Chasing Smoke – Changing the Cooking Biomass Flow in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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More than 2/5 of the worldwide wood harvest is for firewood and charcoal for the ‘wealthy poor’; the ‘poor’ harvest dung, twigs, and tires. The resulting biomass flow has disastrous health, ecological, and global climate impact.

Mitigation efforts via improved cookstoves have often “gone up in smoke.” This can be attributed to the quality of the technology, cost and other factors affecting technology “uptake” including household dynamics, the prevalence of fuel stacking, cultural differences and so on.

We argue that while details are certainly enormously important, outcomes can be sustainably and efficiently altered by considering the entire biomass flow involved in cooking. We present the theory using principles relevant when introducing any energy usage change. We discuss the multi-year ongoing HealthyFire (Addis Ababa) case-study. This intervenes at multiple points in the flow of biomass via technology (“improved cookstoves”) + fuel pellets (“altered bio-mass flow”) + biochar buy-back (“altered biomass and economic flow”). Some highlights of the health, environmental, and economic benefits gained are presented. The potential for generalization is briefly considered, including the connection to the WELL (Water-Energy-Land-Livelihood) project at Annapurna farm in Auroville.

Event is open to the public.


Johns Hopkins University Room 812
1619 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036

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