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project 1: Biofuel Cooking to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution


Toxic fumes are released during the burning of solid fuels used for cooking and women are the most susceptible to these fumes due to their traditional household roles. A pregnant woman’s exposure to indoor air pollution has detrimental effects on her unborn child and prolonged exposure is associated with numerous complications during childbirth including sepsis, asphyxia, and premature births.


The majority of homes use solid fuel, such as firewood, and lack proper ventilation systems to support the toxins produced in the kitchen. Our project will introduce a clean fuel alternative to homes that are using solid fuels, ultimately reducing the indoor air pollution affecting these women and families.


In 2015,  the neonatal mortality rate in the Tigray, region of Ethiopia was 63 per 1000 live births in contrast to a global rate of 18 deaths per 1000 live births.


The main causes of death were birth asphyxia, prematurity, and sepsis, which can be attributed, in part, to the mother's poor health caused by indoor air pollution. 


This pollution can be reduced by the introduction of biogas systems and digesters. These renewable energy sources reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the air from these fuels contain less pollutants than from traditional solid fuel materials, such as firewood.


We will partner with the local community to provide biogas digesters to reduce harmful air pollutants in these homes and improve the health of family member, particularly expectant mothers. 


We will first reach out to community members who are affected by the indoor air pollution and discuss with them the use of biogas as a replacement for solid fuels. These community members include expectant mothers, women in families, and the farmers whose resources we will use. 


Phase one will be a pilot program of about 6 months to evaluate the use and acceptability of this source of fuel in the household. We will ask 10 families who represent different groups within the community to participate in the program and will also include 10 families who continue to use solid fuels as a comparison group. These families will be identified by local partners. 

We plan to generate employment within the program by establishing microloans for women who can use the biogas systems, and sell the excess gas to community members, eventually creating a social enterprise through these relationships.

Anticipated Outcomes

We expect a transition from solid fuel to biogas will include the following outcomes: 

  • Increase in availability of biogas for clean cooking

  • Increase in usage of biogas as a fuel source in households

  • Improvement of air quality in households

  • Reduce amount of harmful emissions inhaled by pregnant mothers

  • Improvement in overall health of families and specifically females

  • Lower average neonatal mortality rates

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