In Nigeria, cooking accounts for 91 per cent of total domestic energy consumption and wood is the most widely utilised cooking fuel with 120 million Nigerians estimated to be vulnerable to illness and deaths from exposure to cooking smoke.
Household air pollution (HAP) from inefficient stoves fuelled with biomass, kerosene or coal is thought to cause 4 million deaths yearly.
Women and children often suffer greater exposure as prevailing gender norms tend to give them greater responsibility for food preparation.
In addition to these health impacts, the use of unsustainably harvested biomass fuel for cooking has been linked to forest degradation while soot from incomplete biomass combustion contributes to black carbon emissions and global warming.
It has been found that most households in the country use wood fuel for cooking and this has had a huge impact on the environment.
Between 2000 and 2005, the country lost 55.7 per cent of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 3.12 per cent per annum.
According to a report by Treehugger, about half the land in Nigeria used to be covered in trees.
“Today all but about 10 per cent of those have been chopped down, and less than one per cent exist as frontier forests. Nigeria has removed 36 per cent of its trees in the past two decades,” it stated.
Between 1990 and 2000, Nigeria lost an average of 409,700 hectares of forest every year equal to an average annual deforestation rate of 2.38 per cent.
During the same period, it lost 35.7 per cent of its forest cover, or around 6,145,000 hectares.
Forest has been cleared for logging, timber export, subsistence agriculture and notably the collection of wood for fuel which remains problematic in sub-Saharan Africa.
Charcoal production is considered to be one of the major contributing factors to this.
According to a 2016 World Bank report, the share of Nigerians with access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking was at a depressing 4.91 per cent.
Notably, a report by the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that at least 82 million Nigerians still live below the poverty line.
Specifically, this means this large number of people spend less than $1.9 per day.
Majority of these people are rural dwellers and as such surrvive by taking an alternative route of using fuel wood in preparing their meals.
With inequality of income rising so high to the point of no more middle class, combined with rapid increase in population, domestic weakness derived from social-economic and political structure, poor Urban planning and poor access to the basic services such as electricity, cooking gas, lack of reforestation awareness, all of these join with high rate of tree cutting for domestic use such as fire-wood and charcoal production.
It is unfortunate to note that the rate of deforestation in Nigeria portends danger for sustainable development of the country.
The economic costs of high reliance on biomass for cooking are also substantial, about $ 36.9 billion per year, or 2.8 per cent of GDP, including $29.6 billion from productive time lost gathering fuel and cooking.
“Greater knowledge dissemination will help motivate people towards clean cooking and looking beyond the financial implications that come with it. Despite our stoves being one of the most affordable in the market, we are still having complaints of affordability.
Affordability is one of the reasons adoption is low. We don’t have a good consumer financing system in Nigeria unlike East Africa, ” Happy Amos, Founder, Roshan Renewables said at a forum recently.
Happy whose company is a major distributor of improved cook stoves (ICS) said,” Cooking in Nigeria is not getting the attention it requires. People still complain of price.
Since clean cooking is not a priority for majority of people when compared with so many other things they have to financially cater for, it is now paramount for more education to occur on the subject of clean cooking, ” she added.
Numerous cookstove interventions across sub-Saharan Africa are beginning to reach scale, with benefits to household health, livelihoods, environment and economies.
There is an urgent need however to ramp up these initiatives, tailoring them to the specific conditions in each country.