Can households in Cambodia start using cleaner ways to cook? Yes, with a little help from the non-profit SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. SNV is using its Smoke Free Villages approach to promote alternatives to cooking over wood fires. More than that, it is helping residents permanently change their habits. This will result in fewer deaths caused by air pollution.
Almost 80% of the 3 million rural households in Cambodia cook their meals over traditional wood fires. This is not good for the environment and people’s health, especially women and children. “Around 14,000 Cambodians die each year because of air pollution caused by smoke,” explains Bastiaan Teune. Mr Teune is Sector Leader at SNV. His mission is to help as many people as possible make the switch to clean cooking methods.
The first thing SNV did in Cambodia was support suppliers of clean cookstoves. “We tested those cookstoves. If they worked well, we gave the suppliers subsidies. We did that to support the local market,” Mr Teune explains.
Today, SNV's strategy has changed. It now focuses on consumers instead. Mr Teune says that real widespread change starts with knowledge and understanding. SNV organises village meetings and shows how dangerous it is to cook over a wood fire. “We tell people to keep their children away from the fire and let fresh air into their homes. And if they insist on using wood for cooking, the wood should be completely dry.”
A switch in cooking methods
As part of the Energising Development programme (EnDev), Mr Teune introduced this new approach 9 months ago. The first results seem positive. Before, about 12% of the villagers used clean cooking methods. Now, nearly 40% cook on clean stoves. “That is a much bigger percentage than I had expected,” says Mr Teune. SNV will follow the villages to see if the approach is working. It also hopes to convince the remaining households to switch to safer cooking methods.
Mr Teune is optimistic about the future. He expects to have a good idea of the effects by the end of 2021. After that, SNV wants to continue to roll out and scale up the project. Mr Teune adds, “What makes this approach unique is that we do not say how many stoves we have sold. Instead, we say how many people we have helped change their habits and use clean cooking methods.”
SNV's employees help people who live in extreme poverty. They do this in 24 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. SNV works to help low-income families in those countries earn more money. It also wants to make sure those families can meet their basic needs. SNV employees are experts in the fields of agriculture, energy and water, sanitation and hygiene.
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We coordinate the EnDev programme together with a German partner, the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). We do this on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Germany, Norway and Switzerland also provide funding for the programme. Learn more about the EnDev programme.