Investments in this strategy aim to provide cleaner, more efficient cookstoves to women while also giving them income-generation opportunities as business owners and entrepreneurs at the center of the clean cookstoves value chain. The below overview and associated metrics pack are intended as a gender lens complement to the Navigating Impact Clean Energy Access theme.

What

Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What problem does the investment aim to address? For the target stakeholders experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

Worldwide, women are the primary users of cookstoves, often bearing familial responsibility to prepare meals and secure cooking fuel, such as firewood. As a result, women take time away every day from education or income-generating activities to collect cooking fuel, which requires as many as four hours per day travelling long distances alone and by foot, and puts women at increased risk of gender-based violence (1). They also cook in often poorly-ventilated kitchens, exposing them in the process to household air pollution that kills nearly four million people annually and causes cancer, pneumonia, heart and lung disease, and blindness (1). In addition, inefficient cookstoves can be unsafe, causing household fires and burns.


According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, cooking is one of the most dangerous daily activities for women in the developing world (2).
Investments in clean cookstoves can address challenges that disproportionately affect women:

  • Increased access to clean cookstoves can reduce the health and safety issues caused by household air pollution and decrease the time women spend collecting cooking fuel. Women can then reallocate this time to educational, income-generating, and leisure activities.
  • Increased opportunities for women in owning or being employed by cookstove-related businesses -- like restaurants, catering, and cookstove production and distribution -- can increase income-generation, empowering women financially and giving them greater household decision-making power.

What is the scale of the problem?

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, three billion people—40% of the world’s population—cook with traditional, inefficient biomass fuels (see Improving Alternatives for Cooking strategy for further detail).

Who

Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who (people, planet, or both) is helped through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Low-Income Women in Rural Areas of Developing Countries: Low-income rural populations, particularly women, can often only access fuels that inefficiently convert to energy. They therefore spend large amounts of time or money gathering or purchasing fuel. Investments to mitigate these issues can meaningfully impact their health and safety.

Women in Conflict Zones and/or Refugee Camps: Collecting cooking fuel is one of the most dangerous activities in the world for women (2). Exposure to gender-based violence when collecting fuel is greater in conflict zones and refugee camps (2). Investments to increase access to fuel-efficient cookstoves can reduce the danger these women face in securing fuel.

What are the geographic attributes of those who are affected?

Access to efficient cooking fuel is most limited for people in emerging markets, particularly in rural areas. This strategy can have particularly large impact in conflict zones and other areas where traditional fuels are difficult or dangerous for women to reach.

Contribution

Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How can investments in line with this Strategic Goal contribute to outcomes, and are these investments’ effects likely better, worse, or neutral than what would happen otherwise

Investments in this strategy will likely contribute to better health and safety outcomes than would otherwise occur. Evidence suggests that involving women—the primary users of cookstoves—in design, production, and distribution can help to remove market barriers that impede the production, deployment and adoption at scale, and sustained use of clean cookstoves and fuels (1).

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many target stakeholders can experience the outcome through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Three billion people rely on inefficient cookstoves and thus could benefit from access to clean cookstoves. According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, women and girls globally use 90% of their incomes in ways that benefit their families and communities. The economic benefits ripple outward to women, their families, and their larger economies. For case studies on gender-related outcomes in off-grid energy investments, see ICRW’s Gender-Smart Investment Resource Hub.

How much change can target stakeholders experience through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Examples of impact from projects aligned with this strategy include: 

  • Women potters producing cookstoves in Cambodia under the Cambodian Fuelwood Saving Project of Group Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarité experienced a 61% increase in average daily income (1).
  • In India, energy products sold by Sakhi Unique Rural Enterprise (SURE), which engages rural women in the supply chain to distribute clean-energy products, including improved cookstoves, across the last mile to consumers, reduce fuel and health expenditures by 20% (1).
  • The Upesi stove, a clean cookstove that is designed to meet the needs of Kenya’s rural consumers and produced and disseminated by women’s groups, has reduced acute respiratory infections in children and mothers, respectively, by 60% and 65% (1).

Risk

Dimensions of Impact: RISK

Key questions in this dimension include:

What impact risks do investments aligned with this Strategic Goal run? How can investments mitigate them?

