Why clean cooking technologies are not popular in Uganda

Wednesday February 12 2020

John Lwegaba

John Lwegaba  

By John Lwegaba

The adoption of clean cooking technologies is still a challenge in peri-urban areas. Through a rapid assessment study conducted in April 2019 by AGEs CONSIDERED (ACO) in Mende Sub-country, Wakiso District, it was found out that 85 per cent of households and small businesses in Mende use charcoal as the main source of cooking energy, thus imposing a huge demand on charcoal. This statistic was also found to be consistent with other several studies, including the 2016/2017 Uganda National Household Survey, which noted that 90 per cent of households use biomass (firewood or charcoal for cooking).
According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) statistical abstract 2018, Wakiso District population growth is at 4 per cent greater than the national annual growth rate of 3 per cent. This presents a very high demand for food to this ever increasing population, which has led to the cropping up of cooking businesses all over major and minor trading centres. It is evident that in evenings, many chapatti, chips and mobile restaurants crop up and all these use poor or low quality cooking stoves that consume a lot of charcoal
For instance, one of the many businessmen to run a chapatti business in Namusera trading centre, only operates in the evenings given that during day, he rides a boda boda. He says he uses half a bag of charcoal a week to run his business - and if he worked during day and night, he uses a full bag of charcoal a week.
With this case, one can easily make simple maths and notice that 50 people running similar businesses in the same trading centre, would require 2,400 bags of charcoal a year! This, in turn, means that many trees have to be cut down to satisfactorily meet this high demand. This is a huge issue that requires serious interventions. From the Uganda National Charcoal Survey, 2016 policy brief report by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (the Green Charcoal project), it was noted that the country loses 60 million metric tonnes of wood annually.
In the earlier mentioned rapid assessment exercise conducted by AGEs CONSIDERED, it was found out that 35 per cent did not know about better energy saving alternatives, 38 per cent said alternatives such as electricity are expensive, 22 per cent said charcoal is easier to access given that the supply is always guaranteed, 5 per cent gave responses depicting that they lack access and information about energy saving and clean cooking stoves.
These responses show a very big gap in realising the achievement of clean cooking in peri-urban areas countrywide. The implications of ignoring this issue ranges from environmental issues, including increased deforestation and its effects, financial issues, including reduced revenue from associated wood products to health- related challenges such as increased respiratory diseases from inhering fumes as a result of poor cooking stoves and so on.
Due to this fact, ACO recommends:
l Ministries of Energy and Finance should subsidise on energy source alternatives such as liquefied petroleum gas, biogas and electricity to make them affordable to many people.
l Ministries of Energy, and Water and Environment as well as civil society need to train the population and target groups such as restaurant owners on use of alternative energy.
l Ministry of Energy and Uganda National Bureau of Standards need to promote standards for efficient improved cooking stoves and should popularize and disseminate them to such target populations.
l Media engagements should be used to educate the wider population about clean cooking energy alternatives, among others.

Mr Lwegaba is the programme officer AGEs CONSIDERED (ACO), Member of the Renewable Energy CSO Network hosted by Environmental Alert. ljohvian@gmail.com