Combatting Household Air Pollution

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Columbia University
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Area/s of Research
Climate Change Science

Nearly 3 billion people around the world use traditional cookstoves and fuels. According to the World Health Organization, the resulting air pollution leads to an estimated 4 million preventable deaths per year. In Ghana, about 70% of households cook by burning biomass including wood, charcoal and crop residue in open fires. While there have been significant public and private investments in efforts to encourage the use of clean cookstoves over the last decade, new approaches are needed to achieve substantial changes in air quality and health. The project aims to increase the adoption of innovative clean cooking technologies that reduce household air pollution. The project takes a new comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to addressing the problem that (1) integrates behavioral approaches to understand and overcome obstacles to adopting clean-cooking technologies; (2) deploys an array of clean technologies, rather than providing households with a single option; (3) aims to transition entire communities to new cookware and energy sources in order to achieve significant health benefits that cannot be realized through the transition of only a few households in any given community; and (4) examines broader infrastructural and regulatory barriers to adoption in order to facilitate transitions based on community needs. The project will focus on a region within Ghana with nearly 30,000 people — with the hope of dramatically and measurably improving their public health, while also contributing to women’s empowerment in the region, economic development and improved environmental quality. If successful, this effort should provide lessons that can be applied throughout Ghana and Africa more generally.

The award to UCSB will support the continuing work on CHAP project assessing behavior change challenges and opportunities in Ghana for cleaner cookstoves, including (a) analysis of household survey data, (b) implementation of a behavioral assessment (demand) study in rural Ghana, (c) design of field work to test hypotheses around adoption and sustained use of clean fuels in Ghana, and (d) close collaboration with the project teams in New York and Ghana.