Africa Regional Media Hub -Multimedia
Briefing on the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
Kris M. Balderston
Special Representative for Global Partnerships
Office of the Secretary of State
Jacob E. Moss
Director of U.S. Cookstoves Initiatives
Office of the Secretary of State
Africa Regional Media Hub
May 4, 2012
Friday, May 4th, 2012 - The Africa Hub hosted the Secretary’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Kris Balderston, to brief journalists across the continent on the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves. This UN-affiliated public-private partnership can save lives, empower women, improve livelihoods and combat climate change across Africa, and throughout the world, by creating a global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.
Almost 3 billion people today lack healthy and efficient cooking solutions in their homes; this initiative can change that. The Alliance’s goal (“100 by 20”) is for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by the year 2020. The Alliance comprises a rapidly growing list of over 350 partners, including 30-plus countries, working together to overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment and use of clean cook stoves in the developing world.
Biography: Mr. Kris Balderston
The Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston serves as the Special Representative for Global Partnerships in the Office of the Secretary of State. Prior to his role at the U.S. Department of State, Kris was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first Legislative Director in January 2001 before serving as her Deputy Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2009. Kris began his career with the National Governors' Association and then ran the Massachusetts State Office for Governor Michael Dukakis from 1987-1991. He became Senior Policy Advisor to Majority Leader George Mitchell at the US Senate Democratic Policy Committee from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 to 1995, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Labor under Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Kris served in the White House from 1995 to 2001, as Special Assistant for Cabinet Affairs to President William Jefferson Clinton and then later as the Deputy Assistant to the President and the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet. Kris holds his BA in Political Science from LeMoyne College and his MA in Government from Georgetown University.
MODERATOR [MS. DENVER]: Good morning and good afternoon to everyone from the Africa Media Hub with the United States Department of State. I would like to welcome our participants who are calling today from Chad, Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and South Africa. Thank you for joining us. Today we are joined by the Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston, who is joining us in South Africa today to talk about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and will be travelling to Ethiopia to attend the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa next week. Also with us is Mr. Jacob Moss, Director of the U.S. Cookstoves Initiatives. We will begin today’s call with remarks and then we will open it up to your questions. To ask a question, please press “star 1” on your phone to join the question queue. Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 45 minutes. And now, I will open it up to remarks from Special Representative Balderston.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BALDERSTON: Hello, My name is Kris Balderston. Thank you, Carrie, very much for this opportunity to speak to everyone, and thank you everyone for joining us this morning. I am the Special Representative on Global Partnerships which was created by Secretary Hillary Clinton to look at common problems and to create uncommon alliances to try to fix them. We have a number of projects in our Global Partnership Initiative, but the one we are here today to talk about is our Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
I wanted to talk a little bit, briefly, about one of the biggest health problems that a lot of people have probably never heard of, and that is the breathing in of unclean air from cookstoves, from cooking, and it is a problem that kills two million women and children a year and accounts for 20% of the world’s black carbon. And we think it hinders women’s ability to empower themselves. Let me give you an example. Every year two million women and children die. This is twice as much as malaria and considerably more than tuberculosis. Again, a problem that has not been discussed much. So we created the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves with the United Nations Foundation to try to create a market-driven approach to create a standard for cookstoves around the world.
There are many, many different cookstoves. Some work, some don’t work. But we believe there should be a standard that would allow people to make informed choices, particularly large NGOs like the World Food Program and others who provide cookstoves to literally hundreds of thousands of people, but we want to be able to test these stoves so that people can be informed of the right stove to buy. So far we have brought in 35 countries into the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. About a third of those countries are providing us funding and giving us money to help look at this issue.
We just flew in this morning from Beijing where China just announced that they are going to join the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. About a quarter of the problem in the world is in China, a quarter of the deaths. A quarter of the deaths are in India. A quarter of the deaths are in Africa and a quarter in the rest of the world. This is clearly an issue that needs to be looked at. I am joined today by Jacob Moss who saw this issue when he was in the Peace Corps in Togo over 20 years ago, and he has been very diligent, since he has come back, to look at this issue from our Environmental Protection Agency, bringing it to the attention of Secretary Hillary Clinton to try to create a common solution to this problem.
