Wood fuel production and use with inefficient dirty stoves affects populations’ health, in particular that of women and children, causing eye pains, blindness, upper respiratory tract infections and exposing them to risks of burns and scalds.
When wood fuels are used indoors, the absence of chimneys and the incomplete combustion determine indoor air pollution. The World Health Organization has calculated that the average time of exposure to smokes ranges from 3 to 17 hrs per day and most exposed people are women and young children. Exposure to indoor air pollution causes 4.3 million premature deaths each year, and 60% occur to women and children. Pollutants are particulates, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, biomass smoke condensates including metals. In addition, residues from wood burning cause many problems to humans, animals and the environment. In some cases, their inaccurate storage causes spreading of snakes, scorpions, rats, mosquitoes and flies. Particularly noxious is the stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) which punctures the skin of humans and animals inducing bleeding.
Women spend many hours each day cooking and collecting fuelwood. This time could be otherwise spent on education and income-producing activities. Gathering fuelwood causes physical stress and women are exposed to gender violence.
Biochar systems change the approach to fuels and, with the adoption of cleaner and faster combustion systems, ensure women safer cooking and more time for their personal and social empowerment, protecting their health (as well as that of children) and improving their social status. This is compliant with UN SDG 5 “Gender equality and empower all women and girls”.