Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Population Research Discovery Seminars

The Challenge of Household Air Pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Pathways to Scaling-up Clean(er) Cooking

Pamela Jagger, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

12:30-1:30 PM PT
121 Raitt Hall


Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

Globally between 3 and 4 billion people are affected by household air pollution (HAP) from cooking and heating with solid fuels (e.g., firewood and charcoal) and traditional stoves, with women and children in developing countries disproportionately burdened. Over 4.3 million deaths annually are attributed to HAP, the leading environmental health risk factor for morbidity and mortality. In addition to global health burden, cooking with solid fuels contributes to global and regional climate change, environmental degradation, and constrains human well-being. The pathway to transitioning households in sub-Saharan Africa to clean cooking is complex and often severely hindered by missing markets for clean fuels (e.g., electricity and liquid petroleum gas) and improved cooking technologies. As a result, donors, governments, and private sector firms are experimenting with a range of biomass centered policies and programs to promote clean(er) household energy systems. This presentation will review the scope and scale of the challenge of HAP in sub-Saharan Africa, consider what biomass based clean(er) cooking systems can deliver for health, climate, environment, and human welfare, and present findings on adoption and impacts from a clean cooking impact evaluation study in Rwanda. We will also discuss our ongoing impact evaluation of a novel cleaner cooking program which leverages the targeting mechanism of the Government of Malawi social cash transfer program to improve energy access for ultra-poor households.

Pamela Jagger’s research has contributed to the theoretical and empirical literatures on poverty-environment relationships, including providing new insights into the role of reliance on environmental goods and services in rural livelihoods strategies and economic equality. The overarching goal of this research is to understand the relationship between environmental dependence and human welfare; this association is often complex and dynamic, and is mediated by several factors including governance, property rights and land tenure. Research focused on the dynamics of land use change includes a focus on both temporary and permanent rural-rural migration. Household air pollution research links theory and methods from the fields of demography, respiratory epidemiology, nutrition, spatial analysis, and advanced multi-level and longitudinal statistics to understand the population, land use and health dynamics surrounding reliance on biomass for cooking and heating. The core hypothesis of this research is that supply-side factors including land use and land cover change, access to markets, and institutions for environmental management influence biomass fuel use and cooking technology choices, which in turn has implications for health and welfare.

Jagger’s research will continue to examine the health and welfare implications of demographic change, land use transitions and reliance on natural resources. Specifically she will use household-level panel datasets from Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda to test theories related to poverty and environment linkages. A key question is whether environmental reliance acts as a poverty trap or rather as a pathway out of poverty. Her work on household air pollution involves analyzing data from two field-based projects in Malawi that involve the integration of socioeconomic data, environmental exposure monitoring, and health and welfare outcome data. Jagger is also a co-investigator on a new R01 grant funded by NIEHS that includes an impact evaluation of a private sector fuel and cookstove intervention in Rwanda. Finally, Jagger is exploring whether the complex systems literature provides insights into the social and ecological relationships between natural resource reliance and health and welfare outcomes.

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