I should also add, before Jacob speaks, that this is a public private partnership. This is something that we want to bring not only nations together around, but also NGOs, foundations, and corporations, religious associations, anyone who will help us to try to resolve this problem. Within our Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves we have 30 countries, but we also have a number of companies like Dow Corning, Shell, Shell Foundation, and Morgan Stanley. We are very interested here, as we travel in Southern Africa, to find additional partners to help us on this effort to try to come up with a solution. I would like to turn it over to Jacob Moss right now to say a few words.
MR. MOSS: Thanks Kris. I appreciate the introduction and welcome to all of you who joined the call this morning. I think we are certainly very excited about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the opportunity to try to solve this issue at a scale that really hasn’t been aspired to ever before. The ten-year goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is to have 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient cooking solutions by 2020.
There is no one solution that we are promoting. We just, here at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg, saw a demonstration of two fantastic stoves in fuels. One that is a solid biomass stove that burns pellets or wood, the other burns methanol as a clean fuel stove. So we don’t point to any one solution. The point is to create standards as to what constitutes a safe, clean, efficient stove, provide that information to consumers, help the business that make those stoves grow, and reduce the barriers to them so that they can succeed at a significant scale and collectively work on the consumer side, work on the supply side and through the enabling environments of standards and research, things like that, to make this market work in a global way and at a global scale that can really solve the problem at the scale that I have been talking about.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. At this time we will open it up for your questions. Please press "star 1" on your phone to join the question queue. We will start today's questions with a question via the Africa Media Hub from Johannesburg South Africa, Pam Mfobo. Operator could you open the line for Johannesburg, South Africa, please?
OPERATOR: The line is open.
MODERATOR: It looks like we have a question from Geoffrey York, with the Globe and Mail. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes thank you. I would like to ask Mr. Balderston and Mr. Moss if they can comment on this recent randomized controls trial in India that has been getting some attention in the U.S. media recently. The trial seems to raise questions about whether the health benefits are actually showing up from the improved stoves that we were tried in this trial, and they also found that people who adopted the new stoves actually saw a decline in their living standards. Has this study, first of all, can you comment on it, and second of all, will it have any impact on how you are rolling out this program? Are you planning any kind of adjustments or refinements to deal with the evidence you are getting from a study like this?
MR. MOSS: Sure. I think that is a great question. The first thing to say is that I think it is a great study. The researchers that were involved in this study are top notch, and I am sure that the quality of their research is impeccable. The next thing I’ll say is that, in some sense, is that the study that they did is, in my mind, sort of a validation of the approach that the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is taking, which is to say that what they did was follow an effort by an NGO in rural India that was disseminating what they themselves actually called lower end stoves, a mud stove that was built in people's homes. I think the stove cost $12 or $12.50, something like that, but they were essentially giving them away for a very small amount of money, subsidized, I think. I don’t know the exact numbers but maybe around a dollar or something like that, to the actual consumer.
What we found in previous decades, through the eighties and nineties, and the evaluation of programs in the past, was that when people are given very low quality stoves – the two points there being one, low quality and two, given the stove – they generally don’t value the stove and they don’t use it. And so we would have expected actually that result to come from that effort. The study, in substance, validates that approach.
So what the Alliance is doing, by contrast, is not giving away stoves and certainly not promoting the lower end of the spectrum of stoves. Rather, what we are trying to do is develop a very transparent standard around safety, around emissions, around fuel use, and have that testing happen both in the lab and in the field and have the transparency there drive the sector towards an ever increasing quality of solution, so that stoves today that can save fuel substantially, maybe do okay on emissions, might be okay, but in several years, three or five years, we should be pushing much more clean stoves and much more efficient stoves, so that we are getting ever better results. So in some sense the basic point of the article, I think, confirms the approach of the Alliance to focus, we always say there are three things we work on - one is the consumer side, the demand side, one is the supply side and the third is for the enabling environment the research, the standards, the awareness, things like that. So in some sense it is a validation of our approach.
It does, however, underscore a couple of things that are incredibly important which are certainly embedded in our strategy but which we could probably do a better job of communicating and making more transparent. One is the distinction between lab performance and field performance. We are investing quite significantly, actually, in field testing of stoves right now, and we will be doing more in future. But that is critical because if the stoves don’t perform in the field as they do in the lab, then they don’t work, and you are not going to get the benefits that you want.
