There is no doubt that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the 193 nations in 2015, is a major step towards addressing poverty, inequality, and climate change over the next 15 years. As the global community including Ghana work towards implementing these goals, it is very significant to invest in pragmatic solutions that have the greatest potentials in tackling the root causes of poverty, inequality, climate change, economically inclusive, cross-cutting impacts.
One of the pragmatic measures that could be adopted to fast-track the attainment of the SDGs is Clean Cocking. Clean cooking can contribute to an enabling environment for achieving the entire Agenda 2030 and directly deliver across ten of the SDGs. In other words developing a thriving global market for clean and efficient cook stoves and fuels we can transform the way the world cooks: saving lives, improving livelihoods, empowering women, and protecting the environment simultaneous.
One may ask how can clean cooking help fast-track the attainment of the SDGs? For instance the Goal three of the SDGs talks about Good Health and Well-being. There is no doubt that the reduction of smoke emissions from cooking decreases the burden of disease associated with household, air pollution and improves the well-being of the households particularly women and children.
Besides , Goal four deals with Quality Education . Many children, particularly the girl-child is often kept out of school because they have to travel for far distances in search of fuel wood for cooking in households thereby either going to school late or absenting themselves from school hence affecting quality education.
The Goal five talks about Gender Equality. Unpaid work, including collecting fuel and cooking, remain a major cause of gender inequality. With the empowerment of women with Clean energy cooking tools particularly making the items affordable and available would help address Gender Equality and help accelerate the attainment of the Goals.
Goal thirteen talks of climate action. Up to 25 per cent of black carbon emissions come from burning solid fuels for household energy needs. Clean cooking solutions address the most basic needs of the poor, while also delivering climate benefits.
Additionally, the Goal fifteen lay more emphasis on Life and Land. Research hand shown that up to 34 per cent of fuel wood harvested is unsustainable, contributing to forest degradation, deforestation, and climate change.
In spite of the significant role Clean Cooking play to the attainment of the SDGs, it had not been given the much needed attention in Ghana as a country.
For instance it would shock one to realize that all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the country particularly in Northern Ghana have failed to mainstream Clean Cocking into their Medium Term Development Plans. Most of the MMDAs rather focus their attention on Rural Electrification Project at the expensive of promoting improved cooking stoves and subsidizing the cost of LPG and its accessories. The work committee of the MMDAs should be informed of the energy needs of the citizens as more than 56 per cent of final energy is used for cooking and heating.
What is even making it more frightening is that 2010 statistics available at the Renewable Energy Unit of the Ministry of Energy indicates that the three northern regions are the most affected when it comes to fuel wood consumption with the Northern Region leading with 78 per cent, Upper West Region -75 per cent and Upper East Region 62 per cent respectively.
Again a research conducted by this Writer revealed that there are some women in the rural settings in the Upper East Region who compete with farmers for “cowdong” and plant residuals for cooking meals which make many women go through drudgery in collecting such fuel sources and the smoke from such traditional cooking systems contribute to a range of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts such as stroke, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses with women especially pregnant women and children being the most affected. All of these are likely to affect the attainment of the SDGs if pragmatic measures are not taking now to adopt clean cooking.
Lack of access to cleaner energy is due to lack of population threshold in the many communities in the North to attract filling station business men to set up stations in rural District most of whom are in the three Northern Regions which compelled many consumers who can afford to rely on traditional cooking methods and fuels with its great cause of desertification.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency at Paga in the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East Region, Mr Julius Awaregya , the Coordinator of the Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability (ORGIIS), an environment focused Non-Governmental Organization , stated that the speedy implementation of the cylinder recirculation reform would not only reduce the accidents, but also help in addressing the spate of environmental and climate change that characterize the Northern , Upper East and Upper West Regions in the country.
The new reform known as the call Coca-Cola method would afford customers the opportunity to exchange their empty gas cylinders with the filled ones and retail shops would be responsible to ensure safety and quality standards are followed to reduce consumers’ risk.
“This will lead to the increasing access to affordable, efficient and sustainable energy since the product will be placed at vantage points in many communities for customers to patronize. As a country, If we succeed in the implementation of the reform we are likely to reduce the consumption of biomass and charcoal production in this country particularly in the three Northern Regions and help curb environmental degradation ”, he stressed.
The Coordinator who blamed the problem partly to the lack of access to affordable and efficient energy systems like LPG and improved cook stoves , stated that due to the availability of the product in the Greater Accra Region only four per cent of consumers used fuel wood and charcoal as resources of cooking energy.
He stated that the problem in the Northern Regions would continue to worsen if pragmatic measures are not adopted to address the issue and suggested that one of the measures that could be adopted to arrest the problem was the implementation of the cylinder recirculation reform.
Viewing the importance role clean cooking plays to the attainment of the SDGs, there is the urgent need for the MMDAs to mainstream clean cocking into their Medium Term Development Plans by supporting communities with LPGs and improved cocked stoves.
The National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and Ministry of Energy must as a matter of urgency implement the proposed energy cooking reform to help curb the spate of environmental degradation and mitigation of climate change in the country particularly the northern parts of the country.
The NPA a couple of months ago indicated that instead of customers patronizing the product at the LPG stations, the product would be packaged in cylinders at retail shops and customers made to patronize it there know as cylinder recirculation.
This, the Ministry noted, would help curb the spate of accidents and calamities that usually occur at many of the Gas filling stations in the country. This is welcoming news.
Whilst there is also the urgent need for Government to remove the subsidies on the LPG and use the fund to support LPG devices and accessories to make them affordable and accessible, there is also the urgent need for the private sectors to be encouraged to set up LPG stations at vantages points for customers to patronize. It is also very important for households to be educated on the use of LPG to avoid disasters.
The implementation of program tailored towards promoting LPG use in the domestic, commercial and public institutions such as schools, improved LPG storage and distribution outlets nationwide, the training of rural women in the construction of improved stoves for households as well as encouraging the use of open ventilated kitchens to reduce indoor air pollution in the kitchen are also very important.
In conclusion , to quote from the Coordinator of ORGIIS, Mr Awaregya any Assembly who would want to be seen supporting the country to achieve the SDGs would not hesitate to attach the importance of energy cooking into its systems particularly the “the Goal seven which places emphasis on access to affordable, efficient and cleaner fuel for all by 2030”.