Feature by Samuel Adadi Akapule
Bolgatanga, Oct 10, GNA - 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 works towards implementing the goals, it is very significant to invest in pragmatic solutions with the greatest potentials in tackling the root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change.
One of the pragmatic measures that could help 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 10 of the SDGs. In other words, developing a thriving global market for clean and efficient cook stoves and fuels can transform the way the world cooks: saving lives, improving livelihoods, empowering women, and protecting the environment simultaneously.
One may ask how clean cooking could propel achievements of the SDGs. Goal number three 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 she has to travel distances in search of fuel wood for cooking, thereby either going to school late or not at all and thus affect quality education.
The Goal number five talks about Gender Equality and unpaid work, including collecting fuel wood and cooking, which remain a major cause of gender inequality. If women have easy access to clean energy cooking tools, the affordability and availability would help address Gender Equality and help reach the targets.
Goal 13 deals with the climate. About 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 and also deliver climatic benefits.
Additionally, the Goal number 15 puts more emphasis on Life and Land. Research has shown that harvesting wood for fuel is unsustainable as it contributes to forest degradation, deforestation, and climate change challenges.
In spite of the significant role Clean Cooking plays in the attainment of the SDGs, it has not been given much attention in Ghana.
Interestingly, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) particularly in Northern Ghana have failed to mainstream Clean Cocking into their Medium Term Development Plans. Most of them rather focus on the Rural Electrification Project at the expense of promoting improved cooking stoves and subsidising the cost of LPG and its accessories as more than 56 per cent of energy is needed for cooking and heating.
What is more frightening is that a 2010 statistics available at the Renewable Energy Unit of the Ministry of Energy indicate that the three regions are the most affected when it comes to fuel wood consumption where the Northern Region leads with 78 per cent, Upper West Region 75 per cent and Upper East Region 62 per cent.
Research further revealed that some women in rural communities in the Upper East Region compete with farmers for cow dung and plant residue for cooking, making them go through drudgery from collecting such fuel sources while the smoke from such traditional cooking contributed to a range of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts such as respiratory illnesses, affecting pregnant women and children.
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 environmental Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), said the speedy implementation of the cylinder recirculation reform would help in addressing the spate of environmental degradation and climate change that characterised the Regions.
The new reform allows customers to exchange their empty gas cylinders with the filled ones and retail shops would be responsible to ensure that safety and quality standards are followed to reduce consumers’ risk.
“This will lead to easy access, efficient and sustainable energy use since the product will be placed at vantage points in many communities for customers to patronise. As a country, If we succeed in the implementation of the reform we are likely to reduce the consumption of biomass and charcoal production particularly in the three Northern Regions and help curb environmental degradation ”, he stressed.
The Coordinator regretted the lack of access to affordable and efficient energy systems like LPG and improved cook stoves in those regions and said, due to the availability of the product in the Greater Accra Region, only four per cent of consumers use fuel wood and charcoal as the source of cooking energy.
Mr Awaregya said the problem in the Northern Regions would continue to worsen if pragmatic measures were not adopted to address the issue and suggested that one of those measures could be the implementation of the cylinder recirculation reform.
There is the urgent need for the MMDAs to mainstream clean cooking into their Medium Term Development Plans by supporting community members with LPG and improved cooking stoves.
The National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Energy must urgently implement the proposed energy cooking reform to help curb the spate of environmental degradation and the mitigation of climate change.
The NPA has indicated that instead of customers patronising the LPG stations, the product would be packaged in cylinders at retail shops for customers to buy under the cylinder recirculation to help curb the spate of accidents and calamities at the Gas filling stations.
Whilst there is an urgent need for Government to remove the subsidies on LPG and use the fund to support LPG devices and accessories to make them affordable and accessible, there is also the need for the private sector to be encouraged to set up LPG stations at vantage points for customers in addition to the education of households on the use of LPG to avoid disasters.
The implementation of the programme tailored towards promoting LPG use in the domestic, commercial and public institutions including schools, also requires 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.
In conclusion, any Assembly that would want to be seen supporting the country to achieve the SDGs should not hesitate to attach the importance of energy cooking systems particularly under the Goal seven, which places emphasis on access to affordable, efficient and cleaner fuel for all by 2030.