Second is a real strong focus on adoption. I think the point here is that simply it's not a technology solution alone. It has got to be technology plus adoption working together. One without the other won't work. So I think in some sense what they did wrong is that they focused on the adoption, but why would you expect people to adopt the stove that they don’t value, that doesn’t meet their needs, that is not that good. So you need to have both of those, and the need to underscore that is very important. So the Alliance can probably do a better job of doing that, in communicating that, making sure that that is a central part of what we are doing.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BALDERSTON: I think one of our cookstove manufacturers brought up a great analogy this morning when this came up too - it is like owning a bicycle and not maintaining it. You don’t get rid of the bicycle when the tires go flat. You have to maintain and understand it and put air in the tires.
MR. MOSS: That’s right Kris. I think, you know, we have seen several examples around the world from different businesses that have, so they claim at least – it would be great to have independent evaluations of this – so they claim very high levels of sustained adoption and what is often the case, is that it is not just a business selling a stove in a city to consumers throughout the region, but they have a very strong local presence through women's networks or some other mechanism that you can continually have that presence to train people, to help them when the stoves break down, replace the parts that break, so that the stove continues to work. Helps them maintain that.
Another really interesting element here is the notion of carbon financing because carbon financing is potentially a great source of revenue that an increasing number of stove businesses are accessing. If you save fuel, if you use less fuel, you are creating less carbon dioxide emissions, and you can get credits for that in carbon markets. There is a huge incentive there. There is a big transaction cost to get approved for that carbon financing, but once you've gotten past that initial transaction of being approved, there is a huge incentive to have that revenue flow for several years. And of course the revenue only flows, it is not donor money, it is a transaction, the revenue only flows if the fuel continues to not be used. So that requires ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the stove. And if it is not used, then you don’t get the revenue. So there is a great incentive for all of those projects to make sure that the stoves continue to be used and achieve the benefits that are intended.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you. We will now turn to our U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana, where they have journalists gathered in the room. If you could open the line for Accra.
MODERATOR: Great, your line is open. Please state your name and affiliation before you ask your question.
QUESTION: My name is Ekow Quandzie. I write for the Ghanabusinessnews.com. I just want to ask Kris, I know that Ghana is part of the partnership and has the partnership started any initiatives in Ghana? And then two, how do NGOs in Ghana take part in this initiative. Thank you.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BALDERSTON: Yes, Ghana is a member of the Alliance, and Jacob has been working with them.
MR. MOSS: Ghana is likely to be one of the priority countries of the Alliance. The Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Ms. Radha Muthiah, was in Ghana recently and met with the government and got a very strong positive feedback from them regarding participation from them in the Alliance. So they formally joined now and they will be working very closely with the Alliance in the coming years. I think one of the steps, the two first steps that the Alliance often takes in different countries, as they start to work in the different countries – and keep in mind that this is an evolving process, the Alliance is only 18 months old, so the process is maturing as we speak – but in a general sense two of the things that they will try to do in any country is one, start out with a market analysis of who is active in the country, and part of that is looking at the consumer side of what the needs are in the country, what foods are cooked, what fuels are available, all of those kinds of consumer questions. Secondly, it parallels actually the strategy I mentioned earlier, looking at the supply side of who is manufacturing either clean stoves or clean fuels, or who is interested in the distribution of clean stoves or fuels. They may be interested in importing different products, so there is options there, to look at all that and then looking at the policy environment as well.
And then the second piece I would refer to is the development of a local network to build off of that initial analysis to develop a strategy jointly with all the different partners so that it is a strategy that all the donors and the businesses and the NGOs that are working on this sector in that country have bought into and support. And so if you have not been part of that process yet, it is probably simply because it has only just begun if even that. I would encourage you to contact us, certainly or the Alliance directly and indicate your interest to participate in that process, and they will certainly invite you into it with open arms.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Accra, we will leave your line open. Do you have another question?
QUESTION: My question is, we started in early 2000, the government decided to move from the use of firewood. That is from charcoal to the use of gas or other fuel in terms of how we are going to use it in our homes for cooking. But as I am speaking to you right now, our country is experiencing an energy crisis. Fuel is not that available, it is becoming more expensive. The government has also indicated they are going to increase the price of fuel. So how would this initiative really benefit the poor?
