How the felling of Trees for Firewood and Emissions have affected Climate Conditions in Northern Ghana

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…A case for Clean Cooking, Cookstoves and the Environment

It is estimated that more than 70 percent of the population of Ghana depends largely on solid fuels for their household cooking needs even in this era of technological advancement. The over dependence of the people on biomass has also increased pressure on local natural resources, contributing to environmental degradation. As a result, women and children are forced to spend many hours each week collecting wood.

This development is impacting almost everybody in the Northern region of Ghana with women and children bearing the brunt the most.

While cooking meals for their families a lot of women, in developing countries, breathe in harmful smoke on daily bases and walk far distances to secure fuel in order to cook those meals.

Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires, which is the primary means of cooking for nearly three billion people in the developing world, causes nearly four million premature deaths each year, including 18,000 annual deaths in Ghana, and millions more suffer from cancer, pneumonia, heart and lung disease, blindness, and burns.

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Here in Ghana, over 70 percent of the population depends on solid fuels for their household cooking needs. Reliance on biomass increases pressure on local natural resources, leading to environmental degradation, and forces women and children to spend many hours each week collecting wood.

Inefficient cooking also contributes to climate change through emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and aerosols such as black carbon.

Read More: Accra Technical University Plants Trees at its Mpehuasem Campus

Exposure to smoke from cooking contributes to a range of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts such as early childhood pneumonia, emphysema, cataracts, lung cancer, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, and low birth weight. In all these, women and young children are the most affected, as an estimated 2,200 children in Ghana dye every year due to acute lower respiratory infections caused by the use of solid fuels.

Studies have shown that burning solid fuels in inefficient cookstoves causes poisonous contaminants into the air leading to levels of household air pollution which most of the time far surpass the World Health Organization (WHO)’s health-based guidelines.

Unfortunately, the potential for harm does not stop when smoke leaves the home. Instead, in many areas, fine particulate emissions from household cooking with solid fuels are a major source of ambient (outdoor) air pollution. Air pollution in homes accounts for about 12% of ambient air pollution globally and up to about 30% of ambient air pollution in areas of South Asia and China. The ambient pollution which occurs as a result of household cooking with solid fuels has major implications for both human health and the environment.

Raymond Kusorgbor is the National Coordinator for the Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Fuels. He has explained to in an exclusive interview that the burning of solid fuels discharges emissions of some of the important contributors to global climate change including carbon dioxide, black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants, in addition to air pollution. He said unsustainable wood harvesting contributes to the loss of biodiversity and forest degradation and reducing carbon uptake by forests.

It is estimated that black carbon which originates from partial burning will contribute to about 25 to 50 percent of carbon dioxide warming globally. Residential solid fuel burning also accounts for up to 25 percent of global carbon emissions, about 84 percent of which is from households in developing countries. For example, in Southern Asia over half of black carbon comes from the use of efficient cookstoves.

How the felling of Trees for Firewood and Emissions have affected Climate Conditions in Northern Ghana

Charcoal production can also play positive roles in an agroforestry system when produced from sustainably managed woodlots. Nevertheless, the unsanctionable harvesting of wood for charcoal production can add-up to forest deprivation. Some countries’ over reliance on wood or wood charcoal for cooking has led to a decline in the quality of forests they have. Deprived land obviously leads to losses in biodiversity, erosion control, and storm flow regulation (flood protection). Forest degradation also contributes to climate change and can also lead to desertification.

Clean Cooking?

A family that buys an improved cookstove or fuel that is 30 percent more efficient than a traditional stove is likely to save enough money for to take care of the school fees of at least two children. The time spent wood, preparing and cooking food can take hours, a reduction of which can allow women to complete other responsibilities and pursue income-generating opportunities, or have enough rest to improve their health.

Eric Banye, who is the Programmes Manager for the Voice of Change Partnership programme which is being implemented by the Netherlands Development Organization, has told this writer that the use of clean, safe and efficient cookstoves can reduce fuel consumption and exposure to harmful smoke; and can offer countless economic opportunities for the citizens of Ghana. It can also provide a lot of ecofriendly and climate benefits.

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“More efficient stoves also reduce the time people, usually women and girls, need to spend collecting fuel, allowing greater time to devote income generating activities or schoolwork,” he noted.

It is evidential that new and improved cookstoves of modern have proven to reduce fuel use by about 30 percent to 60 percent, resulting in less greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions with even lesser impacts on forests, homes and biodiversity.

How the felling of Trees for Firewood and Emissions have affected Climate Conditions in Northern Ghana

Recent evidences have also shown that advanced cookstoves and fuels can reduce black carbon emissions by about 50 to 90 percent. Since the atmosphere lifetime of black carbon is only a few days, reducing black carbon emissions can bring about a more rapid climate response than reductions in carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases alone.

Studies have shown that regulating both short-lived climate pollutants and long-lived greenhouse gases can increase the chances of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degree Celsius, a long-term international goal for avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

How the felling of Trees for Firewood and Emissions have affected Climate Conditions in Northern Ghana

The Campaign Heats up

Many people are taking the campaign for a clean cooking system very serious. So far some notable personalities have joined the awareness campaign and there are indications that many more will continue to join till the objective is finally achieved. Mention can be made of Hajia Samira Bawumia the Second Lady of Ghana who has been declared an Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Other notable personalities who have promoted the awareness include former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Award-winning actress Julia Roberst, and musician Rocky Dawuni. They have all worked with the Alliance and its partners to raise awareness of household air pollution while encouraging broader adoption of clean cooking solutions in developing countries.

In Ghana, eight out of ten people cook with solid fuels such as wood and charcoal, leading to significant impacts on health, gender equality, and the environment. It is also estimated that the toxic emissions from cooking this way leads to about 20,000 premature deaths each year.

At a ceremony in in 2019 when she was made an Ambassador for clean cookstoves Hajia Samira Bawumia remarked that “Across Ghana, I have seen the widespread impacts of cooking first hand, especially among girls and women…I look forward to using my voice and passion to help the Global Alliance increase the use of cleaner cooking solutions and ensure that cooking no longer kills”.

The need for Policy

An Energy advisor to SNV, Bukari Dramani, opined that the fact that there were civil society organizations are advocating clean and efficient cooking methods, means there is a need for policy cohesion for the sector. This according to him will streamline and coordinate activities of partners to optimize impact.

How the felling of Trees for Firewood and Emissions have affected Climate Conditions in Northern Ghana
Bukari Dramani, Energy Advisor, SNV

He proposed to government to consider supplying improved cookstoves to public schools to enable them reduce emissions, while checking atmospheric and thermal levels. He said the LPG should not be the only alternative for cooking for people living in communities and that improved stoves with less concentration on heat and reduced smoke with less wood should also be hyped.

And Unemployment too…

According to Kusorgbor, with the needed support, the sector has the potential of engaging majority of the youth who are unemployed to produce improved cookstoves since it is a labour intensive avenue.

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson ||

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