According to USAID's 2007 study, Environmental Vulnerability in Haiti: Findings and Recommendations, it is estimated that the average life span in Haiti is shortened by 6.6 years due to the impacts of indoor air pollution caused by burning biomass indoors. Acute Lower Respiratory Illness (ALRI) is the number one killer of children under five in Haiti (as it is worldwide). In addition to these health effects, use of solid biomass fuel has significant environmental consequences. Charcoal is by far the predominant fuel source used for household cooking in urban areas: in a 2003 study, 91% of total cooking fuel measured in urban households was charcoal. In rural areas wood predominates as the primary fuel for household cooking. Inefficient cooking practices, coupled with high population density and severe poverty, place an enormous burden on Haiti's natural resources. Already one of the most deforested countries in the world, Haiti is in desperate need of low-cost technologies such as cook stoves, which will reduce household fuel consumption.
How LBNL is Addressing the Problem
In April 2010, a Berkley-based team visited Haiti on a fact-finding mission funded by LBNL and coordinated through the Potential Energy. Team members met with potential field partners, observed cooking practices, and collected user feedback on several stove models. The team encountered a high level of interest in cookstove projects, in part due to the outpouring of humanitarian aid and increased attention to economic and social development in Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. However, one of the key findings of the trip was that because most aid organizations are still focused on immediate relief efforts, there is room to improve the coordination of stove dissemination activities, increase information sharing between interested parties and provide an independent assessment of the efficiency and cultural appropriateness of the stoves currently being considered for distribution in Haiti. There remain additional issues to be investigated in the medium to long term related to fuel source, as charcoal use has been implicated in Haiti's deforestation problem.
At this stage in Haiti's reconstruction process, the LBNL team and its partners have decided that they will most effectively contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and indoor air pollution by providing an unbiased, independent assessment of different stove types. Hesitant to introduce another stove to the market before fully assessing what is currently available in Haiti, focus is currently being placed on developing a more nuanced understanding of the different players, stove models, dissemination approaches and impact assessment strategies existing or planned. Analysis will be shared with the aid community to promote coordination and further collaboration.
The team aims to provide technical assistance to aid organizations and potential stove disseminators who wish to assess the cultural appropriateness and fuel-efficiency of stoves being considered in Haiti. Assistance in these areas will increase the likelihood that the large-scale stove projects will gain widespread acceptance and succeed in reducing fuel consumption and harmful emissions. Leveraging equipment and expertise at the Lab, researchers conducted Water Boiling Tests (WBTs), a laboratory test that evaluates stove performance in a controlled environment to investigate the heat transfer and combustion efficiency of the stove. Current research also includes Controlled Cook Tests (CCTs) of different stove models, which measures stove performance by cooking a local meal. Based on observation of cooking techniques during the fact-finding trip to Haiti, the team created a Haiti-specific cooking protocol for use in Controlled Cooking Tests that was distributed to organizations in Haiti.