Drop-Off Risk: Like other products and services distributed in rural, developing areas, clean cookstoves greatly risk drop-off in use if their designs and business models do not properly consider ongoing maintenance and replacement or the consumer education required for proper use. Investors can mitigate this risk by involving the intended beneficiaries in consultations during product design and development and by providing education and training resources concerning product installation, maintenance, and use.

Stakeholder-Participation Risk: In countries with more pronounced gender inequality, women may be unable or unwilling to fully and openly participate as stakeholders in design processes. Investments then risk being less than fully representational of local needs and desired outcomes, making product adoption less likely. Engaging community groups that may have knowledge of local needs, that are already trusted by local stakeholders, and that have greater confidence to speak honestly can help to ensure adequate representation of stakeholders’ needs.  

What are likely consequences of these impact risk factors?

Failure to adequately address these risks could dilute positive impact by reducing adaption and/or sustained use of clean cookstoves.

Illustrative Investment

Have an illustrative investment we should consider? Let us know!

Draw on Evidence

This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.

NESTA: 1
Implementation of Clean Cook Stove Interventions and Its Effects on Blood Pressure in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries: Systematic Review Onakomaiya D, Gyamfi J, Iwelunmor J, et al. "Implementation of Clean Cook Stove Interventions and Its Effects on Blood Pressure in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries: Systematic Review". BMJ Open 2019;9:e026517. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026517

This is the first systematic review to report the implementation of clean or improved cookstove use in low-income and middle-income countries and their effect on blood pressure among women. Three RCTs and two pre-post studies showed that the effects of clean cookstove on BP were significant for both systolic and diastolic BP among women.

NESTA: 3
Household Air Pollution and Angiogenic Factors in Pregnant Nigerian Women: A Randomized Controlled Ethanol Cookstove Intervention. Dutta, Anindita, Katherine Brito, Galina Khramstova, Ariel Mueller, Sireesha Chinthala, Donee Alexander, Damilola Adu, Tope Ibigbami, John Olamijulo, Abayomi Odetunde, Kehinde Adigun, Liese Pruitt, Olufunmilayo Olopade, Oladosu Ojengbede, Sarosh Rana, and Christopher O. Olopade. "Household Air Pollution and Angiogenic Factors in Pregnant Nigerian Women: A Randomized Controlled Ethanol Cookstove Intervention." Science of The Total Environment 599-600 (2017): 2175-181. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.05.130.

This RCT study was undertaken to investigate the underlying mechanisms behind maternal exposure to HAP during pregnancy which may alter the levels of angiogenic factors in maternal and cord blood samples from pregnant Nigerian women. Maternal PlGF and cord blood sFlt-1 and PlGF in Nigerian women with varying HAP exposures were significantly higher than Chicago-based women.

NESTA: 2
Impact of a Cleaner-Burning Cookstove Intervention on Blood Pressure in Nicaraguan Women. Clark, M. L., A. M. Bachand, J. M. Heiderscheidt, S. A. Yoder, B. Luna, J. Volckens, K. A. Koehler, S. Conway, S. J. Reynolds, and J. L. Peel. "Impact of a Cleaner-burning Cookstove Intervention on Blood Pressure in Nicaraguan Women." Indoor Air 23, no. 2 (2012): 105-14. doi:10.1111/ina.12003.

This quasi-experimental study evaluated the changes in systolic and diastolic blood pressure from baseline to post-intervention among 74 female cooks. The authors also measured indoor fine particulate matter, indoor carbon monoxide, and personal carbon concentrations. Although substantial reductions in blood pressure were not observed among the entire population, a 5.9 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure was observed among women aged 40 or more years and a 4.6 mmHg reduction was observed among obese women.

NESTA: 3
Pregnancy Outcomes and Ethanol Cook Stove Intervention: A Randomized-Controlled Trial in Ibadan, Nigeria. Alexander, Donee A., Amanda Northcross, Theodore Karrison, Oludare Morhasson-Bello, Nathaniel Wilson, Omolola M. Atalabi, Anindita Dutta, Damilola Adu, Tope Ibigbami, John Olamijulo, Dayo Adepoju, Oladosu Ojengbede, and Christopher O. Olopade. "Pregnancy Outcomes and Ethanol Cook Stove Intervention: A Randomized-controlled Trial in Ibadan, Nigeria." Environment International 111 (2018): 152-63. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2017.11.021.

