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Finding a green, local solution to a deadly household chore

It’s early evening and the sun is glowing, low and golden, above a homestead located a 3-hour drive from Cape Coast, Ghana. The air has cooled just enough for Grace and her family to start cooking their dinner over an open fire.

Grace stoking the fire to cook dinner for her 4 children.

Tonight they are making gravy and yams, and crushing together tomatoes and garden eggs, a popular type of eggplant.

At regular intervals Grace and her daughters add ingredients to a heavy pot and stir, then shift the firewood underneath, sending smoke billowing up to their faces.

“It affects our eyes,” Grace says. “We can’t see well, not only when I’m cooking but all the time now.”

Many families in Ghana, and around the world, still cook over open flames and use wood, or charcoal for fuel every day. This depletes forests, creates air pollution and has dire health consequences.

An estimated 4.3 million people die prematurely every year from illnesses attributed to household air pollution, including lung cancer, heart disease and pneumonia. About 25% of blackcarbon emissions come from burning solid fuels for household needs.

Just 20 minutes down the road from Grace’s village, Ibrahim and her neighbors are also cooking dinner.

They laugh and say they wish they were cooking banku, made from corn and cassava, because it’s their favorite. But tonight they’ll settle for the vegetable soup simmering on a squat silver stove.

The stove is a clean cookstove, which the women received through a loan from ASA Initiative, a Kiva Field partner that manufactures and distributes stoves that use a clean-burning palm kernel waste product as fuel.

More than 50,000 borrowers around the world have received ‘green loans’ through Kiva that enabled them to access clean energy sources and products like solar panels or clean cookstoves.

A loan of $250 provided the stove to Ibrahim and the group, and the women pooled their money to repay the cost over 7 months.

“The smoke will not get into our system now to give us many health problems,” says Ibrahim, who has 7 sons and daughters. “The children [used] to light the fire and they would always start coughing.”

Families like Ibrahim’s were consulted early on in the process of designing the stove, to make sure it would meet their needs and be a sustainable solution, says Wisdom Tseyi, the credit supervisor at ASA Initiative.

Palm kernels are used to make cooking oil, but the husks scattered on the ground are considered a waste product. These husks are used as biomass to fuel the ASA stoves.

“We saw the need for the product in the community,” he says. “The most important part is it uses the waste products of the palm kernel. It’s very common here, you don’t need to buy it, you can collect it.”

ASA worked with the community to determine the shape, size and color of the stove as well. The original design came from Italy, but they received feedback that the legs that weren’t strong and stable enough and that the color, a bright orange, was offputting. So they made adjustments to the design, then found local metal workers to produce the stoves.

Paul working on a component of the clean cookstove

Paul runs one of the metal workshops in Cape Coast that produces the stoves for ASA. His team proudly shows every step of the process, from cutting and welding the sides of the stove, to shaping and finishing the round core.

“Every day we are making stoves so the business gives me money to pay my employees and have some for my family,” Paul says. “It’s continuous work and it’s steady.”

Not only have the cookstoves helped Paul employ more people, he also took out his own Kiva loan to buy some of the machines needed to manufacture the stoves, including a drill, a metal molder and cutter.

His plan is to keep building the business and make enough money to continue to send his 4 children to school. Two of them are already in university to become accountants.

“I’m very proud of my children!” he says.

ASA has now facilitated 99 clean cook stove loans, all supported by Kiva lenders. More than 20 of the loans were for women setting up microenterprises to sell the stoves, extending the reach into more communities.

From Wisdom’s perspective it’s all part of the goal ASA had from the start: to design and produce a product locally to help create employment, while improving health and the environment.

Support a green loan on Kiva today, in honor of Earth Day.

About the author

Talea Miller

Talea is excited to combine her love for powerful storytelling and her digital strategy experience. She comes to Kiva from the Kaiser Family Foundation, where she managed digital strategy for the foundation's consumer-focused PSA campaigns. Prior to that she was a reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour for five years. At the NewsHour she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the developing world as part of the program's global health unit, covering a wide range of stories including the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, doctor shortages in Tanzania and the mistreatment of the mentally ill in Indonesia. In addition to being a news junkie, Talea enjoys photography, hiking and attempting to paint. She graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in Journalism and is originally from Maryland. So she also knows a lot about horses.