Three million people a year die from exposure to cooking stove smoke, with an estimated 12,000 in Cambodia.
More than 500 people from all over the globe have gathered in Phnom Penh this week aiming to establish a global market for clean stoves, more than two million of which are now used in Cambodia.
The “Clean Cooking Forum 2013: Igniting Change, Fuelling Markets and Sparking Adoption”, held at the Phnom Penh Hotel, is intended as a venue for delegates from across the globe to share research and ideas about how to improve cooking in the developing world.
The week-long conference is hosted by GERES Cambodia – a French NGO that has implemented sustainable energy programs in Cambodia for nearly two decades and runs the biggest clean cooking stove program in the world.
Their success is part of the reason why the biennial forum, organised by the UN-led Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and backed by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is taking place in Phnom Penh this year.
“Inefficient and harmful cooking is a global problem from local activity that deserves a global response fed by local expertise,” Radha Muthiah, the Alliance’s executive director, said in a statement.
“The Forum is a rare but essential opportunity for the clean cooking sector to convene and renew its common belief that cooking shouldn’t kill,” he said.
In January of this year, GERES celebrated the production of their two millionth cooking stove.
The stoves, which are more modern and robust than traditional Khmer cooking stoves, have been distributed throughout the Kingdom since the late 1990s.
Two designs are in widespread use and another prototype has been distributed to 50 households in Phnom Penh.
The first two designs – one for rural communities, the other for urban – were created after trial periods in the 1990s, according to GERES country director Mathieu Ruillet.
They were intended to be more resilient and consume less biomass fuel than traditional stoves,
“Other designs failed and we learned from our mistakes,” he said.
The newest stove hopes to be “more ambitious in performance” than the two existing models. “It will be cleaner, more sustainable and will not be used with traditional stoves,” he said.
He said the success of the clean stoves was due to the fact that the community saw that they were robust and knew that the stoves would not have to be replaced “in 12 months’ time”.
GERES plans to hand over the cookstove projects to local partners within the next 18 months.
In an address to the crowd at the forum, Alain Guinebalt, GERES general director, called the conference a “milestone” in the path to affordable, clean cooking.
“These past couple of years, we have all been experiencing a momentum linked to improved stoves and clean fuels.
“I have no doubt this forum will be a new milestone in our path toward affordable, efficient and locally owned cooking solutions.”