MR. MOSS: Thank you. I assume you mean, you are asking the question of whether or not the government's initiative to provide gas will support the poor when the supply is not sustainable or steady. I won't comment on the government's program because I am not familiar with it, but I will say that in a general sense, gas is certainly a cleaner fuel than biomass in almost all the circumstances. So we would love to have people across the world cooking with gas, either LPG or biogas if that was available. Those are the cleaner solutions and have the most ability to meet what we would consider to be safe indoor quality air standards. So if that is available and if the government is able to provide that, or bring the distribution channels to people so that they can purchase it, that is a wonderful solution. We, as an Alliance, simply [cannot] state that we want everyone to be using gas and until they are using gas then we are not going to worry about the rest of the world because, frankly, most people in the world don’t have access to it, or can't afford it if they do have access to it. So instead we promote a portfolio of solutions that really is intended to meet the needs of people around the world in different settings that are able to meet their needs with the fuels that are available to them and cook the foods that they want to cook. So if gas is not affordable or if it is not available for this program for any reason, then we want to make sure that you have got solutions that are available, that are clean, safe, efficient, affordable, reliable.
One of the steps we have taken recently as part of that process is to work under the umbrella of the International Standards Organization to create international standards or at least a first step in that process. It will hopefully take about three years to finalize. But that process will lead to sort of a scorecard, if you will, of any different stove or fuel, and you would be able to see how it ranked on a tiered process, from tier zero being the worst to tier four being the best, and have transparent rankings of any different stove out there according to established protocols, that this stove is particularly safe and fuel efficient, but not necessarily clean. Or another one is very efficient and clean as well, may cost a little bit more. But you've got that transparency in performance, and if gas is not available to you, you are not left blowing in the wind but, rather you have an opportunity to choose something that will meet your needs and is available to you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Next, we will move to our embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi. We will open your line, and if you could state your name and affiliation before you ask your question. Your line is open, go ahead.
QUESTION: My name is Sibongire Zgambo, from Zodiak Radio Station. Experience has shown in countries like Malawi that whenever there is a new technology being introduced, people don’t really respond easily. I was wondering how you are going to convince the rural masses on the benefits of the clean stoves because these people, they are used to cooking using fire wood, which they find it locally, and they don’t spend money at all. And my second question is how Malawi can become a priority for this campaign. Thank you.
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BALDERSTON: Thank you for the question. I think one of the saddest things as we have gone around to look at stoves around the world is that people are cooking, particularly women are providing nutrition- they think they are providing nutrition to their children, but in reality are killing them. One of our sponsors has often said cooking shouldn’t kill. This is just not a technological fix that we are trying to do here, this is a behavioral fix. We need to work with local NGOs and local organizations to help make people understand what is happening with this, the current use of stoves, and how this technology can improve their lives. I remember at one village we went to, that went from very dirty cookstoves to very clean cookstoves that met the needs of that particular community where they bought them, they all commented how much more free time they had, how it helped their children, allowed them to educate them, allowed them to do other things to bring in income into the family. This, you've brought up a very good point. This is exactly what we are trying to do. It is not just the technological side and the marketing side and the business side, but it is also the behavioral side where we have to spend a lot of time. Let me ask Jacob, I know that he has been talking to some of our partners in Malawi.
MR. MOSS: I think the very general answer to your question is first, that we don’t impose solutions on any community, so we don’t come in and say here is a solution that you need to use, and try to raise awareness around that. Rather, what will do in any different country where we set as a priority will be, as I mentioned earlier, to do the analysis of what stoves are available, what foods need to be cooked, what fuels are available, how that varies from urban to rural areas. In urban areas in Africa people are often buying their fuel, cooking with charcoal. In rural areas they are, as you say, often collecting wood and cooking with that, and it is free for them, free in terms of cost, but it costs them in time. So that is something that is just a fact and we can't deny that. Rather, we need to work around that and build solutions.
