Improved cookstoves in Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau

Improved cookstoves in Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau


From 2012 to 2014, improved biomass cookstoves (ICS) were installed in 5298 households in the Casamance Natural Subregion in West Africa. This study assesses the co-benefits of a clean cooking solution intervention, in terms of health, gender, and climate change. The largest benefit from implementation of improved cookstoves was seen in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as fuelwood consumption and time spent collecting firewood and cooking. Health benefits from reductions in air pollutants were limited.

Intervention overview

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 2.4 billion people in the world lack access to clean cooking solutions and still use solid fuels, such as wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung, and open fires for cooking. This has important consequences on health, as pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are emitted during the burning of solid fuels.

The WHO also estimates that about 3.8 million premature deaths are attributable to diseases caused by household air pollution every year. Only 32% of the world's population living in rural areas, only 12% of those living in rural areas in Southern Africa, and 1% of those living in rural areas in West Africa have access to clean cooking solutions.

Between 2012 to 2014, a Spanish organisation called Alianza por la Solidaridad installed improved cooking stoves, replacing traditional three stone fires, in 1781 households in Senegal, 2809 households in The Gambia, and 708 households in Guinea-Bissau. Data were collected from a total of 66 households from two villages in each country over an 8-week period before and after the intervention to minimise variations in seasonal conditions or other factors that may change over time.


The annual CO2eq reduction per household was 2.74 tons in the villages of Guinea Bissau and Senegal (considering 85% of non-renewable biomass), and 2.93 tons in The Gambia (considering 91% of non-renewable biomass). Reductions per person were approximately 0.5 tons CO2eq.

The installation of improved biomass cookstoves resulted in 40% to 60% reductions in 24-hour mean PM2.5 indoor concentration.

31 averted cases of acute lower respiratory infections among children under 5 years old, 3 averted cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adults above 30 years old, and 0.16 averted deaths per 1000 inhabitants resulted from the intervention.

In addition, there was a 52.23% reduction in fuelwood consumption (from 4.92 tons average annual consumption per household before the implementation to 2.35 tons after implementation). There was also a 72.32% reduction in time spent gathering fuelwood per week (from 6.27 hours per week of average fuelwood collection time per household to 1.86 hours per week), and 35.49% reduction in time spent cooking per day (from 6.65 hours per day per family to 4.29 hours). Time savings from these activities represents a gender co-benefit, as fuelwood collection and cooking are typically done by women.

Feasibility and potential impact of scale-up

Improved cookstoves have been introduced in developing countries since 1970, pioneered by organisations such as the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, with the aim to reduce deforestation, save cooking time, and reduce emissions that impact on health and the environment. Evidence from the literature suggests that there are many improved cookstove technologies and programmes being implemented by organisations around the world, and that improved cookstoves can have large health benefits.

One study showed that, while improved cookstoves were not found to impact child health, they were associated with a reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and conjunctivitis among women (Thakur et al., 2018). In another systematic review, improved cookstove interventions were shown to result in a reduction in PM2.5 and carbon monoxide levels in the kitchen area, as well as reductions in systolic blood pressure, compared to traditional stoves - particularly those with chimneys (Kumar et al., 2021).

However, the success of implemented programmes is mixed, and this could be attributed to several factors. For example, low quality of cookstoves used, as well as inappropriateness to local contexts in terms of fuel availability or cooking practices, could limit the acceptability of the cookstoves (Urmee and Gyamfi, 2014). These barriers must be addressed to realise the full benefits of the cookstoves and their potential to prevent over 3 million premature deaths a year.


Academic profile / relevant organisation’s page

  • Mazorra, J., Sánchez-Jacob, E., de la Sota, C., Fernández, L., & Lumbreras, J. (2020). A comprehensive analysis of cooking solutions co-benefits at household level: Healthy lives and well-being, gender and climate change. Science of the Total Environment, 707, 135968.
  • Sota Sández CD, Lumbreras Martin J, Mazorra Aguiar J, Narros Sierra A, Fernández García L, Borge García R. Effectiveness of improved cookstoves to reduce indoor air pollution in developing countries. The case of the cassamance natural subregion, western Africa. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection. 2014;2(1):1-5.

Supplementary information

  • Urmee, T., & Gyamfi, S. (2014). A review of improved Cookstove technologies and programs. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 33, 625-635.
  • Thakur, M., Nuyts, P. A., Boudewijns, E. A., Kim, J. F., Faber, T., Babu, G. R., van Schayck, O.C., & Been, J. V. (2018). Impact of improved cookstoves on women’s and child health in low and middle income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax, 73(11), 1026-1040.
  • Kumar, N., Phillip, E., Cooper, H., Davis, M., Langevin, J., Clifford, M., & Stanistreet, D. (2021). Do improved biomass cookstove interventions improve indoor air quality and blood pressure? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Pollution, 290, 117997.
  • World Health Organisation. (2022, July 26). Household air pollution and health. Available online:…


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