Across the globe, approximately three billion people depend on wood and charcoal for cooking, including over 90% of the population of Sub Saharan Africa.
As a typical urban household spends 10 to 20% of its income on charcoal and a typical rural one spends about 10 to 20 hours per week foraging for wood, the reliance on these fuels helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty in which they live. To make matters worse, toxic emissions from the burning of biomass fuels is hazardous both to (1) human health, accounting for over four million premature deaths each year from in-door air pollution, and (2) the environment, accounting for 25% of black carbon emissions and the loss of hundreds of millions of trees each year.
Lifeline understands that, given the magnitude of the problem, aid-based interventions cannot even make a dent and the only realistic solution lies in harnessing the power of the free market – that is, providing the bio-mass dependent population with access to affordable products that combat its dependency. But, as the great bulk of that population is deeply impoverished, its members cannot be expected to purchase those products unless they are truly low cost.
Lifeline has, therefore, spent the past 12 years developing, mass-producing and marketing fuel efficient stove products that cater to the needs of consumers who cook with wood-fuels and who live at or near the base of the economic pyramid. While these commercial ventures are still at a relatively early stage of development, they have already profoundly improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of consumers across three countries – Uganda, Haiti and Burundi – and, with the investment of additional resources, will be able to reach millions more in the years ahead.