Access to clean, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is one of the greatest sustainability challenges currently facing sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is largely due to the fact that most households in the region continue to rely on traditional biomass energy to meet their cooking energy needs. Despite its importance for the poor that cannot always afford modern cooking options, traditional biomass energy has been associated with negative environmental, economic, social, cultural and health impacts. This is especially true when the biomass is obtained through unsustainable practices and burned in inefficient cookstoves in poorly ventilated spaces.
However, interventions seeking to reduce these impacts through the promotion of efficient technologies and/or the substitution of traditional cooking options with cleaner fuels have thus far had limited success in SSA. This chapter focuses on bioethanol as a cooking fuel that could overcome several of the negative sustainability impacts of traditional biomass fuels for cooking. The authors synthesize lessons from case studies spanning the demand side (in particular a site of ethanol stove adoption and use in Maputo, Mozambique) and the supply side (in particular a site of sugarcane ethanol production in Dwangwa, Malawi).
The results suggest that some trade-offs emerge during the production of sugarcane feedstock between provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. These are mediated through land use change associated with the conversion of agricultural land and woodland, for large-scale irrigated sugarcane production. On the other hand, various factors have affected the adoption and discontinuation of ethanol stoves by end users, with cost being the most dominant.
The authors argue that the sustained adoption of clean stoves and the sustainable production of feedstock can support progress for several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Government support, use of existing marketing structures, awareness creation and aftersales services were all found to be important in establishing a successful bioethanol fuel and stove distribution chain. On the supply side, there should be efforts to understand and minimize to the extent possible the trade-offs that arise from sugarcane production.