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Much effort has been expended to mitigate the effects of firewood use among the three billion people in the Global South who still rely on biomass for their energy needs (mostly for cooking), but almost all of these efforts have been largely unsuccessful.The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) has an ambitious plan to deploy 100 million High Efficiency Cookstoves (HECs) by the year 2020, but the plan has not yet been put into action due to technological and implementation hurdles.

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The piles of wood behind the women were collected on their outing; each pile weighed about 50 pounds (approximately 20 kg).Indeed, the higher efficiency of the HECs arises due to specific engineering improvements, primarily by ensuring more complete combustion of the wood by improving air supply, removal of ash and embers that may clog the air flow path, better direction of the flame (in the “rocket” stove concept for example) by directing the rising hot air through a channeled space that contacts the bottom of the cooking vessel, insulation of the sides of the stove to prevent heat loss, and a smaller opening at the front of the stove that prevents over-feeding of fuel while simultaneously restricting the loss of heat from the flame.All of these performance improvements derive from application of fluid mechanics and combustion principles in many research laboratories around the world, support from governments and international organizations (e.g.This affects the “albedo,” or the fraction of solar energy reflected from the Earth back into space, contributing to accelerated warming and further ice loss.Firewood smoke has also become a potent human health hazard, contributing to a loss of as many as eight years in lifespan for the women who cook with firewood due to the constant inhalation of particulate matter as well as carcinogens such as benzopyrene.During winter 2014–2015, members of a multidisciplinary research team from the University of Iowa, including students and NGO workers from FES and Climate Healers, conducted studies in the tribal villages in the Aravali hill region of Rajasthan in an effort to better understand the poor uptake of HECs.

The team conducted careful observations of the cooking process as the women in the villages of Karech and Gogunda used two of the top-selling HECs globally (here labelled as A and B to preserve the anonymity of brand names) to cook their normal meals.

This harvested wood is burned in a three-stone hearth to prepare two meals each day.

Climate Healers, an NGO based in Phoenix, Arizona tried deploying solar cookstoves in the villages of Rajasthan in 2010, but that effort was unsuccessful for a variety of socio-cultural reasons.

Our experience in Rajasthan showed that a single HEC stove cannot possibly replace all of these traditional stoves.

Rather, significant fuelwood reductions can only be achieved with locally customizable solutions in different parts of the world.

Since then, Climate Healers, along with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), has been working with researchers at the University of Iowa on a stored-energy solar cook stove that can address the primary reasons for the unsuccessful deployment in 2010.