In a bigger scale we will be working with different manufacturers of stoves and fuels to facilitate them as they build their businesses. The ways that we have seen different businesses overcome that are many-fold. I just heard a presentation this morning from one of the cleanest solid biomass cookstoves that is manufactured in Africa, where they did a trial in a part of South Africa with their stove. It is actually a more expensive stove, it costs, they say under $100, probably closer to $65 when they are at scale and manufacturing. But that is a lot of money for people, and they are in rural areas. After the trial, they asked the people if they wanted to sell the stoves back to the company or if they wanted to continue with them and just use them as they were, and every single family refused to sell the stoves back for what would be a substantial amount of money to them. So in other places people have a trial period of three weeks where they let the people, the customers, use the stove for three weeks, and if they don’t want it after three weeks, they bring it back no questions asked.
So it is not a question so much of bringing a stove and setting it in someone's home and saying we hope you use this, but rather through the innovation of the different businesses determine the mechanisms that they can use to work with families to determine – to overcome that initial barrier to entry of this is something new that I am not used to, will it work for me. And there is a lot of different ways to do that, but it is probably best not determined by the Alliance, but rather by the partners of the Alliance that are doing this.
Your second question about Malawi and how it can become a priority for the Alliance, I think joining the Alliance is absolutely the first step in that, and then working in conveying that interest and that passion to the Alliance, that there is an interest from a broad cross-section within the country, of the private sector, the NGOs, the government, that are interested in engaging in a coordinated fashion. As an initial snapshot, I don’t think it is on the list of priority countries for the Alliance for phase one, the first couple of years, but that doesn’t mean it can't change and that doesn’t mean for phase two that maybe they’ll bring Malawi or other countries into the prioritization process. So it is an open question, but the burden is always on the country to demonstrate the interest in partnering with the Alliance.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Lilongwe, your line is still open. Do you have another question?
QUESTION: Yes. My name is Fatsani Gunya, and I write for The Nation Newspaper. In Malawi, just like many parts of Africa, we have got a lot of both government and NGO supported interventions on climate change, however a closer look at the terrain indicates that there is little progress with many stakeholders not even concerned with the issues of climate change. What difference will the Global Alliances for Clean Cookstoves bring to such people like in Malawi? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Sorry, could you just repeat the last part of your question please?
QUESTION: Okay, I was saying that in Malawi, just like many parts of Africa, we have a lot of both government and NGOs supported interventions on climate change. However, a closer look at the terrain indicates that there is little progress with many stakeholders not even concerned with the issues of climate change or the issues at hand. Now, my question is what difference or hope will the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves bring to such a people such as in Malawi.
MR. MOSS: There are two general ways that Clean Cookstoves can impact climate change. The first is through the reduction of greenhouse gasses. So as I mentioned earlier, a stove that uses less fuel will emit less carbon dioxide. And that is a reduction that can be actually monetized in carbon markets, both the formal markets, particularly in the less developed countries, and in the voluntary markets. It is sometimes even more valuable in the voluntary markets because it is what the carbon marketers call a more charismatic source of carbon reduction, which is to say if they are trying to get credit for reducing CO2, if a company or a major corporation is trying to get credit for reducing CO2, it is nicer to be able to put a face on them and say we are helping families in Malawi or wherever cook more cleanly rather than simply retrofitting a boiler in Ukraine or something of that nature. And so, a clean typical stove will save anywhere from half a ton of CO2 per year up to two to three tons of CO2 per year. You can do the math from there, you can just assume one ton per stove per year, so a stove that lasts five years is five tons. If you do 100,000 stoves, sell 100,000 stoves that are actually used, then that’s 500,000 tons over five years. So the caveat there is if they are actually used is a big one of course, but one of the wonderful things that I mentioned earlier about carbon financing is that the transaction cost to get approved for the financing is a big one, but once you are there, there is a tremendous incentive to work with your customers to ensure that they continue to use them, and you have to monitor that and show it. And if you can't demonstrate, monitor it, then you don’t get the revenue. So it is a pure transaction. So that is one piece on the greenhouse gas side.
The other is that stoves may or may not, depending upon the stove, reduce emissions of what we refer to as black carbon. Black carbon is, unlike CO2, it is a particle, it is not a gas, and it goes up into the atmosphere and it comes down very quickly, on a scale of days to weeks in cookstoves, in a very general sense, today contribute over 20% of the global inventory of black carbon emissions. From a policy perspective, black carbon is interesting because it is what is called a short-lived climate pollutant, which means that because it comes down very quickly, if you were to overnight replace all the dirty stoves in the world with super clean cooking, then you would have an immediate reduction over the coming weeks of warming, of climate warming. So you can have that near time immediate mitigation effect on climate change.
