The practice of burning charcoal to service household cooking and heating needs, as is common in urban Lusaka, creates not only direct health and environmental problems but is also closely linked with the ability of communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Charcoal production and use directly reduces the availability of mature trees as shade against higher temperatures, which in turn increases surface runoff of precious fresh water resources. At the same time, climate change is predicted to affect the growth of woodlands that currently supply most of the charcoal, which means the fuel itself may become harder to access. Finding ways to reduce charcoal use can therefore simultaneously reduce the probable impacts of climate change for poor communities.

Transforming energy markets for the poor is never easy, as decades of unsuccessful cookstove interventions can attest to. However, by better understanding what households want and need it is possible to identify a number of policy and technical solutions that could change behaviour at scale. These include improved cookstoves that have a greater resemblance to the existing mbaula stoves and are locally produced, simple solar water heating devices, as well as electricity price re-structuring to lower tariffs for the poor.

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