The impact of clean stoves on charcoal consumption in urban Africa: Evidence from a randomised controlled trial in Tanzania

Project Active from to Energy

A large proportion of households in urban areas of Africa use charcoal as a main source of energy for cooking. The use of biomass fuel like charcoal has been documented to be one of the prime drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in African countries. Between 2001 and 2007, a period during which Tanzania experienced rapid economic growth, the proportion of households using charcoal as a main source of cooking energy in the main city Dar es Salaam increased from 47 percent to over 70 percent. This phenomenon is contrary to the predictions of the energy ladder hypothesis, which postulates a decline in reliance on biomass fuel sources as income rises. This project undertakes a randomised controlled experiment to explain why households in urban Africa still continue to use charcoal as a main source of cooking energy even when income increases.

Biomass fuel such as charcoal consumption has serious environmental and health consequences. The use of firewood for cooking has been a prime cause of deforestation and environmental degradation in developing countries, very often resulting in loss of biodiversity and disturbance of local ecosystems. It has also been documented that on a per-meal-equivalent basis, burning of biomass fuel in inefficient stoves could contribute more to global warming than fossil fuel using stoves. Indoor air pollution due to biomass fuel burned in inefficient stoves has also been the cause for about 2 million premature deaths per year and 3.3% of the global burden of disease, particularly for women and children. Hence, investigating the factors that hinder transition to cleaner energy sources would provide the opportunity to generate knowledge that could be used by relevant stakeholders such as policy makers, donors, and NGOs that aim to promote energy transition and protect the remaining forest resources of Africa.

Relying on a carefully designed randomised controlled trial, this project specifically attempts to answer the following research questions:

  1. Does provision of affordable liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cookstoves reduce charcoal consumption and promote energy transition?
  2. Why do households continue to use charcoal even when income rises?
  3. Do LPG subsidy and access to credit induce adoption of LPG cookstoves?
  4. What would be the real impact of switching away from charcoal on Tanzania’s forests?
  5. What is the willingness to pay for LPG cookstoves by households in urban Tanzania