization estimates about 2 million people die each year from indoor air pollution, affecting mostly women and children. This is twice the number of people dying each year from Malaria.

The cost-savings for Ugandans is also substantial – an average Ugandan family uses about a bag of charcoal a month for cooking – which is currently 100,000 Ugandan Shillings, or $42. Depending on usage, savings can be as high as 50%, leaving more income for families to spend on food, education, health, etc.

Putting the pieces together
Florence Kibuuka now prevents an estimated two tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere a year by switching to an improved cookstove. She is also saving 30,000 Ugandan Shillings (approx. USD $11) a month by using the Ugastove, which is particularly important as the price of charcoal is on the rise.

Florence now has more time to conduct other activities as the heat retained from the stoves cooks food faster and keeps the food warmer longer. As she buys less charcoal, the demand of timber needed for cooking fuel decreases through mass adoption, thus decelerating deforestation in Uganda.