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Sustainable fuels beneficial for people and nature

Switching to modern cooking fuels can improve the lives of women in the global South and protect the climate at the same time - that's what a study by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows. 

Link between modern energy and demographic change

The study revealed for the first time a link between the global energy transition and demographic change in poorer countries. Currently, more than half of the world's population has no access to modern cooking fuels. The resulting consequences affect women and girls in particular, as the more time-consuming household chores this creates not only keep them from attending school, but also from modern media such as the Internet and thus important sources of information.

According to the study, modern energy sources would also free women from the need to have many children to complete time-consuming tasks. Thus, based on data collected over a period of more than 25 years and 44 countries in the global South, the researchers found a significant correlation between access to modern energy and a lower number of births per woman. The strongest effects were found in countries with initially high birth rates. According to the study, a direct link can thus be drawn between the switch to modern energy and demographic change.

Energy generation using wood

More than half of the world's population currently has no access to modern fuels such as electricity or gas. The result is the use of firewood or charcoal to generate energy. While the rural population in particular cooks with firewood, charcoal is the primary energy source for 85% of the urban population. The problem is that the use of charcoal as an energy source contributes significantly to global warming, up to 17 tons of forest wood are destroyed for the production of one ton of charcoal. What follows is a downward spiral: less forest leads to less intact water cycles, leads to lower soil quality and thus to lower harvest yields. This, in turn, encourages rural to urban migration. Urban populations increase, resulting in higher demand for charcoal - thus causing more deforestation again. This vicious circle has its consequences: By 2030, it is estimated that there will be as many as 50 million refugees simply due to land that no longer functions.

Nafagaz stoves as an additional solution

To counteract this, we apply the innovative cultivation method Dynamic Agroforestry paired with the Nafagaz stove, an efficient pyrolysis stove that generates charcoal as well as heat during cooking, in a number of our international conservation projects. Among other things, the stove can be fed with the clippings produced in Dynamic Agroforestry for energy production, but other residual biomass can also be used. Thus, the digester in combination with the Dynamic Agroforest offers the possibility of a closed loop economy, which on the one hand protects still existing forest resources and thus actively preserves CO2 sinks and on the other hand contributes to a more climate-friendly energy production. Thus, on average, one digester binds half a ton of CO2, creates 600 m² of fertile soil and saves 500 m² of forest from deforestation - every year.

To the study from PIK