The trick is that not all stoves, very few stoves, have been designed to reduce black carbon and, in fact, many of the ones that are what I call transitional or intermediate stoves that are promoted, will reduce fuel use significantly, so they will get the carbon dioxide benefit, but they won't reduce the black carbon. The particle pollution that they reduce tends to be what is called organic carbon - the whiter part of the smoke. So you still have much the black carbon, and so it won't have an impact on that. The more advanced stoves though will.
And so, such of the stoves that we saw here this morning at the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg, one was an advanced solid biomass stove made by Phillips, and another one was a methanol stove made by, I think, a company called ProtoStar. And so those stoves will both have, I imagine, substantial reductions in black carbon emissions. I know the Phillips stove has already been tested and demonstrated to show that. And so the interesting thing from my perspective is that the stoves that give the major health benefits are the ones that reduce the smoke substantially. And those are the same stoves that will also achieve the black carbon reductions. So over time, since health and climate are both priorities that are driving this initiative, we should be moving towards ever cleaner solutions that will achieve not only the CO2 benefits, but also the black carbon. Not just some health benefits, but substantial health benefits.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We will move now to callers who are connected in Uganda. The next question comes from Mr. Henry Lutaaya, with Sun Rise. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you very much for the presentation. I'm Henry Lutaaya from Kampala. I like to say Uganda is a country with a lot of rivers and that means the potential to produce electricity through hydro is quite enormous. I wonder whether the Alliance has any plans of working with a more hydro plan to scale up electricity production, and I wonder whether you can work with companies in terms of equity of land. Thank you very much.
MR. MOSS: I just want to clarify the question. Are you asking whether if the Alliance has plans to work with small scale hydro electricity production plants?
QUESTION: Exactly. And perhaps maybe add that they also buy that plant that wants to produce energy for cooking.
MR. MOSS: Sure. I think if you think about the suite of solutions that are available, I mentioned LPG earlier, and of course we would love people using as clean solutions as possible everywhere in the world. The cleanest is probably solar stoves because there are no emissions at all, but there is obviously some user issues there, but where available, where applicable and where it meets the needs of people it is a great solution. Electricity is probably the next cleanest solution depending on where the source of electricity is coming from of course. Small scale hydro would be a very clean source of electricity. I don’t think it will be in the Alliance's scope to get into the policy around electricity production and who is supplying what to the grid, but in a broader sense the Alliance will certainly be supportive of the use of electricity for cooking in different parts of the world. That is a clean solution and where available and affordable we would love for people to be using it. Biogas is another solution that can be used, and we have partners that are doing that in increasingly ambitious ways in different countries around the world, especially in China but also in different parts of Africa and South-East Asia, in ambitious ways. I think biogas plants, or household level biogas digesters, when they are designed well and they are tight, so that the methane that is produced is not escaping into the air, are fantastic solutions. They are probably as clean as LPG, but it is p
roduced renewably. It is not a fossil fuel. So they are both great solutions. We would love for everyone around the world to be cooking with electricity or biogas or LPG. It is simply a question of affordability and accessibility.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We will now turn to our callers who are at the U.S. Embassy in N’djamena, Chad. If you could please state your name and affiliation before you ask your question. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: My name is Assira Nambatingar. I am from the Chadian National Television in N’djamena. My concern is about the women and children who are dying each year from diseases such as malaria and polio. The solution to be found will come from underdeveloped countries or it will depend on the partnership with our government and the western countries. Because it seems that, despite this partnership, the situation is getting more and more awful each year. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Sorry, we were having trouble hearing here, could you just repeat your question please?
QUESTION: Yes. I say my concern is about women and children who are dying each year each year from diseases like malaria and polio. The solution to be found, it will depend on our continent, in our underdeveloped countries or it will depend on the partnership between the western countries and our governments. That is all.
MR. MOSS: Okay, I think I understand the question. I won't speak to other issues like malaria and polio at all, but I will stick to the diseases that are associated with dirty cookstoves and exposure to the cookstoves and simply say that the premise of the Alliance is that we all need to be working together on this. It needs to be a public private partnership and that means that we need businesses in Africa for the African context, we need NGOs in Africa, again here in Africa to be working on this. We need the governments here to be actively engaging and supporting this work and providing the right policy, context and framework to solve it. And if that is enough in any given country then that is wonderful.
