Researchers tackle health and environmental issues in developing countries with new solar-panel cooking initiative

By Perry Johnson

A senior researcher at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is playing a leading role in a large-scale research project with aims of using solar panels in developing countries to provide a healthier means of cooking.

This comes following research which has shown that cooking by burning biomass fuel, such as wood, charcoal or dung, accumulates 3 per cent of global CO2 emissions each year as well as causing environmental issues such as deforestation through sourcing 34 per cent of fuel from unsustainable sources.

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Using a stove to burn biomass fuel in developing countries disproportionately affects the health of women and children

Dr Rupert Gammon, the researcher acting as project lead for De Montfort, said: “This is addressing huge environmental and health issues which affect about three billion, about half the world’s population, across the planet.”

Still in its early stages, this research is part of a new £39.8 million initiative, being spearheaded by Loughborough University and in association with the World Bank and UK Aid, which hopes to establish new and effective electric or gas cooking stoves in developing countries as healthier alternatives to burning biomass fuel such as charcoal.

Alongside researchers from De Montfort’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, Loughborough University will also be working with several other esteemed research institutions for this project, such as The University of Birmingham and University College London, in order to do this.

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De Montfort University is one of the many research institutions involved in the ambitious project

Dr Gammon said: “As you can imagine sourcing the fuel is causing a lot of deforestation and the fumes from the wood, charcoal and cow dung is incredibly bad for people’s health.

“We also know that it disproportionally affects women, who are usually the ones to cook, as well as young children who would be at home with them.”

For the research project, field trials have been confirmed in ten developing countries across Africa and Asia including Kenya, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Myanmar; with possible additional locations still to be negotiated.

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