A randomized-control trial was conducted on 342 women in Ibadan, Nigeria to test the impact of ethanol cookstoves on four pregnancy outcomes, including (i) birthweight, (ii) preterm delivery, (iii) intrauterine growth restriction and (iv) occurrence of miscarriage/stillbirth. Results show that transition from traditional biomass/kerosene fuel to ethanol reduced adverse pregnancy outcomes.

NESTA: 2
Impact of Improved Cookstoves on Indoor Air Pollution and Adverse Health Effects Among Honduran Women. Clark, Maggie L., Jennifer L. Peel, James B. Burch, Tracy L. Nelson, Matthew M. Robinson, Stuart Conway, Annette M. Bachand, and Stephen J. Reynolds. "Impact of Improved Cookstoves on Indoor Air Pollution and Adverse Health Effects among Honduran Women." International Journal of Environmental Health Research 19, no. 5 (2009): 357-68. doi:10.1080/09603120902842705.

The authors conducted a cross-sectional investigation to evaluate quantitative air pollution levels and health effects, including symptoms and pulmonary function, associated with traditional and improved Justa stoves in Honduras. Carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter (PM) levels were assessed via indoor and personal monitoring. The use of improved stoves was associated with 63% lower levels of personal PM, 73% lower levels of indoor PM, and 87% lower levels of indoor carbon monoxide as compared to traditional stoves.

NESTA: 1
"It Is Good for My Family’s Health and Cooks Food in a Way That My Heart Loves": Qualitative Findings and Implications for Scaling Up an Improved Cookstove Project in Rural Kenya Person, Bobbie, Jennifer D. Loo, Mercy Owuor, Lorraine Ogange, Maria Elena D. Jefferds, and Adam L. Cohen. "“It Is Good for My Family’s Health and Cooks Food in a Way That My Heart Loves”: Qualitative Findings and Implications for Scaling Up an Improved Cookstove Project in Rural Kenya." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 9, no. 5 (2012): 1566-580. doi:10.3390/ijerph9051566.

The authors conducted a pilot intervention promoting the purchase and use of an improved cookstove in rural Kenya. The goals of this qualitative inquiry were to understand the motivation to purchase and use cookstoves, as well as perceived benefits and challenges of cookstove use. Women reported the need for less firewood, fuel cost savings, reduced smoke, improved cooking efficiency and reduced eye irritation, lung congestion and coughing as major benefits of the cookstove. Cost appeared to be a barrier to wider adoption.

NESTA: 2
Improved Cookstove as an Appropriate Technology for the Logone Valley (Chad – Cameroon): Analysis of Fuel and Cost Savings Vaccari, Mentore, Francesco Vitali, and Angelo Mazzù. "Improved Cookstove as an Appropriate Technology for the Logone Valley (Chad – Cameroon): Analysis of Fuel and Cost Savings." Renewable Energy 47 (2012): 45-54. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2012.04.008.

The aim of the research illustrated in this paper is to identify and evaluate different stove models for safer and more efficient combustion using fuels locally available for household purposes in a sub-Saharan rural area. In particular, this paper presents the results of survey data conducted onsite by the authors on two improved stoves identified for dissemination in a rural area in Chad and Cameroon. Improved models were compared to traditional cooking options (3-stone fire) and a gas stove.

NESTA: 2
Beyond Fuelwood Savings: Valuing the Economic Benefits of Introducing Improved Biomass Cookstoves in the Purépecha Region of Mexico García-Frapolli, Eduardo, Astrid Schilmann, Victor M. Berrueta, Horacio Riojas-Rodríguez, Rufus D. Edwards, Michael Johnson, Alejandro Guevara-Sanginés, Cynthia Armendariz, and Omar Masera. "Beyond Fuelwood Savings: Valuing the Economic Benefits of Introducing Improved Biomass Cookstoves in the Purépecha Region of Mexico." Ecological Economics 69, no. 12 (2010): 2598-605. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.08.004.

The authors presented a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of the performance of a dissemination program of Improved Clean Stoves (ICS) in rural Mexico. The resulting cost-benefit analysis of the Patsari improved cookstove is presented, utilizing estimation of direct costs and benefits, including fuelwood savings, income generation, health impacts, environmental conservation, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Results show that Patsari cookstoves represent a viable economic option for improving living conditions of the poorest inhabitants of rural Mexico, with benefit/cost ratios estimated between 11.4:1 and 9:1.

Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.