Hungry for Change

Hungry for Change

Clean Cooking Alliance makes mealtime better for millions

Words by Sarah Michael Hickman

Cooking a meal can be as simple as microwaving a premade dinner or as complex as preheating an oven and cooking several dishes on a multi-burner stove. For much of the world’s eight billion, however, the reality of cooking is much more complex. Long hours spent collecting firewood and other time-consuming traditional cooking methods create a completely different family dynamic and reaffirm gender roles in the kitchen. Women around the world spend multiple hours per day breathing toxic fumes because of a lack of access to better options. Also, the pollution caused by these out-of-date cooking processes is more than an average American can imagine.

That is where the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) comes in. This organization provides clean cooking alternatives to communities, sponsors research on the effects of a lack of clean cooking, and trains and supports women entrepreneurs and youth. 

CCA originated in 2010 out of necessity. “Imagine a crisis that prematurely kills more than three million people every year while emitting the same level of climate-harming pollution as the airline industry—yet almost no one knows about it!” said Jillene Connors Belopolsky, Chief of Staff and External Affairs for CCA. Over the last 12 years, CCA has provided over 400 million people with access to clean cooking fuels and technologies and saved over 4.6 million lives because of that access. In addition to human lives saved, access to better cooking alternatives has also helped avoid further deforestation and destruction of biodiversity. 

Any sort of charitable giving is moot without confirming sustainability within the community and affordability of replacement options. CCA staff feel unique in the way they approach their mission. Their representatives visit communities and listen to what they want and need. This step in the process is imperative. In a community with reliable access to electricity, they can provide electric stoves and pressure cookers, but for ones that still lack that, there are several options for biogas, high efficiency charcoal, or any other types of fuel that meet the World Health Organization’s standards for indoor air quality. Beyond logistics, listening to the people they are helping bridges cultural differences and leads to the most effective way to meet the needs. 

The effects of clean cooking are so wide reaching that it is puzzling why it isn’t talked about more.

Beyond health, safety, and environmental concerns, the time a woman spends outside of the kitchen is time she can spend furthering her own dreams and the dreams she has for her children. “My daughter knows that the firewood that was collected last week is still at home because this stove saves fuel. She is not worried while reading because she will not have to go and collect firewood, so she is doing her studies in peace while concentrating,” said Mercy, a mother in Kiambu County, Kenya.

CCA is committed to continuing its mission. “Failure to act puts all of our lives at risk. Time is running out. We can no longer afford to marginalize the issue of clean cooking,” said Jillene. Currently, the lack of clean cooking costs local communities $2.4 trillion in damage to the environment each year. CCA continues to raise money from individual donors and partners with corporations worldwide who donate items needed. It is an issue that is so often overlooked and a privilege so often taken for granted. Raising awareness of this issue is a constant battle. However, CCA is confident in reaching its goal to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030. A future with this is a future that is more equitable and healthier for all of us.