But we are, the premise of the Alliance is that we stand ready to work with those countries and private and NGO partners, to facilitate that process where needed. To that extend, we are trying to raise awareness to this issue so that it is something that governments and donors around the world are more familiar with and more engaged on. We are trying to advance the enabling environment, as they say, which speaks to topics such as the standards that I spoke to earlier, so that when a company in Chad or Malawi or wherever says that they have a clean cookstove, why can they say that, what is it measured against? There has to be some independent standard and independent testing capacity to verify that that stove is in fact safe or clean of efficient or whatever the metric might be. A
nd then there is the research questions as well that we want to answer, and we wouldn’t expect every country in the world to try and answer those questions. We would rather work together to identify the priority questions that really need to be addressed and then jointly solve them. So on the donor side, on the research side, on the standards side, I think there is a very clear need for international cooperation on that. And then on the implementation side, within any given country, there may or may not be needed. If it can be done domestically within any given country, then that is wonderful, that is fantastic. If there is a value for the Alliance to engage, then we will. The premise of how the Alliance is engaging in different countries is that in some countries there needs to a much more sustained and substantial investment, and we call those countries our focus countries, and for other countries there is a lot happening already and we don’t need that kind of investment, but rather a more surgical investment to invest in one or two specific things to really help push things forward. And those are the active countries of the Alliance.
MODERATOR: Thank you. N’djamena, your line is still open. Do you have one more question for us?
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. So our final question will come to us from Johannesburg and that will be from Brooks Spector, with the Daily Maverick. Your line is open Brooks.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Can you hear this? Are we okay?
MODERATOR: Yes we can.
QUESTION: My question is very, what may seem on the face of it, to be irreverent even, but which actually speaks to the behavioral dynamics of anybody adopting a new or somewhat new technology. And I recall many, many years ago the Peace Corps created a cookbook in the Pacific Islands and it was called the Nui Cookbook. And I am wondering if you have given any thought to addressing the question of creating recipes and ideas for cooking that relate to the better sides of these technologies as opposed to more traditional open-hearth style cooking. A serious question and I am not fishing for recipes.
MR. MOSS: Brooks, I am sorry, so is the question about creating a portfolio of solutions for clean cooking, or is that the essence of what you are getting at? Is that what the Alliance is doing? Is that your question?
QUESTION: Well, my question is have you given any thought to generating recipes, whether by competition or commissioning, that make use of the best features of this kind of cooking as opposed to other methods in a way of both publicizing and encouraging people to take up this application?
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE BALDERSTON: No, thank you. I think first and foremost what we found as we have travelled, is that people want to be comfortable with their mode of cooking. In Haiti I know they worry about the barbeque taste, or the spice or something. In India we found that they cook a bit differently, and in Mexico. We don’t want to presuppose any recipes or anything.
I think your question is interesting though, because one of the things that we are looking at after we develop this standard and after we develop the technology and these options, trying to get the word out about how big a problem this is. I started by saying this is probably the biggest health problem you have never heard of. An earlier caller, reporter, asked about malaria and TB. These are problems that are being addressed and those numbers are going down.
When you look at the ill-effects of dirty cookstoves, these numbers are going up. So I think it is kind of an interesting question you bring up. One of the things we have actually done in the United States is to bring in a lot of our professional cooks. There is a cook, Jose Andrès, who just won the James Beard Award, our number one cooking award in the United States last year. He is passionate about this issue and has gone to Haiti almost every quarter to try to resolve the, you know, to try to help on this issue. He is the one that uses the phrase 'cooking should not kill.’ But he is talking about creating an organization called Cooks for Clean Cookstoves. Again a marketing effort to try to look at how we can go individually to countries to kind of talk about the issue you have just brought up. I think it is a very interesting one. We haven't thought about it, we are still kind of at the stage where we are trying to develop the standards and the technology and getting the word out, but I think that is a very interesting technique down the road to be using.
MODERATOR: Great thank you. And that concludes our time for the question and answer session. I want to thank both Special Representative Balderston and also Mr. Jacob Moss for joining us today. And all of our callers, thank you very much for participating in today's call. If you have any questions, you can contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will join us for future events. Thank you so much.