If you thought that smoking was bad for you, you should try cooking on a wood stove. The smoke produced by a wood stove each hour is equivalent to that from 400 cigarettes; with that in mind, it’s no wonder that cookstoves are one of the biggest killers in developing countries.

That risk is clear and imminent, but still surprisingly new to many of us. And, even though the problem is well defined, the solutions are complex, contextual and certainly debatable.

It is for that reason that more than 500 professionals from around the world came together in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the Clean Cooking Forum from the 18-22 March. The forum is a bi-annual event, bringing together experts, donors, policy makers, commercial companies and scientists in the field of improved cookstoves to discuss the most pressing topics of the moment. The forum was hosted by GERES Cambodia and organised by The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), of which SNV is one of the founding partners.

During the official opening, participants were updated on the latest statistics by Dr Kirk Smith, with the premature mortality rate caused by household air pollution really driving home this tragic issue. Latest figures show that some four million people worldwide (and one million located in India alone) are dying each year due to the direct pollution inside their homes. Factor in the outdoor pollution and indirect exposure caused by the burning of cooking fuels and that figure would be much higher.

As finding clean indoor cooking solutions is a cross-sectional and multi-country issue, SNV was represented by a group of eight experts hailing from six different countries. SNV presented its ongoing and successful work in the field of biogas in Vietnam and Nepal to the large group of participants, as well as presenting its improved cookstoves solutions in Laos. Furthermore, SNV was invited to both host and participate as experts in several group discussions and sessions on the use of subsidies for market development, fuel selection and use. A large number of forum participants also attended the one day field visit to SNV’s Biogas Program in Cambodia.

Multiple eminent advocates of GACC and the clean cookstoves cause were present at the Clean Cooking Forum. The audience was enriched by the knowledge and ambassadorial work of, for example, famous chefs Jose Andres and Sanjeev Kapoor –currently one of the presenters of Masterchef India with over 300 million viewers. Ghanaian music star Rocky Dawuni treated the audience to one of his newest songs entitled Extraordinary Women, which was written specifically for the cause.

The many lessons that were learned during the Clean Cooking Forum will now be directly implemented in the market based improved cookstoves programs that SNV is developing in countries like Laos PDR, DRC Congo, Rwanda, Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Learn more about SNV's work in Renewable Energy here.