Cleaner fuel for cleaner air
A total of about 2.9 billion people in developing countries use traditional fuels such as firewood, charcoal, crop residues and animal dung to cook their food on open fires. According to the World Health Organisation, smoke from traditional stoves accounts for 4.3 million deaths annually, or eight deaths per minute, disproportionately affecting women and children. Smoke exposure is especially dangerous for children under the age of 5, leading to nearly half of all pneumonia deaths in this age group.
Together with the health problems caused by smoke, the time it takes to collect firewood and prepare food on open fires poses a substantial barrier to economic, social and personal development in rural areas of developing countries. Furthermore, the black soot, CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions produced by traditional fuels accelerate climate change. Open fire cooking emits 21% of the world’s black carbon.
Bhutan is one of the highest firewood per capita consumers in the world. Nearly two-thirds of households use firewood and other forestry waste for cooking and heating, contributing to local deforestation and soil erosion.
The most obvious market-based solution to these challenges is to sell so-called “clean” stoves, which emit little or no smoke. However, for people who earn less than $2 a day, as do many in rural Bhutan, a stove’s economic cost trumps all other factors in day-to-day behaviour and purchasing decisions. Clean stoves require fuel such as charcoal, wood, liquefied petroleum gas or electricity, all of which can be far more expensive or time-consuming to procure than the stove itself.
The social enterprise Dazin has developed a business model that gets around this problem. Dazin makes a safe, clean cooking fuel from sustainably available biomass waste and distributes it to rural households in Bhutan at no cost. The raw materials come from collection points to which people bring forestry and agricultural waste in exchange for cheaply leased efficient stoves and fuel packets called ‘cookies’. Dazin finances itself by selling the surplus fuel cookies at market-competitive prices, mostly to urban and commercial users who would otherwise depend on costly and polluting liquefied petroleum gas.
With support from the Swiss Re Foundation, Dazin will build its own production facility for manufacturing small, efficient and easy-to-use briquettes – the fuel cookies – from forestry wood waste. The waste is deposited at Dazin’s collection points by rural households and transported to the production site, where a compression machine densifies the wood into cookies. The collection points are situated on the land of local women who are compensated with a clean gasifying stove instead of a leasing fee.
In return for the wood waste, Dazin initially gives rural households a clean stove for a nominal leasing fee as well as enough fuel cookies to meet their cooking requirements in accord with the wood waste they deposit.
The efficiency of Dazin’s fuel-and-stove offer enables surplus fuel cookies to be sold via door-to-door monthly delivery. Restaurants lease the clean stoves with an initial deposit fee and buy the fuel cookies at about half the current market price of liquefied petroleum gas. The profit from urban fuel sales offsets the cost of supplying fuel cookies in rural communities and supports Dazin’s expansion into new areas.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
More than 2 000 people in rural Bhutan are expected to benefit directly from the project through the fuel-and-stove offer as well as the creation of local jobs. Indirect beneficiaries include about 10 000 other households and commercial customers that will reduce their costs and environmental impact by switching to a safer, environmentally sustainable fuel source.