The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 goals created in 2015 as an extension of the Millenium Development Goals. They are targets set to be met by 2030, and aim to improve the lives of people globally, in a sustainable way.
The 17 goals are extremely interlinked, with the solution to each being inextricably linked to the solutions for others. Clean cookstoves one way to help achieve the goals, but they do not only contribute to one goal, but to many.
SDG 1- NO POVERTY
The first SDG is aimed at eradicating poverty across the world. This means ending absolute poverty for everyone, and significantly reducing the amount of relative poverty in every country.
One way that clean cookstoves can help the progress towards this goal is by saving people money. Although clean cookstoves cost money to buy, once they are purchased they create cost-savings, and can often pay for themselves in a matter of a few months. This is because they use fuel more efficiently, so you have to use less fuel per meal. These savings can then be spent on other household items, so people are more likely to be able to meet their basic needs.
Another way cookstoves can help get people out of poverty is through time savings. Every day people spend hours collecting fuel to power their stoves. When less fuel is used, this time is reduced and so people can spend more time studying for school, to increase their future incomes, or even participating in economic activities such as running businesses. In fact, cookstoves are a great entrepreneurial opportunity, which can be used as an income source, also helping to get people out of poverty. Moreover, if it is female entrepreneurs selling cookstoves (and there is evidence that they are more successful in this), then money earned is more likely to be spent on improving the lives of family members, as women tend to spend money in ways that benefit the whole family.
SDG 2- ZERO HUNGER
SDG 2 focuses on reducing hunger in the world, achieving food security for everyone and ensuring that agriculture is carried out sustainably.
The money savings that cookstoves can provide allow families extra money, which can be spent on food to feed their families. Profits from successful cookstove selling can also be used for the same purpose, so cookstoves can help feed families in more ways than one!
SDG 3- GOOD HEALTH
The third Goal aims to improve peoples’ health. Cookstoves are an obvious contributor to this goal as they have clear health benefits. Smoke emitted by cookstoves contributes to Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) which is responsible for over 4 million deaths each year. Reducing the pollution created by stoves therefore stops people from suffering from so many IAP-related conditions such as pneumonia and lung cancer.
Furthermore, actually collecting and carrying fuels like firewood can lead to health problems, so reducing the amount that has to be carried, or the frequency with which wood needs to be collected, can ease health problems. People spend hours carrying heavy firewood burdens, which can cause back problems, and, moreover, the places that they need to visit to collect an adequate amount of fuel are often very far away from their houses, and can be dangerous to visit.
SDG 4- QUALITY EDUCATION
The fourth SDG is intended to improve the education level of people around the world. This includes ensuring that all boys and girls around the world have access to and complete both primary and secondary school.
Time-savings made through having to collect less fuel can free up time for children, especially girls, who would usually spend whole days away from home getting firewood, to go to school.
SDG 5- GENDER EQUALITY
Sustainable Development Goal 5 focuses on increasing the equality between men and women. This includes ending all discrimination against women, and ensuring that unpaid domestic work is valued.
Cookstoves are particularly helpful in this, as it is women who are usually responsible for collecting fuel and cooking, and therefore it is women who feel the benefits of cookstoves the most strongly.
When less fuel needs to be collected it is women and girls who are able to utilise the time savings; perhaps spending more time at school, or working. When less smoke is produced, it is the health of women and children that is affected the most, as it is largely them that spend time in the kitchen around the stove breathing in unclean air. According to WHO statistics, in 2012, over 60% of all premature deaths from household air pollution were women and children.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, there is evidence from various countries that female entrepreneurs are more successful in selling cookstoves than their male counterparts, so cookstoves can also improve economic equality between men and women.
SDG 7- AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY
The seventh Goal aims to address the fact that many do not have access to, or cannot afford, energy to meet their needs. This means universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy.
Although there are many types of cookstove, in general they are designed to be affordable to their target audience, in order to ensure widespread uptake is achievable. Moreover, the fact that they provide cost savings over traditional technologies due to lower fuel consumption means that they make it more likely that people will be able to afford to cover their general energy needs.
In addition, they produce less smoke and are therefore a cleaner energy option than traditional stoves like three-stone fires.
SDG 8- Decent Work and Economic Growth
Sustainable goal 8 focuses on ensuring sustained GDP growth across, all countries, safeguarding workers’ rights and on achieving full and productive employment for all people by 2030.
As mentioned in relation to Goals 1, 2 and 5, cookstoves provide an excellent potential economic opportunity for many, especially women. Time savings also allow people to spend more time on work activities.
SDG 11- Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 11 includes aims such as improving access to housing, public transport and green spaces, but also supports countries in improving resource efficiency, increasing resilience to disasters, and reducing the air pollution that cities produce.
One way that cookstoves help achieve this aim is through conserving trees. Both through using less firewood or charcoal per meal and through introducing other fuel sources such as biomass briquettes, cleaner cookstoves can help slow deforestation, and make biomass use more sustainable.
A reduction in deforestation also helps to make communities less vulnerable to climate change-related issues. Climate change is changing our weather patterns, making them unusual and unpredictable. In Malawi we have seen this through terrible floods and over the past few years. More trees can help prevent both of these things: they help perpetuate the water cycle, increasing the likelihood of rain during drought, and stop soil erosion, which is one key cause of flooding.
Also, through more efficient combustion, cookstoves produce less harmful emissions, therefore contributing relatively less to air pollution.
SDG 12- Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns
The main objectives of the 12th SDG include decreasing the production of all types of waste, as well as better conserving natural resources. As mentioned above, cookstoves can aid the conservation of natural resources by helping to stem deforestation, through more efficient fuel use, or even the use of different fuels.
SDG 13- Climate Action
SDG 13 focuses on strengthening resilience to climate change hazards, as well as taking action to reduce climate change.
As mentioned earlier, the use of clean cookstoves can help to stop deforestation. As well as the effects mentioned above, more trees also mean that more harmful Carbon Dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. This, along with other greenhouse gases emitted by cookstoves, pollute our atmosphere and cause global warming. Therefore an increase in trees and a reduction in harmful emissions reduce the impact that cooking has on the climate.
SDG 15- Life on Land
The 15th SDG aims to preserve and strengthen ecosystems, which, most relevantly to Malawi, includes halting deforestation and promoting afforestation.
The main way in which cleaner cookstoves can help us to achieve SDG 15 is therefore through reducing deforestation, thus increasing/maintaining the number of trees. Not only are trees and forests alive in themselves, but they also provide habitats for animals, as well as helping to reduce the impact of climate change, which also threatens animal and plant life on our planet.
Clean cookstoves then, are a small but high-impact solution to many of the problems that humans, and the Sustainable Development Goals, are trying to solve.
For more information on all the goals, see here.
Take a look at the PDF of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ summary of cookstove benefits